When you’ve lived through a painful and paralyzing experience such as trauma, it’s easy and common to feel like a victim. The APA defines “Trauma as an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape, or natural disaster." While each person’s experience is different, there is often a myriad of emotional, physiological, spiritual, physical, and even financial effects one experiences for a varying amount of time.
When it feels like no matter what you do, you can’t get to a place of feeling “normal,” many often begin to feel like a victim. A victim mindset tends to involve more self-blame, feeling bad for oneself, powerlessness, helplessness, hopelessness, and negativity. For some, this can turn into a self-reinforcing pattern and can shape how you relate to and get attention from those around you. This approach to overcoming your trauma is frustrating, defeating, and often doesn’t move the needle towards change. Instead, by recognizing that trauma isn’t your fault, but it is your responsibility to heal, you can take control of your recovery.
In our therapy practice in Denver, Colorado, we most often work with clients who have endured relational traumas - meaning they endured traumatic experiences that affect the way they feel in relationships and around others afterward - ranging from childhood abuse to sexual assault to verbal and psychological abuse. We even offer group therapy focused on transforming trauma. Through this work, we help clients process and come to terms with the circumstances around their trauma, how it impacts them individually and recognize how they are in the driver’s seat when it comes to how they deal with it moving forward.
In this post, we’ll walk through what to consider as you move through the process of addressing your trauma.
Making peace with your trauma, the details that surround it, and believing that you have the power and responsibility to heal and move past it is essential to your growth. Reaching acceptance is often not a linear path and with the support of a therapist, you can create a more personalized approach to moving through grief and into acceptance.
Identify Your Coping Strategies
Throughout your healing, coping strategies will emerge. These are usually actions that help you protect yourself from future trauma or tolerate the trauma of the past. They can also be psychological in nature and employed to reduce or minimize the impact of stressful events. When thinking about the types of coping strategies people use, we find that they can be more or less adaptive or helpful in dealing with what’s coming up. However, we believe people always pick ones that are effective because they help you feel better, at that moment, even if they cause other problems down the road. Three common coping strategies that clients use to protect themselves include:
Having less healthy and a higher number of romantic partners,
Keeping your distance in relationships
Alcohol and drug use to cope
Overeating and/or restricting food
These unconscious behaviors are often an attempt for you to “do your best” when dealing with trauma. They all in some way help your nervous system - and therefore your emotional system - numb, calm, stimulate, dissociate, and/or soothe. However, by naming and owning these default patterns for coping, you can begin to take control of them and move toward healing. Working with a therapist who will understand how you came to use certain coping skills, and work with you to develop ones that help you heal rather than just get through the pain, can make all the difference.
Actively Move Forward
As mentioned above, trauma isn’t your fault but it is your responsibility. You are the only person who can make the decision to get help and begin the healing process. There are ways to actively overcome the pain that results from trauma, including counseling, group therapy, talking with friends, and reading books. Taking this active role in your healing helps you claim a piece of your recovery, despite the feeling of having no control over the trauma. Oftentimes, the path of healing, understanding, and forgiveness is a process that requires unlearning the messages you and others may have given yourself around what happened and also around how you learned to get through that unimaginable time. That might be reprogramming yourself to resist sabotaging romantic relationships as a way to cope or repatterning your desire to pour a drink when you are triggered by past trauma. This unlearning can be challenging and rewarding as you take responsibility, and therefore power, over the trauma in your past.
At Center for Shared Insight, we specialize in working with individuals who have experienced trauma and abuse. When left untreated, trauma can have a detrimental impact on your life satisfaction, relationships, and future decisions. We see the effects of abuse impact every part of a client’s life, and can often result in anxiety, depression, sleeplessness, and low self-esteem, among other behaviors.
You can get the help you need and start on the road to recovery by scheduling a free intake with our team. Contact us today to talk with a team member or to learn more about our Group Therapy for Transforming Trauma.