This last week, I’ve been studying up on trauma. For those of you familiar with my work, you know that I teach on principles of family development and preservation as well as legacy development. My workshops, seminars, books and creative works all highlight the struggle we all have to enter into viable connections while still maintaining our independence.
Now, when aptly executed, one will discover that their independence is a viable component in their relationships. In short, being the best you allows you to contribute your best stuff to your relationships. Unfortunately, as is often the case in these days of technological savvy sans emotional intelligence, people fall too far to one side on the spectrum. Either an individual is all too independent, selfishly disregarding the needs of others unless spectacularly prompted to considerate action…or he is overly invested in his personal relationships at the expense of his own personal development and emotional well-being. After some extensive research, I found that there were is a common denominator in these equations: trauma.
Though the issues manifest themselves differently, their root similarity causes similar outcomes for those involved. For instance, whether too independent or too clingy the likelihood is that, in time, you will exasperate those you love and find yourself alone.
In order to fully understand this, we must understand what trauma is. This requires us to acknowledge that there are indeed different kinds; the two most common being Type A and Type B. Type B trauma is the one with which most people associate. Type B trauma consists of incidents like those atSandy Hook Elementary, Columbine and Waco, Texas among others. The shock and devastation is incomprehensible.
Type A trauma on the other hand is a mild, almost unrecognized trauma, which also makes it the least resolved of the two. Think of it as “A” for absence, absence of happiness, peace, joy or security. This can be realized in anything from a lack of hugs or other affection during your developmental years to being the recipient of hypercritical commentary most of your life.
In either case, we find ourselves at a loss for comprehension. When we experience something beyond our capacity for comprehension, we ensure trauma. We experience a shock and devastation. Sometimes, it’s minimal enough that it can be suppressed. But without proper treatment, after a while something will trigger the trauma and cause us to explode.
Trauma – like any other emotionally comprised response – has physical affects as well. Trauma literally shapes the brain, or worse still impedes it’s proper development. The pre-frontal cortex, an emotional center at the front of your brain just behind your eye, can remain undeveloped or ill-formed as the result of trauma…especially trauma experienced in childhood. The good news is, however, that our brain being the palpable, pliable mystery that it is, can be modified and reconfigured at any time in our life. That means that no matter when the trauma happened and no matter how old we are, it is never too late to heal.
So how does one undergo this heart work? Well, for starters it begins with reframing your thoughts about whatever it is that has manifested because of your trauma. I’m not recommending making excuses for yourself, but rather forgiveness and understanding…meeting yourself where you are.
1. Start by considering what you do appreciate about where you are. You might be homeless, jobless, carless and your spouse might have left. Maybe you drank too much and put someone you loved in danger. No matter what the situation, remember that it could always be worse….and be glad it isn’t.
Gratefulness literally rewires and reconfigures the brain, helping give us the physical boost we need to make long-lasting core value shifts for a better life.
2. The next step is showing the Love. So often it is easier for us to show Love than receive it. Once you have rewired your brain with gratefulness, you’ll find it a little easier to make genuine connections. Talk to people. Share your gratitude and express your heartfelt appreciation to anyone who helped keep things from being worse.
3. Once you’ve internalized your gratitude and externalized the Love, the next step is to internalize it. Turn the Love up on yourself. See the Love. Recognize that Love is with you and always has been. Even in those dark, troubled spaces where your issues erupted, where your faith failed and you felt jaded…and yes, even in the moments when your trauma happened. Know that you were loved.
It’s important that emphasize that nothing I share here is offered cavalierly. As the adult survivor of all manners of physical, emotional and psychological (Type B) trauma, I can tell you from personal experience how essential this part of the process is.
We may never know why things happened to us or were allowed to happen to us, but we can know that the mere fact we survived it is an indication that we are meant to exist beyond it. My story has been the catalyst for women, children and families the world over. It has also prompted some caregivers to reconsider the precautionary measures (or lack thereof) they implement with regards to their children – especially young girls.
4. Last but not least, seek professional help if needed. More often than not people find as they start this process, working from the outcomes to the issue that they are better equipped to make certain shifts. However, over time they are triggered and find themselves revisiting destructive behaviors or exploring new ones.
If you know your issues are with Type B trauma, you can start the process on your own but you should seriously consider the overarching benefits of professional guidance through the therapuetic process. In understanding what trauma is, we come to realize that we are all victims of it at one time or another. But how you respond is indicative of whether you will be affected or afflicted.
So this holiday season my friends, as you reflect on your life and prepare yourselves for family festivities around the table with aunts who drink too much, uncles who touch too much, siblings who talk too much or parents who don’t hug enough – remember the heart work. It’s hard work, but there’s nothing more fulfilling than loving the life you live….and living a life you love.
As always, good luck and Namaste. Grace and peace be with you.