Below are some common definitions of trauma.
“Trauma is any experience of threat, disconnection, isolation, or immobilization that results in physical/ emotional injuries that dysregulate the optimal functioning of one’s body, emotions, brain, spirit or health.” – Mastin Kipp
“Trauma by definition is unbearable and intolerable. (Traumatized people) become so upset when they think about what they have experienced that they try to puh it out of their minds, trying to act as if nothing happened, and move on. It takes tremendous energy to keep functioning while carrying the memory of terror, and the shame of utter weakness and vulnerability.” – Bessel Van Der Kolk
“Being traumatized means continuing to organize your life as if the trauma was still going on – unchanged and immutable – as every new encounter or past event is contaminated by the past.” – Bessel Van Der Kolk
This is a difficult way to live. But below are some keys to help you walk this road, and tap into your inner strength and power.
1. Practice self-kindness and self-compassion. Be there for yourself when you’re having a hard time. Notice any tendency to criticize yourself, and replace those judgments with warm, affirming words. For example, you could tell yourself:
“It’s absolutely normal to feel like this,” … and … “I’m doing the best that I can right now”.
Think about how you would speak to a child or to a good friend who’d gone through what you’ve gone through.
2. Allow yourself to feel all your feelings. You need to ‘feel it to heal it’ … and that is simply a fact. The worse thing you could do is repress your emotions – for they will just come back to haunt you at a later date. Don’t sanction any feelings; don’t judge anything.
Also, don’t listen to the people who would try to shut you down, and who deny the legitimacy of your emotions. This is another form of gaslighting.
3. Work on your breathing. During traumatic experiences, and then during flashbacks, our breathing becomes shallow, and we feel extremely anxious. However, slow deep breathing stimulates the vagus nerve which tells the brain to relax and calm down.
4. Slow down the tempo. Rushing, working quickly, and talking very fast all add to the level of stress we feel.
It also drags our thoughts to painful past experiences so we feel agitated, and out of control.
So, try to slow it down, and do one thing at a time. And do that one thing mindfully.
5. Let go of disempowering, self-victimizing thoughts. Don’t let your brain create a mental world of suffering, being a victim, and being devoid of power. It’s true that you’ve been hurt, and have suffered, and are scarred. But don’t let this define you; it isn’t over yet. Don’t let intrusive thoughts knock you off your course.
6. Call to mind past situations where you’ve shown resiliency. Remembering how you’ve shown resiliency before can reminds you of the strategies you’ve used before – strategies that worked for you, and helped to push on.
7. Connect with you soul. With the core of who you are. This is a place of contentment and strength. A place of self-acceptance, and of quiet confidence. The centre of your being, and the real, authentic you.
“You are stronger than the things that make you feel weak.”