Brenda Bomgardner, LPC, BCC, ACS View Entire Blog

Finding Meaning in Life After Trauma

Before I launch into my blog post I first want to acknowledge the survivor’s journey as a unique trial of challenges and obstacles.

It is not unusual for people who have survived a catastrophic trauma such as a shooting, rape or childhood sexual abuse to not feel hopeful and that life is not worth living. I could spend time trying to figure out WHY survivors feel discouraged. However, I want to focus on how to move forward in creating a more vibrant life

Deep down inside, what do you really want? What’s important to you? What’s your heart's deepest desire? People often answer with such things, as “To be happy.” “Have money.” “Success.” “Respect.” “A great job. “I want to be thinner.”

Now, these are truthful answers, and they may not be helpful in pointing to a direction for how to live. Also, how we set these intentions in our minds may not keep you motivated. To find direction and motivation you can ask questions like “How would I behave differently in relationships if I were rich, successful or thin?” “What sort of relationships do I want to build with myself and others if I were living my ideal self?” These questions point to the underlying values connected to your heart and soul’s deepest desire.

Connecting with your values can give you a sense of meaning and purpose. Living and creating a life guided by values allows you to gain a sense of vitality and joyfulness. Life becomes rich, full, and meaningful, even when bad things happen. Values are about ongoing action, a way of being in the world. They are about what you want to do in your life while you are here. Values motivate us to stick with it. They help us to engage in the process of achieving our goals.

It’s important to recognize that values are not the same as goals. As mentioned earlier, values are a life direction like going west. Let’s say you value being a loving parent, you can continue to be loving indefinitely. It’s more than a to-do list where you put a checkmark next to the item as complete. Let’s say you want to lose ten pounds. That is a goal. However, the value underneath the goal is what speaks to your heart. Ask yourself, “How does this goal serve my purpose?”
Goals become part of the ongoing action connected to values. Hence, you may decide you have a goal of spending time playing with your kids, planning and going on outings with them or reading with them. These specific activities can be crossed off a list. Hence, they are the goals connected to your value of being a loving parent.

Goal setting is a skill require that requires a bit of practice to get the hang of it. After you have reflected on your values write them down so you can refer back to them as you develop your action plan.
Next, you want to set a SMART goal. Here is what the acronym means:
• S = specific (Be as clear as possible when describing the action you are will to take towards your goal.).
• M = meaningful (Make sure your goal is connected to your value).
• A = adaptive (Is the goal likely to improve your life in some way?)
• R = realistic (Are the resources available to you to accomplish the goal?)
• T = time-bound (Put a specific time frame with a date or even hour you will take the proposed action.)

Tell other people about your intention to achieve the goal. Research shows that if you make a public commitment you are more likely to follow through. Values clarification and goal setting (committed action) are part of the process in Acceptance and Commitment Training (ACT).

I use ACT in helping people create a life they love living by helping them get clear on what’s important. The aim of ACT is to help people reduce their struggle with pain and suffering and choose behaviors that work. It does not mean you will not experience difficult feelings, it means you can have a sense of life being fulfilling and with purpose based on your unique set of values.

Contact me for a complimentary consultation.