Turning trauma into positive wisdom

Trauma can lay deep within us. Anyone who has experienced its sting knows all too well that you often lose yourself in the aftermath. 

When we speak of trauma, it can take on so many forms. From physical, emotional and spiritual to the more common post-traumatic stress and anxiety. They can be all-consuming and hard to navigate.

On a recent episode of Lean In, I spoke with one of the most fascinating women I have ever met. Ibu Sari Pollen laid bare some of the most harrowing and hard to hear experiences. 

She and I wept as she told her story of sexual, physical and mental abuse at the hands of her unloving husband. Resulting in losing custody of her child in a messy divorce. This led to isolation and ridicule within her beloved Balinese community.

Parts of her story, she has never relayed her past to anyone. However, she sees the value in sharing these experiences as her trauma has placed her in a position to become a mentor and leader for other women who have experienced similar fates. Therefore, turning her wounds into wisdom. 

Ibu Sari has given so much inspiration and hope to so many who are experiencing trauma within their lives. So I wanted to share a few practices you can put into place to help during a challenging time.  

Share Your Experiences

As we talk about our trauma, we can find that we’re not really broken. There were moments in Ibu Sari’s life that she wanted to end it all, and suicide was a consistent thought in her mind. Just after she lost her daughter to her estranged husband, she contended with this inner monster. After much turmoil, she knew she had to escape her all-consuming trauma and turn towards a brighter future. It was in her return to education that she started to encounter women who had similar experiences, and strong connections started to form. 

As these women shared their stories, Ibu Sari realised that it was incredibly healing for both parties.

“This is what I realised, the more I share the better.” 

Find others that you can confide in, this could be family, friends or even a health professional. As the old proverb goes, “a problem shared is a problem halved”.  When you share in your grief, it can help take that burden off your shoulders. 

Turn Your Wounds Into Wisdom

Post-traumatic growth can be transformative and powerful. 

After Ibu Sari began connecting with other like-minded women, she understood that it was within her destiny to help others. She decided to create a safe and loving place for women like her. So she developed the PKP Women’s Centre. This community centre is for Balinese women and girls in need of support & growth by empowering them with a healthy mind & body in a safe environment.

By redirecting your pain towards something constructive, preferably something that affects the lives of others in a positive way, it can enable you to search and find true positive meaning in your life. As well as ultimately become better versions of yourself.

Find a Physical Anchor Within Nature

There’s a magical thing that happens when we envelop ourselves within nature. Ibu Sari strongly believes that nature is her healer, stating, “I was born in nature, nature knew where to throw me”. She has actively immersed herself within Bali’s jungles since her very first day on this earth.  

To add a scientific note onto nature’s healing impact on us, Psychologists at UC Berkeley tested the effects of nature on 72 military veterans suffering from PTSD – a potentially devastating condition that arises from some kind of harrowing life experiences. 

What they found was that ‘awe’ is the biggest booster to our overall sense of well-being. When the veterans were placed within a natural setting, they reported a 29 per cent decrease in PTSD symptoms, a 21 per cent decrease in general stress and an 8 per cent increase in happiness. 

Being exposed to the natural elements restores us, calms us, and gives us a greater perspective. Get outside and feel the wind on your skin. Immerse your body in the sea. Smell the rain and reconnect.

Meditate or Create a Positive Ritual

Meditation is known to quiet the internal chatter of the mind. By spending a few moments every day to be still and meditate, you allow yourself to experience wisdom, acceptance and a new appreciation for life.

Emotional trauma stays within the body so there are huge benefits you can experience from entering into thoughtless moments and mindfulness practice. 

Routines and rituals are the perfect way to maintain and restore. For some, this may be engaging in yoga or even just turning an altar or prayer. Spending a minute or two in deep presence and within the moment can retune you to the realisation that you are alive, loved and truly is a wonderful thing. 

There are so many elements to trauma. That’s why if things become overwhelming seeking professional help is always advised. 

To hear the full conversation with Ibu Sari click here.

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