Emotional Trauma: 10 Keystones of Survival

The life you knew is suddenly gone. People you love have been swept away. And the places you’d go for comfort and healing have literally fallen off the face of the earth. “This just can’t be happening!” But it is.

The TV and print media bring more horror and sadness. The people of Japan, as well as their loved ones all over the world, have taken a crushing blow. It’s the very picture of the most intense emotional trauma.

But, really, trauma is trauma. And each of us has had our worlds turned upside down – yours may be right now. So the misfortune of the people of Japan brings all of us an opportunity for perspective and growth.

It’s in the spirit of empathy, respect, and healing that I present this article. And it’s dedicated to those enduring emotional trauma everywhere.


Emotional trauma is suffering at its worst. It makes sense, then, that coming to grips with emotional trauma is to make peace with suffering. I’d like to share some thoughts I turn to when life becomes especially tough.

Viktor Frankl is one of my dearest friends – and I’ve never met him! Frankl was a great psychotheorist, writer, and professor. And he knew just a bit about suffering, surviving his incarceration at the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz. Here’s his take on suffering…

“If there is a meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering. Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death. Without suffering and death human life cannot be complete. The way in which a man accepts his fate and all the suffering it entails, the way in which he takes up his cross, gives him ample opportunity – even under the most difficult circumstances – to add a deeper meaning to his life.”

“Here lies the chance for a man either to make use of or to forgo the opportunities of attaining the moral values that a difficult situation may afford him. And this decided whether he is worthy of his sufferings or not.”


Emotional Trauma: 10 Keystones of Survival

All morning I’ve been thinking about what I’d say if someone from Japan called, asking for insight and direction. I came up with 10 keystones, and I believe they’re a fit for anyone caught in the nightmare of emotional trauma…

  1. You have every right to feel traumatized and victimized. You have been.
  2. You’re at liberty to grieve.
  3. Seek and secure the power and sustenance of hope.
  4. Acceptance opens the door to recovery.
  5. Emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical forward motion can’t be broken.
  6. You are not alone, in spite of how you may feel.
  7. Open your heart and mind to the reality of healing. How you’ll secure it isn’t important just now.
  8. Take joy and confidence in the completion of stages. Focusing upon ultimate healing will only bring frustration and defeat.
  9. Share, listen, and interact with others.
  10. Offer gratitude for your suffering, and be worthy of it. You’re now in the midst of what may be your life’s defining moment.


I can’t think of anyone who would consciously choose to choke-down a dose of emotional trauma. Still, the prescription is inevitably filled and the spoon presented.

It’s a bitter reality; but reality, nonetheless.

As emotional trauma commences; survival is grounded in hope, acceptance, forward motion, and gratitude. And it’s a challenge of stages, taking joy and confidence from each victory.

And, remember, striving for ultimate healing will only bring frustration and defeat.

My thoughts are with you, Japan!

image credit etsy.com