Trauma? Resilience can be the antidote

 

Picture of Jim holding a traumatized bird

Jim holding a traumatized nuthatch that flew into the window in winter. He survived.

Trauma? Resilience can be the antidote

Resilience can be an antidote for Trauma. Sustaining trauma is a prevalent, yet misunderstood phenomenon. Many more people than we know have experienced or will experience trauma in their lifetimes. Some may not recognize it. For them, trauma might be so common that it does not register. The severity of trauma is on a spectrum, like most emotional health challenges. How resilient we learn to become can greatly influence how trauma impacts our mental health throughout our lifespans. So being resilience can increase our ability to manage trauma.

Unresolved Trauma Can Lead to Future Mental Health Risks

As a therapist who has worked in a variety of settings throughout my career, I have seen amazing and resilient recoveries from trauma. We often think that trauma involves only severe abuse (physical, sexual). If we have not sustained any of those, we may not think our own experiences qualify as traumatic. But a huge study, Adverse Childhood Experiences(ACE) were formalized to see the impact of childhood trauma, neglect and abuse. The study determined that trauma adversely impacts physical and emotional health later in life. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) continues to follow this study. You can visit the site https://www.cdc.gov.  You can fill out a questionnaire that will help assess your own possible traumatic experiences.

67% of the population qualifies as having experienced trauma.

Some of the findings from this study show that 67% of us qualify for, at least, one ACE. The study correlates unresolved trauma with potentially high risk health issues.  Linda Graham, in her excellent book, Resilience- Powerful Practices for Bouncing Back from Disappointment,Difficulty and Even Disaster, points out that healthy attachment ( healthy bonding with a quality caregiver) happens by age 3. She explains that this is true if we are around “…good caregivers with their own healthy brains and well regulated nervous systems.” She also states that about 50% of us are fortunate enough to have healthy attachment. But this leaves 50% of us disadvantaged at an early age. The unhealthy attachment makes a child vulnerable to trauma and its effects.

Mental Health Awareness

The impact on an individual dealing with trauma might be compounded if the person is not aware of how damaging unresolved trauma can be. Often a traumatized person does not recognize their experience as a serious health threat. As children, we do not have much say about who our caregivers are. We also do not have much say about how they got their training as parents. The result of compromised parenting often results in  anxiety, depression and substance issues. Becoming resilient can help with these issues.

We can help ourselves.

Resilience is key in lessening the impact of future emotional health challenges. In other words, we don’t have to be a prisoner of our trauma(s).We are not locked into the damage that may have been done to us. Of course, trauma can be experienced at any age. We may have had a beautiful upbringing only to one day suffer the loss of a spouse, parent or child. None of us is necessarily immune from bad things happening. Sometimes, our own particular coping skills may actually be interfering with living a healthier lifestyle.  For example, do we use substances to quell our anxiety? It is imperative to recognize and use better judgement in the management of our responses going forward. In sessions with clients, we have seen the light come on for so many people when they are open to deeper insight into their behaviors, thoughts and feelings.

Tame that inner critic

Perhaps you had a harsh caregiver(or sibling) who was overly critical of you. Your inner critic, that little voice inside of all of us that takes us to task, may be highly sensitive. This could negatively impact your relationships, your self confidence and possibly increase your substance use. Without support from trusted people in your life and the self awareness and resilience to not give into what your inner critic is saying, life will be much more difficult than it needs to be. We are hardwired to think negatively.

Regardless of whether we have experienced trauma or not, we are somewhat at the mercy of our brain’s desire to protect us at all costs. That is why the brain is so quick to trigger our “fight or flight” response. Our brain is always scanning for threats. For that, we have to be appreciative. However, our innate fight or flight system tends to act first and ask questions later. It can be over active and keep us in a state of high anxiety.

Trauma, Anxiety and Depression

Think of the time you thought you saw something threatening that actually wasn’t. For example, a snake that turns out to be only a stick. We have all probably had that experience. When we have experienced trauma, our brains may be extra sensitive to certain things that seem to trigger anxiety or depression in us. We might be hyper vigilant or always on alert or scanning for danger. This can impede our ability to be resilient in the face of stress.

The more we come into awareness of the hows, whats and whys of the ways our personal traumas manifest, the better. We can recognize what our brain is doing. We get better at intervening before false alarms, some subtle, can interfere with our daily living activities and relationships with others. This is not easy and takes practice and usually some assistance from a trusted person like a loved one and/or therapist is important. But when we get support in learning to recognize triggers, the building blocks for resilience are established and with continued practice of self awareness, can become a reliable resource for the inevitable stress life is sure to bring.

In sessions with clients who have experienced trauma in their lives,these insights have proven to be most helpful in resolving their presenting issues that they bring to counseling.

Rapport and Therapy

It is critical that you have a rapport with your counselor. Research tell us this will render the best results in a therapy experience. Rapport is not just that you like the therapist.  The therapist must help you gain valuable insights and turn them into meaningful action. The relationship is about trust, something that may have been severed at an early age for many of us who had unreliable caregivers (again estimated to be half the population). There are critical life stages we all move through (or don’t) in life. The first is being able to reconcile trust versus mistrust. We will keep growing and evolving, but without trust in our initial caregivers, we may stumble over this issue throughout our lives. Relationships will be compromised without trust as will our self confidence and ability to rise above adversity (resilience!).

The Path to Healing Trauma

When we figure out what makes us tick, we can become our more authentic self. The more we tell our stories to a trusted listener the better we feel. I think, these two statements determine the best outcomes in therapy as well as life. Not everyone can attend therapy or even find a therapist they connect with. Not all of us have a trusted person to help us be resilient during tough times. That realization motivated us to design our classes. They are designed to take a more detailed look into the blog topics. We try to present practical advice on how anyone might access the help they need to become more resilient in their own lives, regardless of what you have been through. And we are available for questions.

Mental Health

Just taking that first step is often the most difficult in this journey. We hope to dispel some of the stereotypes that promote stigma when it comes to seeking help for emotional challenges and overall well being. We hope you’ll consider joining us to explore s class that might be right for you. If the subject matter from these blogs intrigues you, reach out to us with your questions and concerns. Our intention is to provide low cost classes to increase your own resilient skills and develop some new ones as well!

Resiliently reporting, all the best,Jim

Don’t forget to checkout our online courses. They can be accessed on our website at https://www.resiliencetree.com