Let’s Talk Trauma
Let’s Talk Trauma
By Eva Angvert Harren
I don’t know how much I know now about trauma. I don’t know how much more I know about trauma today versus 25+ years ago when I started learning about trauma. I have read 20+ books on trauma alone and another 500 books on self-improvement and enlightenment. Still, I do not know exactly where my trauma started, what events left a scar and are affecting me today, and which ones didn’t overwhelm me enough to be called traumatic.
How do we know what caused how we feel and behave now? Do we need to know?
Can we just heal without knowing the specific moment, event, person, place that caused how we are not able to live fully in the moment today, now? I believe so. We do not need to re-live any traumatic event to heal from it.
Now, after 25+ years researching, healing, studying, learning, training, and more training about trauma, I can share my experience, strength and hope with others, as well as what has worked for me.
Number 1. Understand that there is no scale on pain.
No one can tell you that your experience is too trivial to be called trauma, “Oh, it wasn’t that bad!” “You think you had it bad? Well, let me tell you about bad!” “Everybody has had a little trauma. Get over it!” “Sorry, I just can’t see how that could have hurt you that bad!”
And on and on and on…
If you feel that you have had trauma in your life, you have!
If you feel it really hurt, it did!
If you feel that your past trauma(s) is the cause for not “getting it together” now, it is!
If you feel that your trauma was so bad you can’t re-live it to heal, you don’t have to re-live it! You can heal anyway!
If you feel that your trauma is so bad you can’t even talk about it, it is, and you don’t have to talk about it!
You can still heal from traumatic experiences in your past. You can still release the block, tension, pain and behaviors that hold you back from becoming who you want to be.
How do I know? I have done it!
And one thing I know for sure is that I know that I feel better now. And you can too!
Number 2. Know that there is nothing wrong with you.
In Psychology Today (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/expressive-trauma-integration/201901/what-is-trauma), Dr. Odelya Gertel Kraybill says,
“I have come to see that lack of good information about trauma is one of the biggest obstacles to dealing with it for most of these survivors.”
She tells us that “psychoeducation” can greatly increase quality of life after trauma. She also points out that, if we can understand how trauma affects our way of being in the world, we can have more compassion for our Self as we try to heal and change our behaviors.
Further, Kraybill says that, “…without this understanding survivors often feel that something is wrong with them, that they need to be ‘fixed’.”
I have been feeling and thinking that something was wrong with me for as long as I can remember. And plenty of my clients feel much the same way. They often have a feeling of being damaged and that they have to be “fixed” to move on.
When we have the notion that we need to be fixed, we tend to be searching for an objective intellectual solution to our emotional and somatic challenges. This leaves little room for our body, let alone our body’s story.
Also, if the trauma happened when we were children, it affects our ability to naturally develop emotionally, physically, cognitively and socially. We tend to become “awkward”, exhibiting odd behaviors.
According to Kraybill…
…Traumatic injury shocks and changes all systems. (The emphasis is mine.) These include:
- Cognitive: The trauma affects ability to process thoughts and make good judgments
- Emotional: Looping with emotions of shame, guilt, fear, anger and pain
- Physical: It affects muscles, joints, digestion and metabolism, temperature, sleep, immune system, etc.
- Spiritual: The trauma affects our worldview, the lenses with which we see reality (typically so we see it as unsafe), our understanding and meaning of life, society, and the world
- Social: The trauma affects relationships with spouses, family, friends, colleagues and strangers (because it affects so many so deeply, it affects structures of societies)
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a set of alarm responses that occur when a survivor’s nervous system remains on high alert after trauma in order to protect against further harm. The survivor’s alert systems respond to reminders of the traumatic memories as a threat. Often additional triggers are added to a growing list of stressors.
Well, if you can relate to any of these symptoms you have probably experienced trauma and are now living in a survival loop that features repetitive and maybe even addictive behaviors (consciously or not) to protect your Self.
And, there is nothing wrong with any of us!
We have a shocked nervous system and an injured and hurting body that tries to protect us from any oncoming, real or projected, threats.
In an unsafe world everything can be a threat. This leaves us vigilant, suspicious, defensive, often having a hard time trusting…anybody, including our Self! And we are often unconscious of our awkward defensive behaviors.
We need to know where the next blow is coming from. We need to be ready!
We keep on looking for the “fire that burned us back then”, still hearing the alarm ringing in our ears.
However, that fire burned out a long time ago! Triggers around us re-ignite old burnt feelings, but the fire is out! We and our bodies just don’t believe it.
Other people don’t understand, “There is no fire; damn it!”
But we “know” there is, somewhere; we can feel the remnants in our body…the pain, the shaking, the tension. It’s hard to breathe deeply, and our brain is scouting for the next blow. We know we’re not safe until the fire is gone.
These are normal thoughts and behaviors when you’ve been “burned”. And they can all be healed!
Number 3. Put out your own fire.
It’s now our job to put out the fires in our body. It’s possible! I know! I did it! There is a way back to a personal space of ease and comfort for all of us.
A space where we can feel safe.
A space where old pain has been resolved.
A space where we can feel okay with the person we have become.
A space for me to be…Me, and you to be…You!
I am experiencing that space now. Many of my clients have found their space. And you can too!
It starts with Audacious Self-Acceptance! Followed by Self-Care, Self-Reflection, Self-Love, and more Self-Acceptance.
Here is a simple technique I use to calm my Self down and bring my Self into the present moment. I call this technique Stop. Drop. Check.
Step 1. Stop. Notice what you’re paying attention to. Ask your Self, “Am I safe?” If the answer is “No,” remove your Self to a safe space. If the answer is “Yes,” continue to Step 2.
Step 2. Drop. Inhale and let go of your breath in a full “exhale”. Like the sand in the hour-glass, simply let your attention “pour” into your body.
Step 3. Check. What sensations are you feeling in your body right now and where? Any body sensations such as tension, pressure or just discomfort? Emotions? (If so, focus on the sensations.) A specific mood? (If so, focus on the sensations.) Stay in this step for a few minutes. Allow the sensations to be there and to change naturally.
Step 4. Choose how to respond to your situation.
You now know by experience that you actually have a choice in how you feel. How do you want to feel? How can you get there? What can you do to feel better now? You can choose.
Feel what an empowered day you can have when you live fully aware of your body-mind.
If you are interested in more information on how to develop Audacious Self-Acceptance, contact me at: