Lecturer reframes trauma as invitation for growth

According to Sherene McHenry, it’s possible to overcome traumatic experiences with hard work.

That was the message she shared with community members last Wednesday in the “Triumph over Trauma” lecture.

McHenry began with recalling the date she received a phone call regarding tragic news: Her old roommate had been murdered. McHenry initially sought help for the trauma she faced, but didn’t have much luck at first. The individuals she reached out to were not specifically trained to deal with trauma victims.

McHenry said it is important to “reframe” your mind during tough times and recognize that the rough patches are invitations for mental growth.

“Trauma can be overcome. Peace and joy are ours if we’re willing to do the work,” McHenry said. “Sometimes, you need someone to help you.”

McHenry taught at Central Michigan University for more than 18 years. Before teaching, McHenry earned her doctorate in counseling from the University of Wyoming. She now travels and speaks full time.

At one point during the event, McHenry welcomed audience members participate in an interactive exercise titled “You Are Not Alone.” Audience members were asked to stand if they had personally been affected by certain situations. The point of the exercise was to demonstrate that we are not alone in our problems and shortcomings.

“During the ‘You Are Not Alone’ activity, I was almost in tears,” elementary education and social studies junior Stacey Jedele said. “We often resort to the idea that we are alone and get caught up in our misfortunes.”

McHenry talked about ideas for exercises that helped her through traumatic experiences. One exercise that helped McHenry regain her sense of safety was posting sticky notes all over her home saying “This is a safe place.” McHenry stated that the exercise had allowed her to feel safe in her own home once again.

Members of the audience spoke highly of McHenry’s message.

“(I could relate to) the last slide about having a positive outlook,” Jedele said. “You have to progress no matter what happens.”

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