Everyone experiences trauma all of the time. Sometimes it is small, seemingly insignificant traumas that happen every day. And other times, the trauma is much more noticeable. The difference is that not all of us are good at processing our trauma.
Many of us internalize or suppress our trauma until it builds up and manifests as an anxiety disorder, a drug addiction, or depression. Learning to deal with our trauma and promote healthy healing is a necessary step towards finding happiness.
Working with a Licensed Therapist
Let’s be clear; real therapy is a valid choice. The work that licensed therapists do with their patients is important, and we don’t want to be dismissive of the obvious choice when it comes to processing your trauma. We encourage the use of a trained therapist. However, we also recognize that some people are not ready to take that step. So, what are some alternatives to augment therapeutic healing?
Related: The Science Behind Our Emotions
Give Yourself Permission to Feel the Pain
The first step to processing your trauma is to not try to fight it or try to suppress it. If you feel angry, let the rage out. Scream, punch a pillow or go for a run. Do whatever feels comfortable for you, but try to stay in the feeling long enough to acknowledge and release it. If you feel sad, let the tears flow. If you aren’t sure what you feel, but your body starts to shake - let it happen.
There are many ways to experience touch, but science backs that even the simplest forms like a hug can help healing. This is why we tend to give hugs to loved ones for comfort. Massage can help emotional healing as much as it can aid physical healing. And if you really want to dig deep with touch as a pathway to healing consider energy healing or reiki, which have both been studied scientifically and show significant positive effects.
When we are faced with a trauma, there are three options in our hardwired flight or fight response. Option one is flight; this occurs when we actively avoid processing our trauma by suppressing it. Option two is fight; this occurs when we dig our heels in and commit to doing the work to process and release our trauma.
And option three, which is far less recognized, is freeze. Sometimes we don’t actively choose to avoid or deal with our trauma, but we become stuck because of it. This is similar to how some animals like a possum that plays dead when approached by a predator.
Releasing endorphins by going for a run, doing some yoga, or having an orgasm can flood your brain with positive feelings that can dampen the pain of your trauma while also coaxing you out of your frozen state.
Look for Inspiration and Borrow Strength
Facing trauma is hard work. You can sit with your trauma while gathering some strength by reading inspiring stories or joining a support group. Some people are naturally good at channeling their trauma into creative projects, and others need a bridge to get there. Seek out inspiration from others who have experienced similar traumas. The connection will help fill your fundamental needs, and the strength will help carry you through the pain.
Start a Conversation with Yourself
You cannot be ready to talk to someone else until you are at least ready to talk to yourself. Meditation and journaling are two ways that you can carry an internal conversation. Our brains work in mysterious ways, and sometimes it takes this type of dialogue to understand what happened to you. Journaling is good because there is no risk of judgment if you are the only one who will ever read the words. It can also be an effective tool to purge and release smaller traumas.
Take a Nap or Go for a Walk
Another way that our brain mysteriously processes information is during REM sleep. If you have ever heard the advice to ‘sleep on it’ in reference to hurt feelings or difficult decisions, it turns out there is some truth behind that advice. As you sleep, your brain works to solve problems and process feelings, and people often wake up with differing feelings or more clarity of getting good sleep.
The bottom line is we all have trauma, and we all need healthy ways to process it. Therapy is a fantastic tool, but not everyone needs therapy for every perceived trauma. A devastating conversation with your boss can be traumatic, but if you are otherwise emotionally healthy, a singular event may not be cause to seek treatment. These suggestions can help those who are not seeking therapy or who may be looking to supplement therapy in the pursuit of healing from trauma.