In my clinic work, I often talk to clients about their survival resources, what they are, and why we use them. We use survival resources to help manage painful emotions, stress and trauma. Survival resources can be anything from regulating painful emotions and memories by over-eating or drinking too much alcohol, to developing habits of hypervigilance and shutting down or becoming numb to the world.
In therapy, we try to re-frame our use of survival resources as nothing to be ashamed of, as they have helped us to cope. These strategies are necessary and often used by people who have histories of trauma, neglect and attachment difficulties. They are strategies to help us learn to deal with adversity, when there are no better options seemingly available to us.
Unfortunately, these survival resources tend to prevent real growth and healing, and can perpetuate cycles of painful experience.
In therapy, this is why we learn about our survival resources, cultivate a sense of understanding and compassion for why we use these, and then learn how to foster the more creative resources at our disposal.
Creative resources are those which are more wellbeing-oriented, that are more life-giving, supportive and sustaining. Building creative resources can often be a starting point to working through our trauma.
There are ‘inner creative resources’ like mindfulness, meditation or developing better thinking habits. Alternatively, there are ‘outer creative resources’ like joining a club, doing more exercise or learning ways to develop better social skills.
All people are unique, so finding the resources that work best for you can be a journey in itself. Working collaboratively with a therapist can assist in the process of learning how to replace our survival strategies with those that are more sustaining, nourishing and help us to thrrive.
Jacqui Snooks is a registered counsellor and psychotherapist and the Clinical Director of Haven Counselling and Psychotherapy in Mornington. For more information please visit: havencounselling.com.au