Relationships, and Recovery from Trauma

1. World wide studies of disaster response have confirmed that social support provides the greatest protection against being severely impacted by a trauma.

2. Social support doesn’t simply mean having people around you – even highly responsive and compassionate people.  

To feel supported, we need to feel we have truly been seen, heard and understood by somebody who genuinely cares.

We also need to feel completely safe with that person. This is absolutely crucial for healing to occur.

3. Feeling safe is not a cognitive decision. It’s not something we can convince ourselves of, or can talk ourselves into believing. We don’t feel safe because we’re told someone is safe.

Instead, safety is something we experience intuitively, and at a gut level.

We need to feel – deep down inside – that we matter to this person, and the fact that we are suffering truly matters to them, too.

4. Even where we are surrounded by familiar people – people who belong to our community – we won’t be able to benefit from this unless we have first experienced true and genuine support (as described in 2 and 3, above). Instead, we will simply feel detached, disconnected, and alone. We will feel more isolated than we’ve ever felt before.

5. If we don’t experience true and genuine support, the trauma reactions will eventually be too hard to bear. The feelings will be intolerable.

As a consequence of this, people may turn to self harm, alcohol, drugs or sex to numb the pain.

6. This is why it is essential that a trauma survivor finds a safe person who will be there for them. (A therapist, a counsellor, a friend or family member who really “gets” their pain, and who communicates concerns). Only then, can the survivor choose to let down their guard, and slowly start to process the trauma they’ve been through.  And only then can they begin to slowly start to heal.

When (trauma) is ignored or invalidated, the silent screams continue internally. When someone enters the pain and hears the screams, healing can begin.” – Danielle Bernock

34 thoughts on “Relationships, and Recovery from Trauma

  1. When (trauma) is ignored or invalidated, the silent screams continue internally. When someone enters the pain and hears the screams, healing can begin.” – Danielle Bernock

    Thank you again I love this last quote. I experienced the death of my father when I was 6. Saw his pain. And found it really hard to grieve as a child amongst adults, I felt like I was being ignored, but clearly they were going through their own grief so I don’t hold it against them. So the trauma got suppressed for many years and it gets taken out from time to time to work through. Thankfully I have a a person who can be there in the memory of the storm. 🤗💕🌺

    Liked by 6 people

    • I’m so sorry. It must have been very painful to deal with such a significant loss as such a young child, and to have to repress the feelings and deal with them on your own. I’m also glad that you now have someone who is there for you when the memories resurface.
      The more experience I have in this field, the more I believe that trauma remains in the body and the nervous system, if it isn’t worked out. This quote, as you indicate, says it all. Thanks so much for sharing here from your experience. Have a great weekend!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. The last quote really sticks to me- or into me – sharp and strong. It’s so very sad that few people with terminal cancer have to hear the words “everyone dies of something…” yes indeed in every context. But most people don’t wake up every day staring at their mortality in the mirror and wondering if today is the day they find out nothing else can be done- “go home and die.” Not everyone wants to hear, “well you could be hit by a bus or taxi or car or asteroid.”

    To find deep compassionate listening is rare and my own partner of 15 years has me wondering if today were the last day of my life would I be able to feel satisfied that it was a day I could look at with love and see the day as not just any day. I do see the beauty in just being – the small pleasures – but every so often if you know someone you love is dying from a painful and traumatic disease how would you respond? If you can’t deal just say so – let them go gently to find their happy places and people who can become their tribe before it’s too late to do so. Don’t yank them around saying you’ll be there or change to meet their actual needs not your perception of those needs. Ask. Listen. Act if you can and if you cannot then help them to get where they feel comfortable and supported at the very least.

    I’m about to go away for a week since the first of the lockdown almost two years ago and I’m not one bit scared of the plane ride. I’m more afraid of what I’ll return to – and know in my heart it’s time to get my life back to myself and find my happiness not beg for what’s been promised but not ever given. That’s emotional abuse at its worst. Giving a terminal patient the promise of future plans only to rip the rug from under their feet and say “I never promised you____”
    Thank you for writing this post. It underscores what’s been bothering me fir a very long time.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I found it chilling to read the words: “Everything dies of something.” They almost sound callous when you are living with a terminal diagnosis. The shock, grief and anguish of a diagnosis like that is so profound and deep. I can’t even begin to imagine what you must go through each day.
      You are absolutely right: Ask, Listen, and Act – in complete humility – is the best thing we can really do.
      Thank you so much for sharing everything you have shared here. I know it will be a help to many. I hope you have a relaxing holiday.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. And trauma survivors—who are healing properly—make great social support persons. We know the anguish of wanting to tell our story, but feeling there is no trustworthy individual to listen and understand. So be that person! When you see that someone is hurting, come along side. Don’t force a conversation. Just totally be there for them. It’s amazing how people respond when you give them the freedom to simply be themselves.

    Liked by 7 people

  4. This is giving me so much to reflect upon this morning—especially as I go through massage therapist training. Whew!

    Have I seen, heard and understood my own trauma? Can I sit with my own pain as if I am someone who matters to me? Do I ignore or minimize my suffering? These are really good questions to ask. Am I able to be present within myself—supportively—recognize what is mine, and be in a neutral place accepting the reality of “what is” with compassion and kindness—without judging or comparing? And then, can I put all that aside to be present for another while maintaining professional/personal boundaries and ethical standards of practice? Can I create a safe space for another…even when I am at my own human wits end? Thank you for this post. So much food for thought!

    And yes, I agree—trauma stays within the body—on so many levels. Right now reading “The Body Keeps The Score” by Bessel Van Der Kolk. Wow.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. One of the greatest obstacles to my healing is not having a safe place/person outside of my therapist’s office. But thank God for him and what we have been able to accomplish together. It’s only a little, but even that little bit has helped me. Thank you for sharing this.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Trauma is not what happens to you, trauma is what happens inside you as a result of what happens to you – Dr Gabor Mate
    And then of course, there’s generational trauma too!
    Sending love out to those who may need a little extra today.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Many recommend community as essential.

    That is a mountain peak for severely abused kids, grown-up and damaged.

    I have had therapists as support, a friend here and there, plus meditation and reading books gave me comfort.

    My blog is part therapy and part community

    Being understood is a necessity if only by a couple

    Healing or Improving will come from our actions, not any of these people

    A therapist, friend, or a group will not heal us, that’s our part

    Liked by 2 people

  8. One of my mother’s “go to” people is her next door neighbor. She is also a widow who lost her husband from a traumatic medical event. She, as well as my mother, have walked through a similar fire-filled trauma.

    Liked by 1 person

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