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