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We’ve all been involved in a traumatic event at some point in our lives.
Whether it’s a trauma in the time of our childhood or in the recent past, the aftermath is challenging. Traumatic events include death, separation, failure, assaults, disappointment, violence, and a multitude of other events that can jiggle our entire being.
Trauma manifests as an emotional response to an external stimulus. However, it remains in our psychological system for a long period of time. The pain that trauma triggers can be tough and overwhelming to deal with. Oftentimes, it can develop into a serious mental condition that permanently impacts one’s life and experiences.
I’m not a therapist nor a life coach. Let’s just say that I’ve had my share of traumatic events. There are mainly two things I would like to share with you today:
One, we can’t prevent bad things from happening.
Two, the pain that bad things induce always transform us.
We all have different experiences, but we all share the same emotional responses. Labels vary from one person to another but when the worst happens, we all know too well the accompanying feelings: the racing heartbeats, the sweaty hands, the upset stomach. Then, comes the unstoppable thinking, the insomnia, anxiety, fear, stress.
Perhaps, instead of trying to transform these emotions, we should allow them to transform us. May it be of benefit:
1. Absorb the trauma.
There is a good deal of advice out there that encourages positive thinking and condemns isolation or despair. While I agree that positivity is beneficial in the face of adversities, I must admit that pushing myself to alter my natural emotional state hasn’t always done me good. Whenever I avoid my pain, it strikes back stronger.
Trauma, in particular, tends to linger within us when we bury its associated memories. As much as confronting distressing events might appear masochistic, it actually is therapeutic and beneficial. What I’m suggesting is to give attention to our thoughts and feelings. Listen to them when they come to the surface. When we dedicate time to our emotions, we absorb the trauma.
Nevertheless, we must do this practice with caution and awareness. Try not to identify yourself with the trauma or victimize yourself. Remember, this practice aims at bringing out the pain, rather than suppressing it.
2. Create a support system.
Trauma leaves us feeling unsafe and unable to trust those around us. And while it can be difficult to put ourselves out there again, creating a support system slowly builds us up once more. Oftentimes, the pain is too deep to share it or to put into words—our only source of consolation appears to be ourselves.
However, we must think of the people who make us feel at ease and whose words have always lifted us up. They’re the ones we need once we have absorbed the trauma. Although being by ourselves in times of struggle feels good enough, it can also be hazardous. Overthinking the trauma might cause us to draw in conclusions that are illusory. These conclusions might even hurt more than the trauma itself.
That said, when we share our pain we give ourselves the chance to see the situation from a different lens. We will feel safe, able, and strong once our trauma is heard.
3. Extract the lessons.
We have absorbed the trauma, we have shared it with those who care for us, and now it’s time to take out the lesson. Truth is, there might be any reason at all for the bad things happening. But they can happen to everyone and we can’t always stop them. This is how life is—a set of good and bad things happening at different times.
Consequently, I’d like to believe that there’s something for me to learn in all of this. I’m convinced that my trauma can shape me and transform me into a better version of myself. And so I dig. I dig into the past and check the mistakes, the flaws, the weaknesses, the shortcomings, and take note of what is and what could be.
Don’t be afraid to peel the layers. Your trauma is your opportunity to start all over again. Most of the time, we’re too comfortable to change anything in our lives. When a trauma hits us, it might be an alarm or a call of some kind to initiate change. That said, try to take out the lesson and put it into action.
4. Make peace with it.
Months might elapse—even years—before we learn how to live with the trauma. We think we can’t, but eventually we will realize that making peace with what has shattered us is our only alternative. In the space of our pain, we will find our liberation. We will know that we can live with it. Then, the trauma becomes a beautiful part of us, rather than an unwanted enemy.
Try not to fight its presence because it won’t ever go away. Traumas always find their way into our deeply stored memories and no matter how long they stay dormant, a random event will eventually wake them up.
Nonetheless, our response throughout the years will become different. We will see how we’ve changed and what role the trauma has played in our growth.
“At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can.” ~ Frida Kahlo
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