Some of our viewers of Live On Purpose TV ask for help in healing from a traumatic experience. I think it's universal because we all have traumatic things happen to us. Have you noticed that stuff happens and it's not always stuff that we had planned and things just come out of left field sometimes and hit us upside the head? Now we didn't plan on it, we didn't ask for it. We didn't sign up for it. And it traumatizes us. It hurts us.
Part of the reason this happens is because we live in a world where this stuff happens. Also, we are human beings who have flaws and weaknesses. Because of those weaknesses, we end up hurting each other, even if we don't intend to. Then there all of those experiences where somebody did intend to inflict trauma. These happen through a crime or some kind of a felony committed against us where we got hurt. I'm acknowledging right up front it's going to happen. In different degrees and in different ways.
I think it's important also to acknowledge that we don't have all of the information. And I don't think we're in a position where we can judge someone else's journey. Like saying, “Oh, that shouldn't have been a traumatic thing for them.” Well, if it was traumatic for them, then it was traumatic! Let's get off of the judgement thing and acknowledge everybody has their own experience with this. I'm interested at looking at what we can do to heal from a trauma.
From all of my training as a psychologist, here are some of the things that we are finding about healing from trauma. One of the reasons that traumatic experiences cause psychological disturbances is because of our avoidance or fear of feelings. You are never wrong about how you feel. When you experience the traumatic event, how are you supposed to feel? Well, welcome to earth! You are a human being and you've got feelings that are real. YOU ARE NEVER WRONG ABOUT HOW YOU FEEL. How you feel is 100% consistent with the way your mind is processing your experience. When an incident occurs, it gets into us at a feeling level.
I am sure you have heard of post-traumatic stress disorder. This diagnosis came up as a result of how we were dealing with veterans who return from war. These veterans had witnessed some of the tremendous things and even participated in activities that are unthinkable. Are they unthinkable? Why do they keep thinking about them? This was a problem because those events would come back in the memories and the thinking and then the recollections of those soldiers that were returning from war in this example that I share. When we experience a traumatic event, our mind starts to play with it and replay it. There can be flashbacks where it feels as though it just happened again.
We all do the Coulda-Woulda-Shouldas. Our avoidance or fear of the feelings that are associated with those events sometimes has us also avoiding the things that could be helpful in healing from these traumas. So, the very nature of the problem creates a problem with the healing. I received some training early on in my career around critical incidents stress debriefing, CISD. We used this to help people heal from trauma. It's simply putting words around this experience that is unthinkable. Well, if it's unthinkable, why do we think about it? And it's unmentionable. Well, if it's unmentionable, how do we put words around it?
I was able to see a movie with my family called, “It's A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood.” It's a story around Mr. Rogers and some of his philosophies and tied into a story about a man who was going through some traumatic incidents in his own life. Mr. Rogers, the character Mr. Rogers, played by Tom Hanks, said this at one point on the movie. He said, “If it's human, it's mentionable. And if it's mentionable, it's manageable.” I really like that. That has been true of my experience with trauma and working with people who have experienced trauma.
Trauma is a human thing. We all get to experience it in some way and some time in our life. Then if it's human, it's mentionable. And if it's mentionable, it's manageable. The way our body encodes traumatic experience is typically not in the cognitive way where we can describe it in words. It comes more in feelings and impressions. Those are hard to put words around. Having an opportunity to put words around the experience will help you to heal. That is where a lot of cognitive therapies go in their approaches to healing from trauma.
The other thing that I like about putting words around it is it creates a handle that you can get a hold of that allows you to share it with other people. Then in sharing you will find that you are not alone, and you can find support. Usually the traumas that occurred, happened in the time that we didn't have much power or control over what was happening. This is especially true in the cases of child abuse where young, vulnerable children experience trauma at the hands of sometimes people that they love and trust. The people that should be keeping them safe in the first place.
As an adult, they can put words around that story that allow them to share it in a way where adult mind now can let it go. They can begin to see that they are no longer in that vulnerable position. There are a lot of powerful things about telling the story. Anything that I say about trauma would be incomplete if I didn't acknowledge some of the work that's been done by Doctor Bessel van der Kolk and some of his colleagues in the area of the body and how our body encodes trauma. He wrote a book called, “The Body Keeps the Score.” It's a pretty heavy book but it's got a lot of really good information about how our body encodes trauma.
I mention that because a lot of the traditional therapies missed the mark a little bit. Remember, I said that sometimes we encode trauma in ways that are not intellectual? They are not stories that we can easily tell even though telling this story is therapeutic. Sometimes we can get there immediately. There are some other treatment approaches that involve the body and movement and physical things that can help people to heal from trauma. There is a remarkably good track record for some of these therapies in helping people to heal.
EMDR for example, which stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Restructuring. It has to do with the movement of your eyes typically from side to side. There are also forms of the EMDR that involve tapping or vibrations that go from one hand to the other, for example. I'm just giving you couple of examples of a type of therapy that seems to be helping people to release some of the traumas that they have. There is also yoga and practices in martial arts. Tai-chi is an example where the body gets involved in the work that needs to be done to process and let go of the trauma and start the healing process.
I would encourage you, if you're looking into treatment approaches that you don't get too exclusive. There's a lot of good support out there for the different treatments that are available. And there is healing available for trauma. The good news is there is a lot of hope out there.
I'm glad we connected today. There are more resources available to you at drpauljenkins.com. You can pay for the shipping and get a copy of my book. Let's get Pathological Positivity in your hands as part of your personal development library.