Three steps to overcome trauma

Trauma affects so many of us. It challenges our ability to live normal, healthy and happy lives.

Sometimes, the effects of trauma can haunt us for a long time. But it is possible to work through trauma, and to overcome trauma.

This is important as working through trauma permits us the possibility of feeling joy. We are all entitled to feel joy.

Here are three things that have helped me work through trauma. I write them here, as maybe they will help you.

In working through trauma, I also strongly recommend you work with a mental health specialist. Our emotional experiences are very powerful, and emotional pain can drive people to self-harm. Other emotions such as anxiety, anger, and profound sadness will make themselves known to you through this process. It’s important you have someone who specializes in trauma who can be there for you when you need extra help.

1. Stop the trauma: First, you need to cut off anything that is causing or continuing an ongoing trauma. Are you being actively traumatized? Your emotions will tell you. It could be a toxic relationship (a friend, parent, or other loved one) or a toxic environment (a workplace). Listen to your emotions and feel where any strong negativity is coming from. You may already know what it is, but just can’t admit it to yourself.

In medicine they say to “stop the bleeding,” and that is true for mental health as well. If you feel you are actively bleeding, emotionally, you have to discover its source and stop it.

Our bodies and brains a very powerful, and I do believe they have the ability to self-heal. But self-healing is impossible in the face of constant damage. The most important thing you can do if you are being actively traumatized is find a way to stop the trauma.

If you’re not sure, talk to a friend or loved one. Ask someone you can trust if you keep talking about certain people, places, relationships, or experiences. The people who you know you best will be able to highlight for you potential sources of trauma. Sit with a mental health professional who can help you identify the active trauma.

2. Give yourself time to heal. Once you’ve stopped the source of trauma, you need to give yourself time to heal. With space and permission, your emotional consciousness is going to start processing a variety of emotions that perhaps were repressed or just kept silent while the trauma was ongoing.

Anger, sadness, anxiety: you may feel these things in very powerful spurts. This is normal, but as I mentioned earlier, you should work with a professional so that you have someone to process these emotions with.

Healing takes time. Just like with the physical body, your emotional body will heal at its own pace. Negative emotions will slowly settle and be processed. You may still feel some of the effects of the trauma, but over time, things will heal. Give yourself weeks, months, even years.

3. Give yourself permission to feel joy. One of the worst effects of trauma is that it destroys our ability to feel joy. Joy is like the capstone of a pyramid. To feel joy in your everyday life, you have to have a solid emotional foundation. Joy will not bloom in a storm. If you are undergoing constant trauma, joy will have a hard time taking root, and you may never really experience it.

To help with the healing process, one of the best things you can do is find activities that give you a lot of joy. Pick up a new hobby that lets you forget about things for a few hours and (ideally) gives you time outside and lets you move around. Find something that gives you a powerful sense of joy when you’re done. Give yourself permission to experience life other than as a storm.

In later posts, I’ll talk about how the experience of trauma can give us better peace and strength later in life.