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Learning to survive a traumatic experience

Focusing on a certain traumatic event forces you to live in the past and requires a lot of energy to constantly scroll through terrible memories in your head.

The attention of such a person is similar to a lantern that shines only at one point.

Stephen Hayes in the book “The Liberated Mind” offers the following algorithm for getting rid of unpleasant memories:

1. Accept your traumatic experience.

Our memories can be distorted and incomplete. What we call memories are repeatedly edited and modified under the influence of various factors.

In order to accept your experience, you can imagine it as a metaphorical image. For example:

  • embrace your experience as you would a crying baby;
  • sit next to your own memories, as you would sit with a seriously ill person;
  • look at your experience as a picture.

2. Give up fighting your experience.

Remember and imagine your experience and try to answer the following questions:

  • Do I have a bodily sensation associated with this experience, can I say yes to it and allow myself to simply be what I feel?
  • Is there an opinion related to this event?
  • Can I just accept it and not fight it?
  • Have you watched someone struggle with something similar, and if so, are you able to look at the other person’s experience with compassion?
  • What do you need to do to stop fighting your feelings?
  • Are you ready to say “no” to feelings and give them up?
  • Is there something about your negative experience that you are holding on to?
  • Your pain about past experiences may speak to your values and vulnerabilities. What might these values, needs, and vulnerabilities be?

3. Expand your view of the situation that happened.

Experiencing something traumatic forces us to focus only on complex feelings of pain, fear, and regret.

If we add breadth to our experience, and look at the situation from a different angle, perhaps we will discover something new for ourselves or in ourselves.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • If you looked at your life from the perspective of a wiser future, could this experience teach you something?
  • If you were to write a book in which the hero goes through a traumatic experience, would that experience make him stronger, more resilient, and wiser?
  • How would you feel if someone else you loved were going through a similar experience? How would you feel about him? What would you advise him to do?