Trauma As Our Teacher

I was reading David Berceli’s book on the Trauma Release Process before falling asleep last night, and found these paragraphs enlightening and greatly comforting.

‘Trauma has the ability to teach us what love is, while simultaneously bringing out our innate capacity for deep caring. Through traumatic experiences we can discover our true mettle as compassionate individuals.

Such a discovery about ourselves changes how we live our ordinary, everyday lives. … People who have healed successfully from trauma discover that their life is richer, fuller, and more caring than they experienced before. This is what the evolution of the human species is about. The development of compassion, caring, and sensitivity to the pain of humanity emerges as a result of recovering from our own painful experience of life. ‘


Tough Times Can Make You Stronger

‘With our recovery from each traumatic episode, we give into and accept more easily the way our life has unfolded. Paradoxically, the more we let ourselves flow with life’s tides, the more we discover how to take control of our life and invest ourselves more fully than ever in the precariousness of being human.

Researchers conducted an experiment with three sets of chicks. The first group of chicks formed the control group. This group received no intervention on the part of the researchers. The second group was held in the hands of the researchers until they experienced the freeze response. This group was then released and the chicks were allowed to recover, which involved going through trembling and fluttering their feathers. The third set of chicks was likewise held in the hands of the researchers to evoke the freeze response. But when they were released and began to tremor, they were again held to prevent the tremoring process from occurring.

When the second set of chicks, which had been traumatized and allowed to discharge the trauma, were placed in a vat of water to see how long they could swim before reaching the point of drowning, they turned out to have even greater endurance than the first set of chicks, which hadn’t been traumatised at all. In other words, the traumatised chicks that were allowed to discharge the trauma had become more resilient.

The third group, which didn’t discharge the trauma, sank to the bottom of the vat without attempting to swim. They had learned to be helpless in the face of a threat.

Through the unending cycle of trauma recovery, the human species also learns how to adapt.


When we experience one of life’s painful events it initially feels unbearable. The experience often overwhelms our entire sense of self. Any ideas we may have held of there being some kind of logic to life can be shattered. Indeed, we often wonder if we will ever recover from such pain and disruption.

The self-renewal that happens in the recovery process occurs because we are forced to explore painful depths we wouldn’t otherwise have chosen to experience. Whether we like it or not, whether we want to or not, our recovery process forces us deeper into our body and further into serious reflection than we would normally dare to go. It is precisely the shattering effect of trauma that forces us to think in new ways, feel at deeper levels, and relate to others more compassionately.’

5 thoughts on “Trauma As Our Teacher

  1. That is very interesting. The chicks that are taught to be helpless in the face of trauma. What a disturbing idea, and yet I’m sure it is replicated in many places and species, as are the other two states, of course. I ended up hoping the chicks were not left floundering in the water too long. Very interesting article

    1. Hi Peter, I’m glad you also found it interesting – I must say, worrying about the chicks was a big thing for me too, and I reassured myself that they chose the wording carefully to reassure us that they removed the chicks once they reached the ‘point of drowning’ rather than let them drown! Poor little things…

  2. Wow this is so interesting Laurel and thank you for sharing it. I can see quite plainly how this is so, from my own personal experience of trauma but I had never analysed it in this way.
    And I,like Peter, am left hoping the chicks weren’t left floundering for too long 😊

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