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How to gain the motivation to do anything after trauma? 

Updated: May 16, 2021

What is the correlation between trauma and motivation?

According to research published from the University of Zu¨rich, Switzerland, the aftermath of trauma can include notable changes in motivation, cognition, and emotion. Motivation is the reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way. Cognition is the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses. Furthermore, emotion is one’s mood or intuitive feeling. Consequently, trauma has the potential to impact individuals in all three areas. The effect can be noted in one’s academic, job performance, relationship, or health.

How does a person lose motivation after trauma?

The experiences of traumatic events, such as sexual abuse, natural disasters, or physical violence, often lead to severe changes in a person’s psychological makeup. Such uncontrollable traumatic events may result in learned helplessness and, consequently, promote motivational deficits. The stress caused by the trauma, if left unchecked, can significantly impact one’s motivation, cognition, and emotion, making it difficult for them to achieve specific goals.

Goal setting is essential. The pursuit of personally meaningful goals plays a pivotal role in individuals’ well-being and their life adjustments. When someone develops learned helplessness, they stop setting goals. The attitude of “why even try” sets in their mind.

What are the factors of motivation, and how can motivation be gained?

Motivation is an umbrella term for a wide array of cognitive and affective processes involved in goal-directed behavior. Understanding some of the factors that contribute to motivation is important because it allows us to see why trauma can impact someone’s motivation. Examples of factors involved in motivation are hope, self-efficacy, locus of control, and self-control. Having hope is to want an outcome that makes your life better in some way. Self-efficacy is one’s belief in one’s ability to succeed in specific situations or accomplish a task. Locus of control is the degree to which people believe that they, instead of external forces (beyond their influence), have control over the outcome of events in their lives. Self-control is the ability to control oneself, emotions, desires, or expression in one’s behavior, especially in difficult situations.

During or after some traumatic event, the factors that make up their motivations were greatly tested. At times, they may feel a loss of strength, control, courage, or hope. When thinking about the situation, the feel of hopeless can become overwhelming. Over time, the cognitive and affective processes for setting goals, planning, and accomplishing tasks become seemingly insignificant or pointless. However, helping trauma survivors regain hope, and self-control can motivate them to establish new profound meaning to their lives.

What if you don’t feel like doing anything?

If you want to discover the reasons behind the avoidance of positive behavior of someone, look for the cognitions that underlie the avoided behavior! The cognitive theories of motivation rely on thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes to explain motivation. Your thoughts dictate your feelings, and your emotions impact your actions.

When you separate your thoughts from your feelings, you can process information, events, the situation more logically and less emotionally. Feelings fluctuate and are very unstable. Therefore, decisions should not be made using emotional reasoning. Learn to set goals and determine your course of action by asking yourself questions based on beliefs, ability, and desired outcome. Ask yourself questions such as:

- Are you physically able to carry out the task?

- What would that say about you and the person you desire to be if you complete the task?

- What are some practical, doable steps you can take towards your goal?

Then create a simple, doable plan that will help you take the first step towards your goal. Make up in your mind to live by principle and not by feelings. Use the motto Principle over Feelings and remember my acronym for C.H.O.I.C.E.







Any last thoughts?

The Bible is correct, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is He” (Proverbs 23:7). Learning to process the right thoughts and develop the ability, self-control, and strength to do whatever you set in your mind to accomplish. Use your trauma to bring meaning and inspiration to your life and the lives of others.

For more information email: or call: 678-632-5152.


Simmen-Janevska, K., Brandstätter, V., & Maercker, A. (2012). The overlooked relationship between motivational abilities and posttraumatic stress: a review. European Journal of Psychotraumatology, 3(1), 18560.

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