The experiences of trauma are wide-ranging and include any event that threatens emotional, mental or physical well-being. Globally, exposure to the terror and violence of war, displacement as an immigrant, or being the victim of a natural disaster are commonplace events that can generate traumatic imprints. Personally, abuse or neglect, the sudden death of a loved one, breakup of your relationship, a deeply shaming experience, a life-threatening illness or sudden disability, or a car accident can cause trauma that can shatter your trust and inhibit joy in life.
Trauma happens without warning and leaves you unprepared to deal with it. There is a feeling of powerlessness, shame and vulnerability that accompanies the experience because it could not be prevented.
Unhealed traumatic events can control and sabotage your life long after the trauma-inducing event is over (especially if it happened in childhood). The aftermath of unresolved trauma can shape a life built on coping strategies rather than wholehearted living.
The natural desire (conscious or unconscious) to suppress or ignore the pain and suffering of trauma and want it to simply disappear does not make it go away. Its effects show up in your behaviours that can include anger, mood swings, difficulty concentrating, being fearful, anxious or reactive and always being on ‘high alert’, or withdrawing from others. Sometimes, the suppressed trauma can surface in nightmares or flashbacks of the event.
Unresolved trauma can be at the core of depression, alcoholism, drug abuse, eating and sleep disorders, or suicidal behaviour and thoughts. Physically, trauma can even be linked to chronic diseases such as arthritis, diabetes as well as liver and kidney dysfunction.
Choosing to heal the effects of any trauma begins by acknowledging it, reconnecting with and releasing the trapped emotions that may have been put away for many years and then learning how to refocus your life beyond the experience that has been holding you back.
Here are some pro-active behaviours that help release the debilitating hold trauma can have on your life:
A new field of psychological study called post traumatic growth identifies five main areas of personal growth that can result from healing trauma:
Working through trauma takes courage and persistence but the potential for personal growth can be one of its most surprising outcomes. Trauma can be a way to shake up and challenge your current trajectory in life. Such adversity can inspire you to find the resilience and strength to make necessary life changes you might otherwise avoid.
Speaking of his personal transformation after suffering a stroke, Ram Dass said,
“The stroke was giving me lessons, advanced lessons. It brought me into my soul, and that’s grace. Fierce grace.”
Recommended Further reading:
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