"At first glance, it might seem ironic that developing comfort with the opposite concept – impermanence – is so helpful to us as we mature. However, when we consider separation anxiety develops in connection with object permanence, the irony fades. As infants, it’s precisely because we become aware people and things are relatively permanent that we begin to experience anxiety at the prospect of losing them." ~ Unknown

Zen rock garden at Ryōan-ji zen temple in Japan

Embracing impermanence is a transformative approach that can aid in dealing with trauma while fostering motivation and resilience. This article explores the connection between embracing impermanence and maintaining motivation during the process of trauma recovery. By acknowledging the impermanent nature of experiences, cultivating mindfulness, nurturing self-compassion, and seeking support, individuals can navigate the healing journey with a sense of purpose and renewed motivation.

1. Recognizing Impermanence in Trauma Recovery:

Traumatic experiences often leave individuals feeling trapped and overwhelmed. Recognizing the impermanence of these experiences is a crucial step in healing. Research by Niles et al. (2012) suggests that acknowledging the impermanent nature of trauma can foster hope and a belief in the possibility of change, enhancing motivation for recovery.

2. Cultivating Mindfulness:

Mindfulness practices, such as meditation and breath awareness, help individuals develop present-moment awareness and acceptance. Research by Desbordes et al. (2014) demonstrates that mindfulness-based interventions promote emotional regulation, reduce symptoms of trauma, and increase resilience. By cultivating mindfulness, individuals can embrace the impermanence of their trauma-related thoughts and emotions, allowing space for healing and motivation to emerge.

3. Nurturing Self-Compassion:

"Unlike self-criticism, which asks if you're good enough, self-compassion asks, what's good for you?" ~ Kristin Neff

Self-compassion is a vital component of staying motivated in trauma recovery. Recognizing that suffering is part of the human experience, research by Neff (2003) suggests that self-compassion promotes resilience and motivation by providing a kind and understanding attitude toward oneself during difficult times. Embracing impermanence involves treating oneself with self-compassion, acknowledging that the pain and challenges of trauma are impermanent and can be transformed over time.

4. Seeking Support and Connection:

Building a support network is crucial for maintaining motivation in trauma recovery. Research highlights the significance of social support in promoting post-traumatic growth and resilience. Engaging with support groups, therapy, or connecting with trusted individuals who understand the complexities of trauma can provide validation, encouragement, and motivation throughout the healing process.

5. Setting Realistic Goals and Celebrating Progress:

Embracing impermanence does not mean disregarding goals or progress in trauma recovery. Setting realistic and achievable goals, both short-term and long-term, helps maintain motivation. Celebrating even small milestones and acknowledging progress along the journey is essential. Research by Emmons (2017) indicates that recognizing and expressing gratitude for progress cultivates a positive mindset, enhances motivation, and fosters resilience.


Embracing impermanence while dealing with trauma requires a multifaceted approach that includes mindfulness, self-compassion, social support, and goal setting. By recognizing the impermanence of trauma-related experiences, individuals can nurture motivation and resilience on their healing journey. Research supports the effectiveness of these approaches, emphasizing the importance of acknowledging impermanence, cultivating mindfulness, nurturing self-compassion, seeking support, and celebrating progress. Embracing impermanence empowers individuals to navigate trauma recovery with a renewed sense of purpose, motivation, and the understanding that healing and growth are possible.


Desbordes, G., Gard, T., Hoge, E. A., Hölzel, B. K., Kerr, C., Lazar, S. W., Olendzki, A., & Vago, D. R. (2014). Moving beyond Mindfulness: Defining Equanimity as an Outcome Measure in Meditation and Contemplative Research. Mindfulness, 2014(January), 356–372. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-013-0269-8

Emmons, R. A. (2017). The little book of gratitude: Create a life of happiness and wellbeing by giving thanks. Gaia.

Neff, K. D. (2003). Self-compassion: An alternative conceptualization of a healthy attitude toward oneself. Self and Identity, 2(2), 85-101.

Niles, B. L., Klunk-Gillis, J., Ryngala, D. J., Silberbogen, A. K., Paysnick, A., & Wolf, E. J. (2012). Comparing mindfulness and psychoeducation treatments for combat-related PTSD using a telehealth approach. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 4(5), 538–547. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0026161

Zen & Buddhism on impermanence:

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