Listen to some good news about the bad things that happen in life! New and natural techniques are now available for handling traumas large and small in a way that can leave us stronger and more resilient than ever. We talk with top experts in the field.
Emotional fitness is a big topic for us here on Healing Quest and today we have some very good news to share, because we’ve found that trauma, whether big or small, doesn’t have to be an awful thing that continues hurting us for years and years after the event.
In fact we’ve found that it’s possible to heal from trauma in a way that makes us more resilient, more compassionate and more emotionally fit. To help us understand this we talked with our friend Dr. James Gordon.
He’s the founder of the Center for Mind-Body Medicine in Washington, D.C. He’s also a professor at Georgetown University Medical School and former chairman of the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Here’s his view of trauma:
“Trauma means injury, that's what the word means. So it's an injury to the body, to the mind, to the spirit. I think every, everybody on the planet experiences trauma of one kind or another. The problem with trauma is not that we experience it, it's that we keep on experiencing it, experiencing it, experiencing it.”
Dr. Gordon told us that experiencing trauma is something that’s inescapable for most of us and we heard the same thing from many other experts in this area. They also told us that trauma doesn’t have to be caused by a major accident or catastrophe.
In fact the experts we talked with said everyday life experiences can sometimes cause the same trauma symptoms as a major accident or event. That’s why we were interested in a book called “The Trauma of Everyday Life” by New York psychiatrist Mark Epstein. When we interviewed him he emphasized that trauma doesn’t just happen to a few unlucky people. He also emphasized that bad times can be used as a lever for positive growth.
“We do ourselves a disservice to push the uncomfortable feelings about it away. My point in the book is that there is something transformational about facing the feelings directly.”
Addressing those feelings directly is not always easy, especially given the stigma that’s still attached to mental health and emotional issues. So we were really interested in what we learned from Regina K. Scully, the founder and CEO of a foundation that’s working to change that.
She’s dedicated to media, education and healing projects that transform our culture. She’s produced numerous films and documentaries and she’s working to promote a better understanding of how trauma can actually lead to positive transformation:
Nobody gets to live a life free of going through something that's going to rock their foundation at some point in time in their life. Instead of destroying you it can really be the thing that completely rebuilds you and lifts you up to a whole other level of living life.”
And in fact major advances have been made in understanding how we process trauma. One key finding is that trauma is a physical as well as an emotional event. One major figure in this field is Peter Levine. He’s developed a technique called Somatic Experiencing” which is designed to release trauma trapped inside the body:
“Trauma is something that happens not just in the mind, not just in the brain, but in the body. When we experience that we are threatened our body tightens, we stiffen, we retract. And the thing that has not been realized, not well understood, is that the body holds those patterns of tension or collapse and helplessness and until we change the experience in the body the body keeps telling the mind that there is threat.
“One of the amazing things about really being able to work with trauma successfully, to transform trauma, is that every time we do that we become stronger we become more resilient human beings. And that's part of the magic of transforming trauma.”
Foundation President Regina Scully agrees that trauma can be transformative.
“I think that one of the greatest gifts that we have is that we are all on the same, I call it the wheel of trauma transformation. We're all on it and that is a very comforting feeling and that's a very comforting feeling that I'm no different from you and you are no different from me.
We're all on the same wheel, we're just on it in different places.
“I may be going through something that puts me on the wheel here in the more acute state and maybe you're over here on the wheel of trauma transformation, but we're all on it together. And the beautiful thing about it is that if we can address it and tackle it and look at it in a very honest way and try to heal each other and ourselves. We can move on that wheel; none of us is permanently stuck on the wheel.”
So in the weeks ahead we’re going to be bringing you information on how we can use the latest techniques to heal from trauma in a way that makes us more resilient, more compassionate and more emotionally healthy.