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aprilsimnel's avatar

How to extract the good from a bad situation?

Asked by aprilsimnel (30676points) August 11th, 2010

I’ve been doing some reading lately about healing past traumas and in the course of it, I’ve come across the concept that even in the worst possible circumstances, there can be benefits that a person extracts from those traumas.

I’ve had some trouble doing that about certain aspects of my past experiences and so I’m asking about how that might be done. I noticed that these books never addressed that part of it, probably because everyone’s benefits would be different, even with the same trauma.

What good can come out of an assault, let’s say, for the assaulted person? Or the benefits a person gains after being beaten or otherwise physically abused for a long period? How can these incidents be re-framed?

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16 Answers

Nullo's avatar

Wisdom can be gleaned from most any situation.
But sometimes, the good of the situation goes to those immediately around it, instead of those in the thick of it. Have you ever looked at a train wreck of a life, identified the problem, and said to yourself, “Well, I’ll be avoiding that, then?”

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

I have a close friend who suffered a debilitating stroke that has left him severely handicapped. He has chosen to live positively and often says that he feels grateful to simply be alive. For me, the answer to your question lies in that kind of gratitude. It doesn’t ignore the pain, but it capitalizes on the positives that remain in life.

augustlan's avatar

As you probably remember, I was sexually abused repeatedly between the ages of 6 months and 13 years. My mother knew about it and didn’t do much of anything to protect me. What happened to me was fucking terrible, and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. However, I’ve always said I wouldn’t want to change my past. Every single second of it has contributed to making me the person I am today.

I’m not sure if I can say in concrete terms how these experiences benefited me, exactly… but maybe I wouldn’t have as much empathy, wouldn’t be as committed to making my own childrens’ lives far different from my own, wouldn’t be as passionate about the issue if it hadn’t happened to me. I’m almost certain I wouldn’t be nearly as self-sufficient as I am if I hadn’t had to fend for myself at such a young age.

I guess my point is to look at a life as a whole, rather than bits and pieces. Everything that happens, good or bad, advances a lifetime of learning and growing. If we handle the lessons well, they eventually lead to the person you’re meant to be.

YARNLADY's avatar

The survivor of trauma can be assured that they are stronger because of having lived through the experience. They know the bad feelings, fear and pain will fade, and life goes on.

BoBo1946's avatar

Tragic events in our lives either destroy us or make us stronger! I’m feeling real strong.

Jeruba's avatar

To say that you manage to extract good from a terrible experience is not the same thing as to say you’ve benefited from it; at least, I see a difference. I don’t think you can call a traumatic episode beneficial. But you can still find in it something of value that makes your life better.

Sometimes the terrible experience propels you to seek healing and peace-giving experiences that would have done you good in any case but that you would not have sought if the trauma hadn’t occurred. I’ve heard many people say something of that sort, including people in a recovery setting, people whose family members are in recovery, and people who’ve had to face the diseases we dread most.

Sometimes you learn your own strength. You learn how hard it is to destroy you or keep you down. You learn what you can withstand and even triumph over.

Sometimes the most you can gain is a knowledge of suffering that will enable you to give support and understanding to someone else. In the long run that too can be healing for you.

Kayak8's avatar

I just watched a movie about this very topic. It was called Forgiving Dr. Mengele and was a documentary about Eva Mozes Kor, who survived Josef Mengele’s cruel twin experiments in the Auschwitz concentration camp. According to the movie plot summary, Eva shocks other Holocaust survivors when she decides to forgive the perpetrators as a way of self-healing.

While hers is a remarkable story, she talks about choices in ways different than I had ever heard them described before. The pain of other survivors is obvious in the movie as they continue to be victimized by their traumatic experience. Eva decided to break out of the victim role and really shares her thoughts on the topic. I found it fascinating. Netflix has it.

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pathfinder's avatar

The help that you need could be locked in the focus exercise.

mattbrowne's avatar

It is an opportunity to grow. You increase your self awareness when reflecting about it.

Void's avatar

@aprilsimnel, “What good can come out of an assault, let’s say, for the assaulted person? Or the benefits a person gains after being beaten or otherwise physically abused for a long period? How can these incidents be re-framed?”

An assaulted person survived the assaults. The assaulted person is in good health with all limbs attached. The assaulted person gains life experience and a strong perspective for empathy towards others. The assault person may still have whatever money, clothes, shelter the person had (was not taken from them). Basically, in any bad situation you are grateful for what you do have rather then what was instilled, inflicted, or taken from you.

mattbrowne's avatar

Self awareness in this context about how well you know yourself.

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meiosis's avatar

Read the book Pollyanna and see it in action.

I recently discovered that my sister had been systematically emptying my elderly mother’s bank accounts. Huge family ructions ensued – the police are involved, my mum has lost thousands of pounds, my sister (taking the attack is the best form of defence approach) has vowed never to speak to my mother again. My mum is distraught, devastated by the betrayal. However, the situation has brought me and my mum a little bit closer. Worth the hassle – almost certainly not, but still a nugget of goodness has been extracted from a deep motherlode of shite.

NosyBut's avatar

@meiosis: Your sister is actually doing her mother a favor. I’d never want someone like that speaking to me again. So, there’s another nugget of goodness.

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