One of my favorite things about being a therapist is witnessing the miracle of individual resilience. Over the last couple of years, I’ve focused my training in trauma work, learning different modes of therapy and underlying theories that were specifically created for those who have experienced trauma and are seeking healing. This work is hard, to show up day in and day out to process and heal from often the most difficult moments of their lives. It’s amazing to me that these clients show up at all to do this work, but it’s even more amazing to watch the resilience and the growth that happens when they do.
When I say resilience, I’m really just talking about one’s ability to bounce back after a fall. A simple picture of resilience is a baby learning to walk. There are lots of falls that happen before those first few successful steps! The resilience is the child’s ability to get back up after the falls, and to try again.
Trauma & Resilience
With a trauma lens, resilience can refer to one’s capacity to endure a trauma and keep moving forward. Often, it’s more than just moving forward – it’s healing and growth that makes one stronger, deeper, or healthier than before. Resilience is something I get to hear about from people who have lived through hardship, and it is something I get to see as it manifests in the therapy room as clients show up and do the work.
The Lodgepole Pine Tree
When I was first learning about trauma and trauma recovery, a professor told me about Lodgepole Pine Trees. I am someone who really loves to be outside; I grew up surrounded by woods and water, and to this day those are places I’m always drawn to. So the story of the lodgepole pine stuck with me and is a beautiful picture of what resilience and post-traumatic growth can be.
You can find lodgepole pines all over the western United States, and it seems to be a pretty common tree in California – a state famous for its wildfires. These pines can grow to be 80 feet tall, but the miracle is in their beginnings.
Lodgepole pine seeds are held in the tree’s cones (or fruit), which are sealed with the tree’s resin. The seeds in the cones can sit dormant for decades in the resin, and the only way they can open and release the seeds is through fire.
The Fire and the Growth
Wildfires do incredible damage to a forest, but where much of the forest burns and dies, this one tree is birthed. These pines don’t endure the fire, they actually require it to start growing, trapped in cones until the chemicals from the fire break the dormancy and they can start growing.
Obviously not a perfect metaphor, but what a powerful picture of resiliency in the face of suffering. We face so much hurt and trial and trauma in this world. There are too many stories of such things. But if we pay attention, there are just as many stories of resilience, strength, and endurance. There are plenty of fires in life that can wound and scar, but those fires don’t have to be the end of your story. Maybe they can be the beginning of a new chapter of growth, healing, and hope.
If you have experienced or are experiencing suffering, know that you’re not alone and that you have more resilience in you than you think. If you’re interested in hearing more about our trauma therapies, or in meeting with a therapist to process your own experiences, call us today. We would love to connect with you.
Written by therapist Clair Miller
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