As you recover from rape and childhood trauma, you will begin to get back in touch with your authentic self, untainted from the trauma’s effects. It has been said that most survivors grew up too fast. Their vulnerable child-selves got lost in the need to protect and deaden themselves. Reclaiming the inner child is part of the healing process. Often the inner child holds information and feelings for the adult. Some of these feelings are painful; others are actually fun. The child holds the playfulness and innocence the adult has had to bury. Indeed, although trauma from sexual violence does incalculable harm, survivors can start to become the person they have always wanted to be, it will take a lot of work but healing, and eventually thriving, is possible. It is most likely that it’ll force you to develop strengths which you may well now be in a position to utilize to your advantage.
“Post-traumatic growth can be defined as the positive psychological change that results from the attempt to find new meaning and resolve after a traumatic event.”
The traumatic event itself does not cause the positive psychological change, but rather what results from the shattering of a person’s fundamental beliefs, values, and understanding of themselves, others and the world. It is when an individual realizes that old meanings and purpose for living no longer apply, and then subsequently begins to search for and create new ones that results in the psychological shift known as post-traumatic growth.
Essentially, unlike simple stress, trauma changes your view about your life and yourself. It shatters your most basic assumptions about yourself and the world – “Life is good,” “I’m safe,” “People are kind,” “I can trust others,” “The future is likely to be good” – and replaces them with feelings like “The world is dangerous,” “I can’t win,” “I can’t trust other people,” or “There’s no hope.” Thus, it is very important in the recovery journey, for survivors to forge new meaning in order to transcend the experience. The struggle to find new meaning in the aftermath of the trauma is crucial to positive psychological growth, as well as the acceptance that personal distress and growth can co-exist, and often do, while these new meanings are created.
While, prior to recovery, your life may have been dominated by reliving the trauma and acting out it’s affects, you can begin to discard the ‘victim identity’ and pursue your goals and aspirations, no matter how frightening the thought of doing that will be in the beginning. You can begin to discard those aspects of yourself, caused by your traumatic experiences, that are dysfunctional and that holds you back in life. With a new understanding of why you developed the dysfunctional behaviors in the first place, you begin to treat yourself with compassion and kindness, you learn to forgive yourself. This process of self-mastery and cultivating a new world view won’t be neat and tidy, it might involve some risk taking, trial and error, and an acceptance that you might make mistakes along the way.