GOAL: To recover from trauma so that you are able to live in your present life not overwhelmed by the thoughts and feelings of your past. By Bobbi Reed
Recovering from trauma in general is not complete freedom from past trauma, but the ability to live in the present without being overwhelmed by the thoughts and feelings of the past. We all experience feelings of helplessness, isolation, and loss of power and control. Recovery is an individual experience and looks different for each person. Guiding principles of trauma recovery are the restoration of safety and empowerment. Some people may heal through revisiting past traumatic events and some may not. Trauma recovery should be viewed as a process that is worked on over time and in intentional stages. Re-establishment of safety is the first and foremost step in recovery.
- SAFETY AND STABILIZATION-
When you are affected by trauma you tend to feel unsafe in your being and relationships. Regaining a sense of safety may take days, weeks or months especially to those who have ongoing or chronic trauma over a long time. Finding out what parts of that person’s life need stability and working on those helps most to moving on.
1. Struggles with regulating or soothing difficult emotions everyday.
2. Learning how to regulate these difficult/overwhelming emotions.
3. Some people who have had complex trauma are not able to talk about the events. Have to come up with other methods..non-verbal, acupuncture, reduces negative behavior and shoes a more calming way of dealing with past situations. There have been some other spiritual and cultural practices that have been used to calm the nervous system.
- REMEMBRANCE AND MOURNING-
Now we deal with processing the trauma, putting words and emotions while bringing meaning to it. This is usually done in group and or individual therapy. It is very necessary to pay attention to continuing with safety and stability during this phase. Paying attention to safety allows the person affected by trauma to move through this phase II that integrates the story of the trauma rather than reacts to it in a flight, flight or fight response. Pacing and timing are crucial to this phase. If the traumatized person becomes overwhelmed when talking about their trauma memories, safety and stability needs to be found again before moving further with the story. The story of the trauma has to be told with emotions attached but not relieved. This phase uses the important job of exploring and mourning the losses associated with the trauma and allowing space to grieve while expressing their emotions.
- RECONNECTION AND INTEGRATION-
In this phase there will be a creation of a new sense and a new future. Oneself is redefined in the context of new relationships. Trauma is no longer a defining principle in someone’s life. The trauma becomes integrated into their life story, but it is not the only thing that defines them. The person is now ready to take concrete steps toward empowerment and self determined living. In some cases, some people will use this trauma to help others, and they will continue to heal and grow. Successful resolution of the effects of trauma is a powerful testament to the resilience of the human spirit. Recovery is extremely individual and looks different for everyone. Of course, there is a strong desire to heal quickly so that a person can feel it is taking too long. Recovery is not defined by a complete absence of feelings about the trauma but being able to live with it in a way that it isn’t in control of your life. It is very important to be kind, compassionate, and patient with yourself as you go through the third healing process.
Now that we have gone through the 3 phases of trauma, how do we move forward? We have seen that all of this is a process and can take a long while. While we are in each phase of the process and moving forward, how are we to live our lives daily? How will we get the most from our lives?
First off, the creative force behind anything we do is passion. Passion can create greatness and no one can live a great life without passion. It is passion that makes ordinary people do extraordinary things. Passion can energize our lives and I believe we were created to live passionate lives. When we go through trauma, it takes a lot from us, including our passion for life. We now have to focus on recovery and many times just survival. We lose our passion and sometimes it can take a long time to return. We have to choose to live with passion; to choose a life without passion is one that is merely existing. I know it takes a lot of energy to heal from trauma, and to choose to intentionally to live with passion. Passion is not a temperament, and you can choose to be passionate regardless of your moods and struggles.
To be a follower of Christ, is to be on a spiritual adventure. We should not choose to let the trauma overcome us, even though in the beginning it will. At some point, we have to choose to control our thoughts daily. We choose whether we are going to do the work of moving past our trauma, going through the phases and coming out better on the other side of it. God’s plan is to give us a rich and satisfying life, while the enemy’s plans are to kill, steal and destroy you. In order to steal from you, the enemy attacks your passion for things in your life, therefore robbing you. If the enemy is going to be successful at robbing you of joy, happiness and passion, he will make your walk with the Lord boring and monotonous. Every day we must start the day claiming power over our thoughts and intentionally choosing to be positive and passionate.
Purpose and passion go hand in hand, purpose creates passion. Without a clear purpose in your life, you go through life by default and not by design. God has created each of us for a specific purpose so we cannot just go through life waiting for things to happen. If you do not know your purpose or callings on your life, pray and ask God to show them to you. By learning and understanding these purposes, your life will have a direction. When you have a direction, then you can create passion for those purposes. When you are walking in your purpose that God created your for, you will feel fulfilled and excited. God will give you the tools you need to fulfill those purposes. Discovering your purposes in life will give you your “whys”. God has such big plans for us and they usually are bigger than we can imagine. He goes over and above what we can think and do, and I believe this is where true happiness comes from.
We need other people in our lives. When we have sustained trauma, it is only natural to withdraw from relationships. It is a defense mechanism of survival. To walk through the recovery of trauma, we will need skilled professionals along with dependence on the Lord. As we are walking through our recovery and our daily adventures of life, we will need our friends and family. Many of us have heard the phrase “iron sharpens iron”. This means that when we walk together through life we help each other mentally, emotionally and spiritually. We combine our experiences and knowledge to help each other grow. In this growth there may be friction and disagreements. In walking through these, we grow. We are stronger together, and can grow healthier together. We all need a community that can foster and support our growth, while loving us as we walk through our trials. We are to encourage each other, listen and try to understand each other. Sometimes that support community changes, as people leave and new ones come into it. God will always bring the people that should be in your life at the correct time. Sometimes it is difficult to see people leave our community, but God removes them for a reason. You must trust the process and God’s directions.
Time management is a chapter in this curriculum so I won’t repeat most of it. I just want to mention that an unbalanced schedule kills our passion in our lives. If we are overtired and overworked, it is very difficult to maintain passion. Being constantly fatigued drains your energy and makes it hard to think clearly. It is vital to get rest and to also take our pauses during the day in order to recharge. It is vital to our physical, emotional and mental health to remain rested and have a balanced schedule.
Remember, we can overcome anything through Jesus. I know it is sometimes hard to believe that, especially when we have suffered trauma. Just know that we should take one day at a time, rejoice in what you have done. Know that if you continue to do the work, seek direction from the Lord, you will succeed and things will improve. Make the choice to look at what you have, not what you don’t have. Be content even in the process when things don’t feel or look good. Being saved does not guarantee us a life without challenges. It just guarantees us that we have something and someone bigger than us who truly can bring us through anything. You are on a spiritual journey where God never leaves us nor forsakes us, no matter how we feel at times. You have to continually lean not on our own understanding but on the Lord’s. In time you will see why certain things happened or came together at specific times. Have faith that as long as you choose to continue to grow, be positive and follow your purposes that God has on your life, you will succeed.
Life many times throws us challenges that we could not foresee. People will hurt us and it will usually be those closest to us. They may do it intentionally or unintentionally, but regardless, we choose how long they hurt us. We are in control of our emotions and how we react to others. We cannot control what others do to us. Sometimes we can remove ourselves from situations that are hurtful to us. It can’t always happen quickly, but in the end we do have some choices. After someone has hurt us, we will eventually have to choose to forgive them. Even if we remove ourselves from hurtful situations, the hurt can remain for a long time. It is a choice to help us heal and move forward when we forgive them. It helps us not them. It doesn’t mean we forget what has happened or lessen the severity, but forgiving heals our heart. It sometimes can take a long time, depending on how deeply they hurt us. We have to continue to choose to work on it and ask God to help us. Having unresolved conflict in your life will surely kill your passion for life and make it so that you cannot focus on your purposes. It many times leads to more hurt and much wasted time. Set your priorities every day, spending time in the Word, prayer and working on growing emotionally, mentally and spiritually.
Many times it is difficult for us to focus due to mental stress. Our minds are full of stress, anguish, and hurtful thoughts and actions that happened to us. We cannot think clearly in order to handle whatever has happened due to the rush of our emotions. When this happens to us, we need to be alone with the Lord. Pray and let Him know what you are feeling. I know He already knows what is going on, but He wants you to come to Him. Like our earthly father, He wants to have a conversation with us. He wants us to lean on Him, and literally cast our worries on Him. The more we worry, it truly does not solve anything. It just makes us more upset and makes us think even less clearly. When we turn to God, and lean on Him, the Word says that we will renew our strength, and have renewed energy. It is hard to wait at times because we want everything done right away. Spending time with the Lord will give you peace, rest and direction. His wisdom will always be better than ours for he knows our future and can see far ahead in our life. I know that I have spent many hours and days worrying, while accomplishing nothing but physically and mentally draining myself. Go to Him, have conversations; talking to Him and leaving quiet time to hear from Him. As you see things changing, and situations being resolved, your faith will grow. As this happens over and over, you will worry less and trust Him more. In time, when things happen, you will have more patience and not worry as much, because of what you have seen happen in the past that you have turned over to Him. He doesn’t promise that our lives will be trouble-free, but He does promise to walk through our problems with us if we will lean on Him. We soon will be able to see beyond our problem and sense God’s power. He will give us comfort and peace as long as we acknowledge that He is in control, not us.
It is very easy to get overburdened by our lives. Trying to be in control all the time will create much more stress. Always trying to solve everything in our lives ourselves, will cause a lot of heaviness. We will damage ourselves emotionally, mentally and can eventually lead to physical health issues. Jesus wants to come by our side and help us, at all times. He tells us He wants to be connected to us in partnership. We are to surrender all of our problems to Him, then we will not feel stressed and overburdened. God has such great plans for us and wants to help us, if we let Him. Many times we rely on ourselves, and make things so much harder in our lives when we don’t have to. Submit all your cares to Him, totally surrendering everything in your life to Him. I know it is not easy since we are used to running our own lives. It will make our lives so much less stressful so that there is room for joy and peace. I have learned through the years that there are things I cannot control and so I don’t. I try not to stress about those things, therefore putting my energy into those things that I can control. Knowing that He is always right next to us willing to listen, help and eventually bring us through everything is very reassuring.
As we go through our trauma recovery, in our everyday lives, we must remain focused on God. Ask Him for help in everything. As we walk through forgiveness, grief, recovery, our purposes and our passion, He is always there. He is waiting for us to come to Him and have conversations with Him. He is waiting for us to be quiet as He gives us directions and wisdom every day. He will help us walk through all of our hurts, our forgiveness and healing processes. He will help us to continue to grow through our relationship with Him. As we continue to have faith and trust in Him and work together to walk through things, life will improve. Remember to remain positive, and grateful. Even in the very worst challenges, there is growth and something good that can come of it. I have seen God constantly turn around what was meant for evil into something for good. He will continue to do this.
One last thing, I feel it is very important as we grow and heal, that when we are ready, to help someone else along the way. If every one of us helped and encouraged just one person that is going through what we have walked through, can you imagine our world today? It is important that we help each other. We are not alone, and many things we have walked through others are starting to walk through them now. I realized in the past, when I was hurting, if I reached out to help someone else, it took the focus off my pain for a bit. It felt so good to help someone else. It made me feel helpful and needed. Make yourself available if God puts someone in your path, and see how it will help you to continue to heal. God will not fail you. He has performed many miracles in the past and still does today. Focus not on your problems or needs, but Him and how He can use you today.
- What trauma have I had in the past?
- Have I been able to go through the 3 different phases of Trauma Recovery?
- What trauma am I still recovering from today?
- Am I getting the professional help I need so I can do the work through these phases?
- Is trauma still defining me as the person that I see as myself? Why?
- Am I still carrying baggage from past trauma? What can I do to stop this?
- Am I seeing current situations and labeling them wrong because of past trauma?
- Can I see that the trauma I have survived in the past makes me the person I am today? Is that a positive or negative thing?
- Am I able to help others that are walking through trauma that I have experienced in the past?
- Do I feel that I am healthy emotionally and mentally now?
- Are there steps I have placed in my life to avoid further trauma?
- Have I been able to give Him more control and trust as I have depended on Him more in my life?
- Identify my past traumas and where I am as far as recovery.
- Identify if I still am carrying baggage from past traumas and focus on working on that baggage until I no longer have it.
- Help others through similar traumas if and when you are ready. Realize that it is empowering to be able to do this, making a difference in their lives and yours.
- Always remain in prayer asking for God to give you wisdom, discernment and guidance in how to continue to handle all areas in our lives. Continue to thank Him for bring you through your traumas and keeping you from new traumas.
- Always remember that there are others, no matter what, that are worse off. It doesn’t minimize the trauma and but it keeps us grateful for all the positive that is happening in our lives. Be patient with yourself in your growth.
2 Peter 1:5-9
Online: Trauma Recovery, 2013 Manitoba trauma information education center