We all have trauma. No really. We do. Not all of us has the sort of trauma that renders us ill and unable to function, and we all have trauma. Trauma happens when there is a discrepancy in stability. Trauma happens when the individual intersects with something in their environment that impacts the individual's ability to cope and see themselves as secure, cared for, and safe. Traumas result from global impact (like a natural disaster, a loss of a home, etc) or interpersonal (like relational violence, a death, etc). Trauma is NOT stress. When trauma happens people often choose two routes. People who experience significant trauma can fragment or freeze. Traumas, especially internalized traumas, require restoration. A traumatized person often has the following characteristics:
- unpredictably triggered by experience that reflect past trauma resulting in cognitive, emotional, and physical symptoms
- behave the developmental/emotional age the trauma occurred
- unknowingly seek out situations to re-live or engage in trauma
The only way to start the restoration process is to acknowledge that something is broken. Some of us spend our whole lives avoiding the work we have to do. Avoidance makes sense. We didn't choose the trauma. Resentment from being made to do work that we didn't ask for crops up. Anxiety and fear of re-experiencing the trauma keeps us in fight or flight; forever using everything we can to distract us from our pain. When we become aware of our wounded places we often:
We hyper focus to the extent that we are unable to conceptualize a world without our trauma. We embody whatever happened. We are constantly raw, constantly on the defense, and constant re-experiencing the terrible pain. Focusing on the pain itself won't restore us.
Consume and Fixate
When we consume our pain we do so by fixating on something external. We drink, gamble, eat, exercise, use drugs, and use a plethora of other things to distract us through consumption. We often form addictions or disordered behavior as distractions from confronting the trauma. Consumption won't restore us.
We convince ourselves that it didn't happen. It was in our head. We are too sensitive. We misinterpreted it. The thing is that denial is a short-term solution to staving off facing the pain. The pain will find a way through our denial eventually. Denial won't restore us.
Cure the symptoms but not the cause
We medicate, treat our symptoms, and put all kinds of emotional bandages on. We don't, however, determine the root of the symptoms. Some of us are content to forever remain in a cycle of treating symptoms without naming the cause. Because naming the cause means facing the pain. Only addressing the symptoms won't restore us.
What will restore us is trusting in the truth that not all parts of us bear trauma. There are incredibly resilient parts of us that allowed us to weather all of the storms of trauma we've experienced. Simply reminding ourselves of what we survived that didn't undo us is enough to help us start on the journey of restoration. Before anything changes we have to admit that we have broken places. I hope today is that day for you.