We have all had an experience that shaped us, changed us, challenged us…hurt us. And what we did right after it happened sent a ripple effect through time of what came next in our life.
It does not matter if what you experienced came from a natural disaster, an illness of some kind, or through someone you know. The one thing that ties all of us together through these experiences is that is was traumatic on some level.
Before I can go on, I want to focus for a moment on the word “traumatic”. We each have our own lives that we are walking through. And within our lives, we have gone through these experiences…and because they are our own, it is not fair for any one of us to judge the trauma someone went through or compare it in any way. This is easy to do. We have our own levels of tolerance and acceptance to different kinds of things that happen. Maybe you’ve lived through an earthquake and find pettiness in someone else’s response to their first earthquake. But to flip the coin over, perhaps the breakup you just had is the “be all – end all” of breakups that the person you just scoffed at, has dealt with time and time again because now… they feel no-one loves them.
We each have our own trauma. But how we deal with it in the days after will change us forever.
The rule of thumb for handling trauma is understanding it. I know this can sound simple, but as we all know from our own experiences, trauma is never simple – otherwise, it wouldn’t, in fact, be, traumatic.
In the immediate hours and days after the trauma, the typical reaction is chaos. This chaos is sometimes shown in our actions and words as we navigate our next steps, and other times it can only be seen when being questioned. By this, I simply mean, our mind is a mess. It could feel like a tornado rushed through your mind and took everything you knew and scattered it everywhere – and you have no idea how to pick up the pieces. This type of reaction is often unseen because, from the outside, you look fine, you act fine…but deep inside you are a mess.
So as I said. The first rule of this is to understand what you just experienced. This often means writing down what it is you understand to have just gone through. Perhaps a breakup. Perhaps a job loss. Maybe abuse…or you feel so alone that no one even knows you exist.
- Write it down so you can fully grasp, on paper, what it is you are experiencing.
- The next step is to check your emotions.
I don’t mean, ignore them. Far from it. I literally want you to write down each emotion you feel, and in any form, you feel it. Simply saying “Anger”, may not be sufficient. Are you “outraged”? “Pissed off”? The list goes on…
The reason for listing each one is because there is a reason you feel them. This might seem elementary, but we don’t feel emotion for any or no apparent reason. There is always a cause. The emotion is the reaction to what happened.
Write down your emotions, and then, note down why you feel that way. This doesn’t have to make sense right now, but it will at some point. Minutes, hours even weeks may go by when suddenly the planets aligned and you can make sense of what that note means to you.
That’s it. “Only two steps? Is this guy serious?” Yes, indeed I am.
A few years ago I was given the news that my heart wasn’t all I thought it was. My heart was suffering and it couldn’t perform in the manner it should to live a normal life. This literally sent my world into a spiral. I was in the USAF at the time and was being sent packing because I was no longer fit to serve. Everything changed. And I had no idea how to process any of it. I knew tomorrow was going to come, and the day after that…and weeks after that – but I had no idea what to do with myself when they arrived.
It wasn’t until I started to learn more about what was going on with me, and processing using this same approach that I was able to finally get a grip on reality and move in the direction that I needed to move in. Before that, it felt like I was blindfolded and told to find the door to escape (oh but watch out, there are traps everywhere!)
Using this process to understand yourself and the trauma you experienced will allow you the opportunity to gain some control back. I am not promising that things will suddenly feel right again, or that the wrongs will be righted. What I am telling you is that you can start to piece things together again sooner than you thought possible. You still have a life to live. And the fact that you have experienced this trauma, and are still here means you haven’t given up. Neither have I.
These are my thoughts for the Day.