“That Which Does Not Kill Us” And Related Lies

That Which Doesn’t Kills Us, Makes Us Stronger –Nietzsche

In our age of growing trauma awareness, the resilience movement has a core conceptual problem.  Resilience, when it comes to someone who has been traumatized, arrives as a functioning of healing.  It is true that promoting coping skills can ease triggering following trauma, but resilience implies much more than skill development.  Resilience suggests that we may be improved by our wounds in the way that steel is improved by annealing or the immune system of a toddler is improved by all the infections of daycare.  The vast research on attachment wounding and adverse childhood experiences–combined with sensible clinical observation—makes clear that no part of the self is improved by carrying traumatic wounds.  Carrying trauma is always a net liability.  When we carry trauma, that which doesn’t kill us may destroy our relationships, wreck our physical health through autoimmune and related diseases, and will likely make life an endurance.  In short, that which doesn’t kill outright may spread its misery over the whole of the lifespan.  Healing is what transforms wounding.  Healing is what we should actively promote.  Promoting resilience disconnected from a clear understanding of how trauma heals is a bypass and a swindle.

Here is the good news: when healing comes, resilience comes automatically.  In my work as an EMDR trauma therapist, I don’t have to promote or leverage resilience.  It comes on its own and it comes fully formed one piece at a time.  Resilience is a beautiful byproduct of healing and post-traumatic growth.

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