What is Trauma and How To Take Your Power Back
Updated: Apr 22, 2022
Taking the power back with how we feel on a daily basis doesn’t mean we blame or judge ourselves for where we are in our lives today. Taking the power back of where we are today means that we acknowledge the choices we have made in our lives and how they have influenced where we are today. This also means we have the power to support ourselves to change our situation too. Taking ownership of where we are today acknowledges that we have zero control over other people in our lives. Owning what we can control such as our habits, behaviour, who we surround ourselves with and how to handle stressful situations, so we get better outcomes in life, helps us live our lives from an empowered place. Our past trauma and experiencers impact the choices we make in life and how we behave. Owning how we feel is the first step to taking the power back.
Trauma response known as triggers, show up as fear in our body that has not been seen or resolved. When we have had emotionally stressful experience it becomes imprinted in our memory and body (Peter Levin) . This experience does not need to be extreme to feel traumatic for us. We are reminded of a negative past experience when something similar happens to us that we associate with the experience. This is known as a trigger. Our body and mind is responding to this trigger as though we're reliving the experience. On a logical level we know that this is not the case, however our body does not respond to it on a logical level, it's unconscious through our thoughts, feelings and behaviour. This is where listening to your body and bringing awareness to how you experience your trauma can help you process and release it. Some people do this on their own and others choose to work with a therapist. I personally do both.
“Trauma is not what happens to us. But what we hold inside in the absence of an empathetic witness.”
— Peter A Levine, PhD
Growing up I was a reactive person. I am the youngest of 5 children in my family and grew up with 3 brother and 1 sister. I often needed to stick up for myself and I did that in the only way I knew how, to be aggressive and reactive. I grew up in a loud, dysfunctional home that lacked softens, nurturing qualities and emotional regulation.
My home life growing up caught up with me once I graduated from university. I realised that when I was working with someone difficult or I was irritated with someone at work, I was reactive and would blame them for my reaction. I had no idea that I was triggered in those moments. I had no idea that I was responding from a powerless, victim state. When I would respond from this place, I would be in fight mode, and I was defensive and negative. I would then bring this state home with me and complain to my partner and friends. This would happen often, and I would hate my workplace and get more and more anxious about going to work.
As this continued to happen in my life and I became a “complainer” not only was my anxiety getting worse, but I was also becoming more depressed. This was not like me as I was usually bubbly and go with the flow type of person. I felt embarrassed to ask for help. I ended up getting to a point where I needed to see a doctor to go on antidepressants, I was pleasantly surprised about what she said. I told her I was feeling anxious and depressed, and I think I need medication as all my friends were taking antidepressants and medication for their anxiety so it was the normal thing to do. This doctor was different to your typical doctor as she took a more holistic approach to my situation. She asked me whether I liked my job. I said no, I hate my job. She insisted that she would not give me any medication until I did something about my environment and if that doesn’t work than I will re-assess. This was the most eye-opening experience I had had in my life because I had a qualified, professional tell me I needed to improve my job environment as my anxiety and depression was environmental.
In that moment I realised I had to own my situation and that if I got to where I was in my life, I could get myself out into a career I enjoyed. However, I still didn't completely own my situation at that point, as I thought it was my job and had nothing to do with my emotional intelligence. I thought the next step that was missing for me, was identifying what that next career path looked like. The reality was that yes this was the next step as well as working on my triggers and why I have anxiety. I didn’t know where to begin but all I knew is that IF I GOT MYSELF TO WHERE I AM TODAY, I COULD GET MYSELF TO WHERE I REALLY WANT TO BE.
Owning where I was in my life and taking 100% responsibility for my life led me to quit my job and start a new career path that I have not looked back from. I have now created exercises and techniques that help people identify what gives them meaning and purpose in life and how they can create a career from this. I also combine inner work such as emotional resilience as well as outer work such as practical tools and resources to identify your goals, vision and passions in life.
It's important to note that being miserable, lacking purpose in your life and then also being triggered by people in that environment increases your stress. This is the definition of a soul sucking situation and depleting your cup to a point where you have a breakdown or burnout.
What it's like to feel triggered and live with trauma
Re-experiencing the traumatic event: Images, feelings, thoughts or flashbacks of the traumatic event (reliving the event)
Nightmares & difficulty sleeping
Fear and anxiety, Anger, Sadness, Guilt
Trying not to think about the event
Avoiding things related to the event
Difficulty trusting people
Difficulty concentrating on and remembering other things
Increased heart rate, alertness and
Believing the world is extremely dangerous
Blaming yourself for the trauma
Thinking you should have handled the trauma differently
Seeing yourself as weak or inadequate
Criticizing yourself for reactions to the trauma
Feeling constantly on guard
Withdrawal from your friends and family
No interest in normal activities
Loss of interest in sex.
Having depressed or irritable mood (and getting angry easily)
How To Bring Your Body Back Into A Peaceful State Once You Have Been Triggered
When we're triggered we are not able to solve complex problems and we tend to have tunnel vision. Projecting and thinking into the future is not helpful during this time. Bring yourself back into the present moment to release stress in your body and helps you feel calm again. One step at a time and one day at a time.
Name it - When a situation elicits a physiological response "Name it to tame it. Dr. Daniel Siegel recommends the exercise “name it to tame it” as a means to make sense of our feelings and find balance.
Sit with it - SIFT Siegel known as “SIFT.” SIFTing the mind involves taking time to sit with the emotion and try to identify any sensations, images, feelings, and thoughts we’re experiencing.
Explore trauma in the body Peter Levin, Arnold Mindell , talk therapy such as CBT are effective to a certain point. If the trauma has a strong hold over you and you feel it in your body, therapies that work with the body are more effective. Such as, Process orientated psychology (the method I use), somatic therapy and kinesiology to name a few.
Psychologist Jack Kornfield has recommended an ancient Buddhist practice, The RAIN Approach, as an empowering tool to help us feel cantered and resolve any unresolved traumas or triggers with which we’re struggling.
Recognize the trauma or loss.
Acknowledge/Allow/Accept that it occurred and may not be resolved.
Investigate the nature of the experience in your past and present life.
Non-identification – Resist over-identifying with what happened or allowing it to define you.
Other ways to help to ground yourself in the present moment and regulate your nervous system.
Nature represents flow, ease and growth
Go out into nature and ground yourself. Stand in nature, your garden or in a park. Breath in and out while looking around and focusing on nature. Listen to the sounds and smell the air.
What do you see? How do you feel?
Journaling is a powerful inner work practice
We can not process our thoughts in our head only. Journaling brings order and clarity to our inner world. It can help us process what we're thinking, feeling & what needs are not being met.
When your mind is racing as you are stressed, worried or fearful here are 5 journal prompts you can write down and answers.
Brain dump anything and everything on your mind
Ask yourself - What is worrying me about this situation?
How do I feel?
What do I need right now?
How can I meet these needs in a healthy way?
We hold our breath when we're stressed and this keeps us stressed and tense for longer. Heart focused breathing is about directing your attention to the heart area and breathing a little more deeply than normal. As you breathe in, imagine you are doing so through your heart, and, as you breathe out, imagine it is through your heart. In the beginning, placing your hand over your heart as you breathe can help you in directing your focus to your
heart (Reference-HeartMath Institute). Free mediation https://www.tarabrach.com/guidedmeditations/
Being kind to yourself helps you met needs that were not met in the past and build self-trust and confidence that you know how to self-sooth. Find a cosy, comfortable safe space and wrap yourself up in a blanket & rest. Ask your loved ones for a cuddle, massage or comfort.
Empowering yourself to have a life that you love is a combination of inner, outer work, plus action. This will make you unstoppable!
Working with me
Would you like to work through your triggers and increase you emotional resilience? Click here to work with me.