Protective Factors

By BY DR. ANN HOLLINGSWORTH,

In my work, I often teach classes on counseling with victims of trauma.  This could be individual trauma such as a rape or a serious motor vehicle accident.  It could also be from a group trauma such as a school shooting.  With any trauma there are two types of factors that make a difference with the healing from the experience.  Risk factors hinder the healing and can be things such as poor health or a poor spiritual condition.  Protective factors help the healing and those can be “grown” in us across our lives.

One of the best protective factors for healing with life’s trauma and challenges is support from others.  This support is found both vertically and horizontally.  Often the cross is said to represent this.  We have the vertical support through our relationship with God.  We have the horizontal support through our relationships with other people. While both types of support are given to us, the support is stronger if we actively feed and nourish it through our own efforts such as communication or prayer and spending time together.

Another strong protective factor for healing from trauma and life challenge is our health.  Our bodies, minds, and spirits really are connected to each other.  Look at the destructive impact of stress in so many health conditions both mentally and physically.  Also look at the mega-dollar industry that “stress-management” has become.  Purposefully taking care of our minds and bodies gives us strength to bounce back better when bad things happen.

Finally, an important protective factor is what is known as Internal Locus of Control.  All of us tend to live as either guided by people and things outside of us – External control or we maintain a sense of control from within self.  Research has shown that this internal sense of maintaining control tends to weather the storms of life much better.  As was said in Shakespeare’s Hamlet – “To thine own self be true.”