Understanding and moving forward with trauma.
Updated: Jul 24, 2021
“Trauma is a fact of life. It does not, however, have to be a life sentence.”- Peter A. Levine When someone has experienced trauma in their life, it can affect their emotions, behaviour, the way in which someone sees themselves and the world around them, and we may see someone behaving in a certain way and be like “WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?”, but if we understand the effects trauma has on a persons ability to process emotions, we may want to alter the question and ask “What has happened to you?”. Understanding trauma means that we can support each other to move forward from trauma, neuroscientists have studied the brain and the two types of brains- one being the emotional brain and one is the thinking brain when someone has experienced trauma in any form their emotional brain hijacks their thinking brain. The job of the emotional brain is to simply survive, and trauma takes away someone’s sense of safety, they may feel unsafe around people, in their environment, unsafe with their own thoughts and they create automatic responses to protect themselves from danger, imagine living life with the constant fear that you are surrounded by danger. So when we think about trauma, and how it can hugely impact an individuals quality of life, we should understand how best to support someone to move forward with the trauma, rather than let the trauma become their whole identity.
Dealing with a traumatic event can be difficult, as the events can be overwhelming, and reduce someones ability to cope with the emotions they feel. Different types of trauma would require different support, and its important to remember that in all cases of recovery, relapse is a part of recovery, we all have our highs and lows. Some common signs of trauma include distressing thoughts, images, and feelings, these are common and is a sign that your body is recovering from severe stress. We are all human, and everyone reacts differently to trauma, to understand how to support someone or yourself through trauma, first would be to understand your reactions in daily life. Some common reactions include anxiety, fear of danger, fear of being alone, avoiding leaving the house, being easily frightened by noises or sudden movements, flashbacks, sadness, sleep problems, problems in thinking, guilt and self-doubt, anger and often someone may ask “Why me?”.
Once we understand some of the common reactions to trauma, we can think about how to support someone or ourselves to move forward with the trauma, we want to make sure that safety is a priority, feeling safe can lessen the effect of the emotional brain to go into survival mode. Getting support can be just as difficult as the trauma itself, firstly its important to talk to someone you trust about how you are feeling and what happened, remember you don’t have to face it alone, know that how you are feeling is very normal for anyone who has faced a traumatic event, so give yourself the time. How you are feeling won’t last, and by dealing with the thoughts and fear, you will be able to move forward with your life, please be kind to yourself, you are not to blame. Self-care is important and recognising what you can do to give yourself the time to practice self-care, which is simply doing things you love to do. It is important to face the situations associated with the event but do it over time, recognise and manage your coping strategies try to avoid alcohol and drugs to cope with the overwhelming emotions. When supporting someone through their trauma it is important to be empathetic, don’t try to understand how they feel, all you can do is offer your support and listen to them, don’t take it personally if they want to be left alone sometimes and don’t take their anger personally, anger is a normal reaction to trauma.
There are many support services offered and treatments, in the form of therapy, that are available to someone who is ready to face their trauma, but we must be mindful that the responsibility towards recovery lies in the person. Do your research, try to understand trauma, and how you can support someone. When trauma isn’t processed appropriately, it can have damaging long term effects on someone's overall physical and mental health wellbeing, it can impact personal relationships with others and the relationship they have with themselves. Recovery is a journey, recovering from trauma takes time, we must remember to be kind to ourselves and others, remember we never know what experiences any individual has been through.
“Trauma creates change you DONT choose. Healing is about creating the change you DO choose.”- Michelle Rosenthall