What is Trauma?
Trauma is a result from exposure to an incident or series of events that are emotionally disturbing or life-threatening with lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, and/or spiritual well-being.
What events can cause trauma?
Any event that happened unexpectedly and / or drastically, that left you in complete shock. Examples are a divorce, a heartbreak/break- up, miscarriage, rape, war, genocide, earthquakes, natural disasters, car accident, losing a loved one abruptly (heart attack) etc.
What forms of traumatic stress disorders exist?
Acute Stress disorder and Posttraumatic Stress disorder (PTSD). Acute stress disorder occurs 1 month after the traumatic event. Symptoms include flashbacks, nightmares and persistent images of the event, feeling “numb”, black-outs, not being able to remember the event at all and feeling completely distorted for weeks or months after the traumatic event.
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder is when a person keeps having the symptoms of acute stress disorder, yet the symptoms have remained for months, years and even decades after the traumatic event has occurred. It is also possible that a person doesn’t experience an acute reaction after a traumatic event. One day something happens and you get heavily triggered and don’t know why, is also a form in which PTSD also appears.
The biggest difference between acute stress disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder is “dissociation”: the feeling of being separate from yourself and your environment. When acute stress disorder happens you can feel yourself completely numb, as if the world is a dream, that you can’t wake-up from.
What are the symptoms of traumatic stress disorders?
- Avoidant behavior (avoiding locations where the event took place or avoiding emotions)
- Reliving the traumatic situation (flashbacks)
- Hindrance in every day activity (paired with depression and anxiety)
- Increased arousal (paranoid, anger outburst, not able to concentrate, insomnia)
- Emotional numbness (having no more pleasure and joy in life and daily activity).
How do you heal from trauma?
There are different ways of healing. You can try as many ways that you wish and even combine methods to get an optimal healing experience. There are no right or wrong ways of healing, just find what works for you and go with it. It can also happen that a certain method can help you along your way of healing, yet it can only take you so far in your process. It is completely fine to switch over to other methods if this occurs.
Breaking it down there is a western approach of healing and a eastern approach of healing (holistic healing).
The western approach of healing includes:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Behavioral therapy
- Combination of behavioral and cognitive restructuring (replacing dysfunctional thoughts with rational thoughts)
- EMDR (eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing)
Cognitive behavioral therapy comes down to:
In a safe environment the traumatized person will be confronted with a continuous exposure to the feelings and triggers that are associated with the traumatic event. Slowly re-analyzing the event and the anxiety that is associated with it. This way the feelings that are associated with the trauma are slowly and gradually eliminated.
Adding a disclaimer to the intervention “EMDR”. The moment this intervention started to be used I was really interested on how “ground – breaking” it would be for people with trauma. Years later EMDR has shown to have taken traumatized people “drastically” back to the traumatizing experience and has ended up “retraumatizing” these same people and has had devastating aftermath.
My professional opinion is that “ you can’t approach a wound with the same aggression that it was made with”. This will make the wound even bigger. Approach your psychological wounds with the same tenderness and kindness that you give to wounds on your outer body. Time and intentional healing cures all wounds.
Eastern/ Holistic approach of healing trauma includes:
- Shadow work
Therapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy helps the mind and the subconscious mind make better sense of what happened and takes of the traumatic association and components of the experience and desensitizes them. Yet our bodies have the ability to store emotions. Emotions such as anxiety, fear, anger can hide in certain organs and body parts and can cause the organs to malfunction. This might be a reason why you feel a certain way, but can’t understand why. When certain events or experiences happen, even though they have been resolved you might still be carrying those emotions with you. Yoga can help you release all energies that no longer serve you out of your body. Go to your favorite web browser and type in ’10 min yoga” and see which video and instructor resonates with you.
Releasing these energies out of the body is a form of a detox and your body might react in a specific way. Drinking 1.5 liters of water before or after doing yoga, will help the body guide the energies even quicker out of the body.
Shadow work is a form of deep reflection that helps you transform your wounds into wisdom. In a holistic perspective a person experiences different forms of challenges in their life in order to understand oneself on a deeper level and obtaining greater enlightenment of your own consciousness. Shadow work can be done in different forms, one of them is through sitting down with yourself and asking yourself questions that go deep into the core of how a certain event and experience made you feel.
This is a small shadow work training that can help you better understand a traumatic experience you have gone through:
- Close you eyes and take 3 deep breaths and ask yourself the following questions:
- What did I feel in that exact moment?
- What has this experience taught me about myself?
- How do I feel about this experience in this moment in time?
- How do I forgive myself for events that were out of my control?
- How do I make it up to myself?
- What do I need to make it right to myself?
- What is the lesson that I am walking away with from this experience?
It is complete fine that in this moment you don't have an answer to these questions, sometimes the answers come to you unexpectedly.
Remember that you you extremely brave to face your wounds and trauma's head on! Be kind with yourself, especially on days that it is hard to breath or even make sense of the world around you. Give yourself time, that this world has taken from you. It is completely natural to feel all your emotions, One minute you might be screaming on the top of your lungs and the next crying your lungs out. It is completely fine to let all the emotions out! Remember that going outside for a walk and fresh air really help to air out your body and create a clean slate for yourself. And when you leave your home, leave a type of ventilations open so that your home can air itself out too! Giving the energy that you released a room to exit your home aswell. Lighting white candles and sage also helps to energetically cleanse out you house. When healing this is a huge and essential part of the healing process! Sometimes the emotions we feel are the emotions that still linger in our surroundings. Keep cleansing your mind, body, soul and home!
How long does it take to heal from trauma?
As much time as you need! That is the most frustrating part of healing. A wound can be created in seconds, yet it can take us years to recover. Yet healing is like an exercise, the more you do it, the easier it gets and the faster you learn to heal yourself from past, present and future events.
I wish you a lot of enlightenment and liberation on your healing journey! For the fact that you have even started to heal, is already a testament that you are a warrior! For you survived that same thing that you thought would have destroyed you completely. Now it's time to take your power back and become the greatest version of yourself!