For over twenty years, trauma has been a focal point in my practice. In the past several years, trauma has become more talked about than ever before. While trauma has always been an aspect of human experience, the concept of trauma is now more widely known, and more clinicians are treating trauma. Trauma is disruptive. Resilience can be cultivated.
I often describe trauma as a disturbing and disruptive experience that rocks us to the core. So much so, that when something reminds us of that trauma, consciously, or subconsciously, we become triggered. A trigger is like an alarm going off in the body to alert us that we may be in danger. It is felt in the body, as if there is an imminent danger. What I am describing here would be a big T trauma, an experience that is intrusive and often shocking and clearly harmful. There are other traumas that are disturbing and disruptive but they may not seem like an obvious trauma, these are often relational, and may involve experiences of aloneness, isolation and related to childhood, neglect or abandonment.
Trauma is often addressed through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, EMDR Therapy and Brain Spotting. Art Therapy is another powerful way to work through trauma.
The flip side of trauma is resilience. When I reflect on clients I have worked with, there is not only the trauma, upheaval and other challenges, there is resilience. Resilience is the ability to not only survive and endure but to bounce back ,re establish balance, and hope to move forward. This takes time. Therapy is one way to build resilience. Having support from family and friends is a resilience factor. A felt sense of love and belonging makes a difference. Having physical and creative outlets can be powerful. Being able to experience active movement and creativity can be both energizing and empowering. Resilience is not only getting through tough and traumatic experiences, it is not identifying with the trauma.
The brain body system has a greater capacity to heal, with sufficient rest, sleep, and supportive care from others. Practicing self-compassion is helpful, with trauma. There is a tendency to question what we could have done to prevent the trauma, which often leads to self -blame. It is important to consciously separate what we have control over and what we have no control of.
Emotion is an important part of healing. Allowing emotion to move through us, but not be overwhelmed by it, is an important balance. With trauma there is an element of grief and a variety of feelings to work through.
Allowing emotion to arise, without tensing up and stuffing emotion, or reacting , and acting out. Instead of being reactive, we can be responsive to our feelings and needs and practice self care. It is helpful to practice self compassion as the emotion arises, letting it move through us, allowing more space for cultivating peace and comfort.
Seeking supportive help that fits our needs is key to healing. This includes doctors, psychotherapists, and friends. There are many options, finding and accessing the people and the approaches that fit, for you, can make a difference.
Remembering that experience, what happens to us, does not make us who we are. How we respond to our experience shows our character. What we value, how we live, what we choose, what we share and how we navigate and create our life is our resilience and this shapes who we are and who we become.