Trauma is one of those topics that is for the most part kept under-wraps, for fear of stigma or judgement. It can be a downright conversation stopper when it is mentioned. How do you find help in life after trauma?
The fact is that most people have experienced a traumatic event, a series of traumatic events, or a continuous period of trauma. It’s unusual to go through life untouched by trauma. And yet, the trauma experience can have a significant impact on one's life, especially when it has gone un-acknowledged or un-addressed.
This article will help you understand trauma. What is trauma? How to know if you have it? And I offer concrete steps to help you move through it. My aim is to normalize trauma, and to encourage more conversations and openness about it. And to get you into action toward resolving it.
There are many trauma definitions; this is the best one I've found...
Trauma is the response to a deeply distressing or disturbing event that overwhelms an individual’s ability to cope, causes feelings of helplessness, diminishes their sense of self and their ability to feel the full range of emotions and experiences.
The Effects of Trauma
Every person I know with trauma in their history – and I’ve worked with many – wants to know how get control of their life back. In my recent survey, trauma survivors’ biggest questions are “How do I get past this?”, “How do I get back on track?”, “How do I release the trauma from my body?” and they want to know how to control the emotions, the thoughts, and the repeating behaviour patterns. The trauma experience is a complex one.
The effects of trauma can be long-lasting, impacting the survivor physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. They can feel powerless to control the impulses and urges that take over their body. The fight, flight or freeze response that is appropriate at the time of a threat can get stuck in the ON position for years, causing a person to over- or under-react to everyday situations uncontrollably.
Life after trauma can be full of shame, blame, terror / fear, sadness, rage / anger, guilt, and many more uncomfortable emotions. The disturbing thoughts that can invade a trauma survivors mind include things like… “What if…?” “Why didn’t I…?” “How could they…?” It is common at the time of trauma, to unconsciously make false conclusions like “It’s my fault…”, “I’m bad.”, “I’m worthless.” “I deserved it.” “The world is not safe.” “I’m unloved.”
“We define trauma not so much by the event itself but by the emotional and psychological effect an event has on people. We look especially at any event that challenges people’s core belief system: People start to question how the world works, what kind of person they are, what kind of life they are living, and what future they have. So, it’s not necessarily something that wounds people physically, or where death is an issue.”
Dr. Richard Tedeschi
There are numerous ways situations where trauma can occur. Trauma can result from events experienced either directly, as a witness, in learning of a close friend or relative’s trauma, in the course of professional duties, as inter-generational, and/or carried at the soul level from beyond this lifetime.
Signs You May Have Unresolved Trauma
The effects of trauma can vary greatly. One or several of these effects may indicate you have a trauma response from a potentially traumatic experience.
A Focus on the Past
Most trauma recovery methods have this in common: they focus on the past and the work is done in conscious conversation. This is important work... establishing a sense of safety and distance from the past, addressing the volatile emotions from the past, identifying how the past events have affected you, and remembering and mourning the past. But it’s often not enough to get survivors back to a life where they are thriving.
There is a better way to improve progress and have the recovery process be more engaging and, yes that’s right, enjoyable…
A Better Way
Trauma recovery is enhanced when we work with the unconscious mind to change the way the trauma has affected the neurology, and when we simultaneously and intentionally generate personal growth.
The Power of the Unconscious Mind
The Unconscious Mind stores our memories and emotions and controls our thoughts and our physical bodies. When we can access the unconscious mind, we can change how the memories and emotions are coded in the brain, and re-wire the unconscious strategies that are running.
We are born with only 2 fears: the fear of loud noises and the fear of falling. The rest of the fears we have are learned from our experiences. And if they can be learned, then they can be un-learned.
“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”
Creating changes at the unconscious level makes it possible to remove the emotional intensity of a memory, change the meaning we associate with a memory, change unhealthy conclusions we’ve made about ourselves, and so much more. Anything we remember, believe, think and feel can be changed by working directly with the unconscious mind.
It is possible to free yourself from the hold that the past has had on you
Intentional Personal Growth
Because trauma recovery is so focused on the past, it is difficult for survivors to find the motivation and the willpower to move forward. They often feel defeated by the effects of trauma, even though they are “doing the recovery work”.
Brave souls with trauma can benefit from shifting their focus from the past toward the future and creating a compelling reason to move toward their future. This involves opening the mind and the heart to a new vision of the future.
This one shift can then pave the way for a new adventure of personal discovery and growth that leads to more fulfillment and joy, and a greater ability to weather the unexpected challenges in life.
Shifting toward the future and changing the mind allows us to grow WHILE we recover. This is the powerful path of intentional post traumatic growth.
“The paradox of trauma is that it has both the power to destroy and the power to transform and resurrect.”
Peter A. Levine
intentional Post Traumatic Growth (iPTG)
Dr. Richard Tedeschi’s research on post-traumatic growth shows that in life after trauma, many people grow in such areas as connecting to a deeper purpose, a more positive outlook on life, and having stronger, richer relationships.
These changes are usually instinctive, and it’s not until after some time has passed that the trauma survivor realizes they’ve occurred.
In my experience personally, and professionally, we can embark on a path of intentional post traumatic growth to enhance our trauma recovery efforts and to improve our lives.
Trauma is Ubiquitous
It’s everywhere. The research into early or developmental trauma is revealing that many of the most common childhood experiences can have lasting effects in our lives. Everyone has traumatic experiences in their past, from being left in the crib to cry, to being ridiculed by a teacher in front of the class. These events shape our lives and our behaviour, until they are resolved at the source.
In adulthood, we see these effects playing out. The reason that someone is stalled, blocked or stuck on a project, a goal or life in general is usually because of traumatic experiences in childhood where specific mental and emotional patters were formed – survival strategies or defense mechanisms that helped them get through – that are now getting in their way.
When your thoughts, emotions and/or behaviours are problematic, and you don’t know the cause, then it’s out of your conscious awareness. We call this our shadow: the disowned or un-healed parts of ourselves that are acting out.
Your over- and under- reactions in the present are rooted in your past
A Personal Trauma Experience
I am grateful to have had access to the unconscious mind, transformation and personal growth tools when I experienced trauma in my life. My memories were repressed for 45 years, until I recovered memories of childhood sexual abuse. The entire frame of reference of my life shattered and I had to sort out what was now my truth, from what I’d been telling myself my whole life. It was devastating.
Not long ago, my 19-year-old son James died by suicide, without any trace of warning that he was struggling. My world imploded and I retreated to process and heal. I have also been through a traumatic divorce.
I am currently still healing and recovering from these traumas, and I will continue to do so. Because of the growth work I have done and continue to do, I am also fully functional, and feeling alive and healthy. I returned to my personal growth path after each event and used the tools to re-wire my mind and release unconscious patterns that have no longer served me.
I believe it’s precisely because I’m deeply embedded in the growth and transformation profession and able to create change at the unconscious level, that I’ve been able to move through the trauma well. There is still pain, and there is joy, as well as everything in between.
I feel all of the emotions of life and I’m not afraid of any of them. I have more capacity for love and joy than I have ever had before. I trust myself and I know that I can face anything in my future because I’ve developed the resiliency skills and the emotional acumen I need. My intentions to return to wholeness and to make a difference in the world give me hope and motivation to move forward. And launching the upcoming Transcending Trauma course has unleashed a passion and excitement in me that is refreshing.
I want this vibrancy and aliveness for you too
I'd been attracting clients with trauma for years before I realized the extent of the trauma in my background. I've attracted them in part because I carried the energy of trauma; there was resonance. As a result, I’ve become an expert in trauma resolution.... a Trauma Queen, as I've light-heartedly called myself. And I combine my personal experience and professional expertise to support clients in transcending trauma.
How Do You Transcend Trauma?
Transcending Trauma is a process of reconciling the experience in a way that learning and growth emerge from it, while accepting and integrating the experience into one's being.
The Sacred Road Map
Safely Opening the Heart and the Mind to Change
When your system has been used to facing the past and bracing for the next threat around the corner, it takes some coaxing to ready the body for change and nurture the glimmer of hope for a brighter future. This is where we begin to loosen stuck trauma patterns in the mind, body, and spirit.
Utilizing the Trauma as fuel for Growth
Identifying the existing narrative about the trauma is important to then be able to decide how to change it. Perspective is everything. And when you untether the anchor, there’s a world of possibility available in the meaning you make of your experiences. Here we look to change the meaning you assign to past events and explore the soul’s perspective, so you can choose an empowering meaning and begin changing your story.
Releasing the Energy of Trauma and Restoring the Lost Pieces of the Self
Regardless of what happened, you can only change yourself. And so, the work is personal. In this step, we turn inward to create the change we want to see in our world. We release and let go what is no longer needed and we welcome back the pieces of our self that know joy in order to develop a wholeness that honours our past.
Shifting Focus to a Compelling Future
Now that the stuckness is shifting, we can open to possibility and craft a future for our self that is truly compelling and aligned with the truth of who we are. This pivot toward the future opens the possibility for joy in the present and for the motivation forward.
Building Mental, Emotional and Resiliency Skills
Healthy strategies are learned in this step, so that your inner strength will see you through, no matter what the future brings. Improved confidence, self-awareness and intuition are a natural result.
Walking the Dual Path of Recovery and Growth
This is where we find our own unique rhythm on this earth walk, by travelling the dual paths or recovery and growth. And in the process, we cultivate passion, joy, love, purpose and peace.
The Transcending Trauma Course
An exquisite group of brave souls are expanding and growing together on this unique path of personal evolution post trauma. They have tools and recordings they can use for a lifetime of growth and expansion, carefully compiled to pave that path to their most brilliant soul's vision of their future.
In this sacred crucible, this group is supported in their empowerment, has input into the course content, and crafts a picture of their future that will delight them and motivate them forward. Each module progressively loosens the hold that their trauma has had on them, while building their capacity for positivity, and expanding their view of what's possible.
The opportunity is to reclaim your joy, purpose and aliveness in life, while you honour and reconcile your past. These are two separate and yet synergistic paths to wholeness.
Thanks so much Brenda. I’m very passionate about getting this work into the world. I’m glad it’s resonating with you. Blessings to you.
Deep and helpful work…thanks so much for the simplicity of your words making so much sense.