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The Role of Survival Resources in Coping with Stress and Trauma

I mentioned in my last blog post that there are two general categories of resources we can tap into when we need support coping with our experiences: Survival Resources and Generative Resources. Both categories are crucial to finding our resilience and reconnecting with our bodies. So let’s explore in a little more detail! 

First, what are survival resources? 

Survival Resources are resources or skills that have helped us to survive and to cope with stress and trauma, but which may not be generative or healing, and which may keep us feeling stuck over time. We might also refer to these as “coping mechanisms” or “survival strategies.” They typically support disconnection.

Depending on the individual, some common survival resources may include:  

It’s easy to view our survival resources and strategies as limiting, problematic, or even bad. But it’s important to recognize that survival strategies are incredibly valuable, in fact life-saving, in traumatic circumstances. There’s a really deep intelligence in our survival strategies. They are quite literally what helps us to survive, and to cope internally, with circumstances that would otherwise be intolerable.

For many of us, our survival resources or coping mechanisms can feel compulsive, habitual, or automatic, like they’re out of our control. We may engage in them, even when we don’t really want to. They may alleviate our distress and soothe our nervous systems temporarily, but typically that relief is short-lived. They may even increase our distress in the long run by reinforcing harmful patterns. 

While we need survival resources to get us through traumatic experiences, and other critical life moments when we’re not adequately supported, they aren’t always the best resources for the job. In my next post we will explore Generative Resources and the support they can provide.  



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