Trauma comes in many forms. House fires, car accidents, death, abusive relationships, robbery, an unexpected assault (date rape), natural disasters, exposure to violence (in the community, school, workplace), etc. Sometimes we don't think about these events much after they happen because they are over and sometimes we simply don't want to remember them. Interestingly and frustratingly, though trauma remembers us. Aspects of that trauma can stay in our body until resolved, re-triggered or until we can no longer ignore the affect it has on us. And while trauma can affect us in big ways, such as with pregnancy, childbirth or postpartum periods, it can also show up in smaller ways too.
Past trauma can often resurface at vulnerable times but until recently I had under-estimated how often the affects of past trauma surfaces with the everybody else: friends, coaching clients, family. Take decision-making. Getting to a confident "yes" or "no" about a decision is challenging if you don't have the tools you need (gut instinct, personal values and good support for example). But even a "simple" decision can be complicated because after-affects of past trauma are unresolved. Deciding relatively mundane choices like "should I exercise tonight or tomorrow morning?" or "is it a good idea to take on another client right now?" or "can I delegate this to the new volunteer?" are paralyzing.
We can never get away with ignoring what hurts, whether that is in our community or within ourselves. The hurt, the past trauma, doesn't just go away. Our body and brain absorb that hurt. The hurt manifests in our body in so many ways (this idea is one of the main points of my When Survivors Give Birth training) but affect can also be apparent (or not, if you aren't particularly aware of how your own body feels) when we consider how our brain works, for example how we make decisions.
After a fire destroyed my house, I moved on, literally and physically. There was no mourning what was lost or a grief for a home that didn't exist. No one said to me that I had suffered a traumatic event and that it would impact my life. (That says something about my support system at the time, doesn't it?) And these thoughts didn't come to me naturally either. What I did allow myself to feel was self-blame and silent anger, at myself and my ex-partner. I also made bad decisions even though I was capable of good ones. I waffled where I should have been clear. I stopped where I started and I continued where I should have stopped, not looking back.
It's been 10 years since that fire. I make decisions pretty easily and with little mulling over. Sometimes I second guess myself but most of the time, I'm happy with my process. I am also no longer anxious when I hear firetrucks go by. Now I just send blessings to the people involved and hope the pets are safe. It's tempting to ignore past trauma. But for what end? Years of anxiety around fire trucks, feeling silent rage or being paralyzed by decisions? That does not do a body (or our soul!) any good.
Instead, let's allow ourselves to access that past hurt, whatever it was, in a way that feels safe. We need to reach out to it so we can heal from it's impact. When we do, firetrucks aren't triggering and mentions of campus rape or domestic violence in our homes aren't immediately shaming. We make confident decisions that we don't look back on and most important, we've move past that particular story of trauma. And when we're though it, we are in a place to create a new story where we are the hero and as such, we control the end of the story.
I'm doing a free workshop at nido Durham on 2/18 all about making better decisions. For confidentiality reasons, I won't talk too much on the past impact of trauma on our decision-making but it will be a good night to get and share some tips on getting to a confident "no. Click here for registration details.