As someone who has lived through trauma, I know intimately how the psyche is affected. I’ve undertaken the healing work to live well with a brain that still bears the scars of that trauma, and I accept that I still need therapeutic ‘top ups’ from time to time.
I’ve also spent a large majority of my career treating trauma in others. I know the hopelessness that shows up and I wanted to take a moment to offer some clarity around the effects of trauma to dispel the idea that trauma means life is permanently negative. Sure, it’s hard, but I’ve seen people discover their true courage, identity, and strength by coming through the other side of these experiences. Life can be beautiful again.
Some lessons (in no particular order):
- The memories don’t and won’t disappear.
- Left unaddressed, the wounds from trauma will show up in different contexts, repeating until they’re repaired.
- Time does not heal all wounds. We heal the wounds by doing the work needed to recover the puzzle pieces of ourselves.
- Trauma is a fault line in our being. It can lie dormant, and then quake suddenly when unexpectedly triggered.
- Life expands around the memories over time so that they become threads in the tapestry rather than the pattern itself.
- Making meaning of the experience doesn’t mean discovering why the events happened. It means finding a place for the experience in our life narrative that allows us to move forward rather than being held captive by the memories.
- Experiencing trauma can shatter our sense of self. Moving forward is an unlearning of self-criticism, self-blame, and self-loathing, and a re-learning of loving, forgiving, respecting, and accepting ourselves.
- Feeling numb doesn’t mean you don’t have the capacity to love. It means your brain has developed a very effective mechanism of protection against emotional pain.
- Being extra critical of others is often because we’re extra critical on ourselves.
- Trauma can be the birthplace of profound growth and beauty.
- It’s not your fault.
- It was never your fault.
- People who have experienced life-changing events often have a profound perspective shift and can use it to find a gateway into gratitude.
- Your past does not define your present, but we must acknowledge that it exists in the here and now and needs to be held gently.
- Your story deserves respect, compassion, and acknowledgement. Not everyone has the capacity to hold it in this way and therefore, we must offer others the privilege of receiving only after considering their skills to do so.
- Trauma rewires our fear system to be over-reactive to threat. Therefore, we have a responsibility to ourselves and the people around us to seek out methods of self-soothing and ways to create calm in the immediate environment.
- Doing the work of healing will be an intensive process and may take multiple forms and multiple people as helpers and guides. You are deserving of the time, money, and effort to make that happen.
- Trauma creates physical, emotional, psychological, mental, and environmental sensitivity. This sensitivity is a super-power when used as a tool to read ourselves and our needs, and to do the same for others.
- There is life after trauma. It grows in a new garden that’s nurtured with self-compassion, gentleness, and self-care. This garden is watered by the love and acceptance of those close to us.
- Life after trauma is beautiful, and complex, and intense, and profound and I’m here for it.