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Being In Trauma Recovery Makes You A More Empathetic Adult

The effects of childhood trauma have been a popular focus of research in recent years. Researchers have found that childhood trauma can have a number of adverse effects: mental illness, propensity toward addiction, physical health problems, and much more. Typically, these studies focus on the negative, possibly problematic effects of trauma in childhood instead of any potentially positive effects.

PLOS One published a new study on the effects of trauma in childhood on adulthood and found some interesting positive effects. Experiencing trauma during childhood causes children to grow into more empathetic adults. Researchers have determined that there is more than one kind of empathy that adults can have, but for one form of empathy in particular, experiencing trauma in childhood enhances that ability for adults.

The study asked 387 adults about their experiences with trauma in childhood, offering specific examples like death, violence, or divorce, along with others. Then, study participants filled out a quiz which was designed to measure how much empathy someone has. Another survey study utilized over 400 people and used the Interpersonal Reactivity Index to measure empathy.

Big Think reports that both studies found “affective empathy” for adults who had experienced trauma in their childhood. Affective empathy, the article defines, is “the ability to respond to another person’s mental state with an appropriate emotion”.

Of course, this study does not assure causation, but correlation, meaning that it strongly suggests a relationship between the experience of childhood trauma and empathy, however, that relationship is not one of cause and effect. That is, at least, scientifically,

There is a story in recovery which offers enlightenment on choosing between the two paths laid out for us when we experience trauma in our lives. The story is about a father who is an alcoholic and has two sons, both who have to endure the tumultuous roller coaster of his alcoholism. One son grows up to be an abusive, destructive alcoholic much like his father. When asked how he came to be this way, he says “I learned from my father”. The other son goes a much different path. He doesn’t drink, he doesn’t become destructive, and though he has some challenges, he finds a way to thrive. When asked how he came to be this way, he says, “I learned from my father.”

We can’t always predict how we, or someone else, will turn out because of the trauma they have endured. Some reflect and some refract the themes of the trauma in their lives, but whichever path they take, that path is still founded by their traumatic experiences.

Going through traumatic experiences, especially in childhood, changes us for the rest of our lives, just as every single minute we ever live does. We’re impacted, influenced, and transformed by the events which take place in our lives. Regardless of how we react or respond, we are still changed.

The Power Of Shared Trauma

Trauma is one of those experiences which bond us to others in a way that few other experiences can. Take for example, the joining of a nation, a state, a local area, when traumatic tragedy strikes. There is an instantaneous cohesiveness and sense of bonding which immediately negates any idea of separation, isolation, or difference, because it is recognized that everyone has been impacted by tragedy. People join arms, join hands, join in prayer, and hold one another in their vulnerable humanity because they realize just that- humanity is vulnerable and no other experience in life emphasizes our vulnerability like trauma.

On a broader scale, shared trauma helps us realize that everyone can be affected by traumatic events. When trauma happens to just us, without anyone there to share in the experience, we often feel like nobody could ever understand and that leads us to feel incredibly lonely. Once we get to trauma treatment, develop a lifestyle of recovery, and live in trauma recovery, we become more open about sharing our story. We can see the trauma and pain in others, regardless of the specifics of their trauma story personally. Trauma as a whole transcends trauma as many individual pieces, meaning, that the experience of trauma is the experience of trauma and the experience of trauma is shared. To be empathetic as an adult in trauma recovery is to recognize that trauma is a universal event which will happen to the majority of people on planet earth at some point. The small parts of trauma with their specifics can give us an even greater sense of empathy if our particular story matches that of another person’s.

When you graduate trauma treatment, the rubber meets the road, as it is said. To live successfully in recovery from trauma, addictions, or related mental health issues, we need the care and professionalism of an experienced, specialized staff who provide us excellence in treatment. Our alumni learn how to thrive in their lives not in spite of trauma, but because of it. We’re always here to welcome those in need of help at The Guest House Ocala. Call us today for information and resources: 1-855-483-7800