Mental Illness, PTSD

You are not a Trauma Victim, You are a Phoenix

By Monique Hassan

Trauma comes in many shapes and forms and it is important to remember that trauma is very individualized. What is traumatic to one person may not be to another, and how we cope with trauma is also unique to the individual. Those of us who have endured trauma have a choice to view ourselves as a victim or as the metaphorical phoenix that rises from the ashes.

Our perspective is our reality. This sounds simple, but it is a concept seen within cognitive behavioral therapy, and it is something that therapists often try to influence as a means of therapy. This is also an integral concept of positive psychology.

This idea of “our perspective is our reality” can completely alter not only how we view our trauma, but how we feel about it.  Our thoughts directly impact our emotions as well as our behavior. Our emotions directly impact our thoughts as well as our behavior. And our behavior can then lead to new thoughts and emotions. It is a cycle that we can influence in our favor. Alter your thoughts and you alter your emotions, this will directly alter our behavior and the cycle keeps going.

Applying this to trauma enables us to take greater control and move forward in the therapeutic process.

Let us use an example to better understand

Sarah was attacked and sexually abused by a man she worked with. Following this trauma she has battled crippling anxiety and depression. Sarah believes the man attacked her because she was dressed provocatively and although she said “no, please stop” more than once, she was not strong enough to physically make him stop and fight back. Sarah blames herself and is scared it will happen again, Sarah has not filed charges against this man because it will cause her shame and possibly her job.

We will take those irrational thoughts and combat them with rational beliefs, which will directly change her emotions over time and as a result change her behavior and overall quality of life.

Irrational thoughts                                                 Combat with rational thoughts

I deserved it, I caused it. He is responsible for his own actions, not me.


I did not stop him, I am weak. I was not able to stop it this time, but I can stop him from doing it again.
This is shameful, I must hide it. He is the one that needs to be ashamed, I will stand strong and he deserves to be fired and put in jail. I will fight for my rights.
This might happen to me again, I am scared. I will carry self-defense weapons, be aware of my surroundings and be prepared. If any man ever tries this again he will regret it. I know that statistically odds are it will not happen again.
I am a victim. I am a survivor, I am a fighter, I am stronger now.

Sarah can consciously combat her irrational thoughts with more positive thought processes and over time her perspective of the situation will change. You may have noticed that the new thoughts have a proactive tone encouraging Sarah to take steps forward and truly own her situation. We cannot run from trauma and hope it goes away, we can overcome it though. We can apply this concept to many facets of life; it does not have to be traumatic situations.

Wrapping it all up

Unfortunately, trauma is a growing issue in our society. The impact of trauma on one’s mental and physical health can be very damaging and crippling. Although trauma informed care is growing, it is not readily available to all people. There exists multiple treatments for trauma care, traditional and more holistic; this is just one of many ways to help people struggling with trauma. This technique can be used for any type of thoughts and turn a victim into the rising phoenix. It can be used to better motivate individuals, change mindsets and increase a general feeling of optimism and self-esteem.

I have said it many times and I will continue to say it, our perspective is our reality.

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