“All it takes for someone to be traumatised, is for them to feel overwhelmed and alone in their feelings”
I watched Gabor’s documentary on trauma, “The Wisdom of Trauma” (link below) last night. Late at night I found myself weeping at the combined relief and hope that his words and experience offer. Relief, because his approach validates my own approach to working with human pain, and hope because of the healing power of relationship that he demonstrates.
I’ve run out of fingers to count the number of times I’ve heard clients say some variation of, “But nothing REALLY bad happened to me, I don’t have any reason to be finding things as hard as this”. It breaks my heart every time.
You aren’t struggling for fun. You aren’t feeling alone for your own personal entertainment. You have REASONS for the coping strategies that have gotten you this far, however much you may be wanting to distance yourself from these now.
Trauma is not a way of assigning a scale that justifies our suffering as ‘big enough’ to explain our need for support. Trauma isn’t the things that happen to us. Trauma is the learning we absorb that…
We aren’t safe.
We aren’t protected.
We aren’t enough.
We are alone.
Trauma is a rupture of our vital, life-supporting trust in people, the world and in even our own trust in self.
I often tell my clients that working through trauma is like a kind of exposure therapy. In exposure therapy, we slowly allow ourselves to be exposed to the very thing we fear, in order to rewire our brain to learn that this thing is not the threat it believes. With a fear of spiders, we might begin with being able to tolerate mentions of the creature, working up to being able to look at a picture, then a video, then being in the room with one – and on we go until we can hold one without our body going into fight, flight or freeze mode.
So it is with emotional trauma. The only way to heal is to work with that fear of relationship rupture, to engage in relationship – but safe ones this time.
Many of us are caught in a relational cycle where we find ourselves hurt again and again. In Gabor’s words, as I understand him, the wisdom of trauma is that it carries with it a deep truth about what we still need from relationship – those needs of safety, protection, acceptance and accompaniment.
What would it change if we were able to stop treating our trauma like the enemy, but instead as a clue about our still unmet needs?
Safe relationship offers space and voice to validate our needs as reasonable, and offers us space to explore where those needs went unmet, and how to grieve this, so we can release our present day from repetitions of this trauma. Safe relationship supports us as we develop a new relationship with ourselves and others, rebuilding trust and attuning us to expressions of love, rather than simply rejection.
Yes, we might be traumatised. But the story isn’t over yet. There is so much still to come.