The Need for Purpose after Brain Injury – Part III

Brain Injury Blog by Jessica Felix Jager

June 17, 2011

The Need for Purpose

Part III
So how can we help those that have survived a TBI reach that next level on the Hierarchy of Needs? How can we help them identify a sense of purpose that will serve as their prompt to press on and not get stuck in a developmental stage? If you are a friend or a family member of a loved one that is a TBI survivor then you can play a major role in helping your loved one reach the level. After one acquires a TBI, their likes and dislikes often change significantly. Before he or she may have loved scuba diving, but now detests getting into the water. The key is to identify in the TBI survivor something that they truly enjoy and feel passionate about now in their current state. Initially, they may need the assistance of another to draw it out of them or to help them see it. However, once it is identified, the hard part is over. Any identified interest can be used as a positive outlet, as a source of meaning and is worth looking into. If, for example, your loved one acquired a love for animals after their TBI, it may be beneficial for them to get connected with a support group of animal lovers or volunteer at an animal shelter and so on. Once your loved one begins to get involved with others that share the same interest and passion as he or she does, then opportunities in the area of interest will become available. Connecting them with others will also give them a social outlet and allow them to interact in their community and build up their social skills.

In the very beginning stages of recovering from a TBI, family members and friends are very supportive and willing to do whatever is necessary to help get their loved one back into the normalcy of life. There comes a time in the recovery process that a TBI survivor transitions from physical restoration to emotional restoration where they seek to belong, and find meaning once again. Just as a TBI survivor may have had to learn how to walk again, or read again, he or she will also need to re-visit the fundamental human development questions: “Who am I? Why am I here? and What is my Purpose?.” A TBI survivor can gain a new purpose and sense of meaning by asking and answering: “Who am I now as a result of my TBI?,” “Why did I survive?,” and “What is my new purpose in life?”

The need for purpose is essential for every unique individual that exists. Life may throw us a curve ball and change the course of our path, but that should not cause us to stand still. There is always more to learn, more to gain, more to achieve, and a new level to reach. Roger De Busy-Rabutin once said, “We must like what we have when we don’t have what we like” (Cook, 1997). If you have a loved one that has suffered from a TBI and survived, do not give up on them and allow them to stay stuck in their current stage of recovery. There are more stages of recovery for TBI survivors, than most individuals realize, and can be life-long. Be the initial prompt that they need to find their passion and purpose that will get them to their next level.

2 responses to “The Need for Purpose after Brain Injury – Part III”

  1. Barbara says:

    I too think finding a passion and a purpose after brain injury is one of the keys to long term rehabilitation. I encourage survivors to think about their hobbies before their injuries, their interests as children, things they always wanted to do but didn’t have time and how they spend their leisure time now. Sometimes you can take a piece of what you used to do and develop it into something new.

  2. Marilyn Lash says:

    I like the concept of a “need for purpose” – this really captures the search for meaning that so many survivors struggle with as they rebuild their lives.

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