Therapy Threads Discusses Trauma and the Healing Process
Stressful or disturbing events or a series of events can leave us feeling traumatized, out of emotional control, lost, angry, sad, confused, numb or helpless. Healing can take a long time, and sometimes it feels like the pain will never go away.
It’s important to note that trauma can come from a variety of issues. While it can come from a sexual assault or a violent attack, it can also come from overlooked causes such as surgeries, breakups, a deeply embarrassing experience, living in a crime-ridden neighborhood or a natural disaster. It can happen when you aren’t ready for it, feel powerless in stopping it or when someone is purposefully mean, especially in childhood.
Understand What is Causing the Pain
Traumatic experiences can be the source of a lot of pain and suffering. However, while we often focus on the specific event that caused the trauma, the emotions, feelings and beliefs towards ourselves as a result to the event are often the real emotional wound that needs healing.
Healing is a process. There are two parts to healing: release and receive. These two parts of the process work together. In order to receive positive emotions, we must process the negative emotions and let ourselves feel what needs to be felt. It is very important to let this cycle work itself out to truly heal.
A common result of trauma is seeking isolation. However, you can find great comfort in connecting with others. This could be done with someone you feel close to, like a friend or parent. This could also be done with a therapist or support groups, or by talking to someone who has gone through something similar. Another great avenue is volunteering for a cause. Sometimes, helping others is a great way to recognize our personal power and good qualities.
When you start to feel like you are losing control, go into a panic or get upset, there are ways to trick your body into calming down. In her book Presence, Harvard Business School Professor Amy Cuddy describes how your own body language changes how you perceive yourself. Exercises such as slow, deep breaths or sitting in a powerful position that takes up space can trick your mind into feeling powerful, even when you know what you are trying to do. Mindful breathing, such as taking deep, slow breaths and counting them can relieve anxiety. Practice counting out 30 slow breaths the next time you feel as though you are losing control.
You can even try to cool yourself off if your sympathetic nervous system is activated. For example, in “fight or flight” mode you can feel hot, sweaty, with an increased heart rate, etc. Try drinking some cold water, splash some cold water on your face, or put a cold washcloth on your neck.
Or, if you are feeling chilled or paralyzed, this most likely means your parasympathetic nervous system is activated. For example, you are in “freeze” mode where our body starts to shut down and go into rest. Try warming yourself up by wrapping yourself in a jacket or blanket, taking a warm bath or shower, or drinking tea or hot cocoa.
Self care is active and needs to be practiced. It will help you to become more self-aware and in tune with what your body and mind needs. By getting plenty of sleep and eating a well-balanced diet, are great first steps. Exercise, yoga and meditation are also wonderful ways to cope with what your body is feeling. Therapy is an incredible way to get in touch with yourself and the steps you should take to cope. Find a therapist near you on Psychology Today. EMDR therapy is specifically designed to help ease the pain of trauma, and it is definitely worth looking into.