Trauma is a thief. It steals your sense of safety and peace of mind, all the while feeding your uncertainty and concern over things in your life, both big and small. The thing about trauma is—like your worry—it also comes in different shapes and sizes, which is why what you might be casually passing off as your predictable day-to-day feelings may run a little deeper.

Trauma Counseling UtahTrauma might have come to you through a major life event, like an accident or loss. It may be the result of a hard relationship, or some significant transition. It could also be the result of a small series of relentless emotional slights, like a toxic work environment, constant “one-downing” by a significant person in your life, or just the unyielding feeling you can just never catch a break. Wherever you’re coming from, the unexpected emotions you experience in response to trauma are often a marker for something deeper, suggesting you’re harboring a distressing memory that’s impacting you negatively.

When trauma is a betrayal

When you experience trauma—whether it’s a deep gash from a kitchen knife, the loss of a loved one or a boss who never cuts you any slack—you slip into survival mode. Basically, that means you have an instantaneous, or ongoing, physical and emotional reaction to our experience. In short, your reaction to trauma that is severe enough, repeated or untreated long enough can become a diagnosable condition like PTSD. Unwanted trauma reactions or avoidance of PTSD symptoms can be sparked by lots of things in daily life. Over time this process can worsen and further agitate the feeling and memory of trauma.

Memory is anxiety’s house. When you’re unwittingly holding onto trauma or not, your anxiety can become triggered in even the most subtle ways. Slipping into survival mode now means finding ways to protect yourself. Triggering situations or memories can flood us with fear, paralyze our behavior or life simply collapses under the emotional weight. Over time this can result in giving up your personal power. That’s your survival response kicking in: flight-fright-freeze-fawn.

Reclaiming life with help

It doesn’t have to be this way for you. One of the things trauma steals, along with your sense of safety and peace of mind, is your sense of power and control. Here’s the deal: you ultimately decide. Decide how we respond. Your life is your own, and it doesn’t have to be subject to the tyranny of your memory, your trauma or your anxiety to the degree it is now – especially once we’ve learned new skills. Some people avoid therapy due to the fear of the unknown. To help with this possibility, here are some examples of what skills you may be asked to practice in counseling.

Processing and healing from effects of trauma in counseling may include creating what is called a trauma timeline. Due to the distressing nature of trauma, it can be wise to have a professional counsel us when and how much to write down before dive in. Post traumatic growth is possible as traumatic events from the timeline are processed in and out of session using science based skills in a safe environment.

Notice, name, neutralize

Skills like “2 part-maps” in Mind-Body Bridging therapy (MBB) help us notice, name and neutralize painful emotions and stories we have about ourselves or others. Once neutralized, these things no longer have to control our behavior. Practice of skills in session helps prepare us to practice skills outside of session. Becoming more skillful with awareness to recognize the demon of trauma is both a part of you and your experience—but also something apart from you. This healing process along with others can add skill when trauma pushes us around.

Drop Anchor

Another example for trauma coping skills comes from Russ Harris in ACT: dropping anchor. When distressed: set a timer for as short as 90 seconds. Start with pressing your hands firmly together, then press your feet into the floor – spend 10 seconds (or longer if you wish) on each sensation. Then, pick one of the 5 sensations (sight, hear, taste, touch, sound) that is easiest to notice. Once you have picked one – focus your attention as much as possible one this one sensation for 10 seconds (or longer if you wish) before trying another sensation. When your mind wanders (back to a memory or fear or what is for dinner) — simply, kindly note it and return attention to the dropping anchor practice – over, and over. Sometimes holding an ice cube (with a timer) can lower the effort needed to focus attention on a sensation because ice is so cold!

Dropping anchor skillfully over time and place can help steady emotions, sensations and our reactions to the storm as it passes full of unwanted trauma memories and sensations. With practice and a safe relationship, healing is possible and this can invite new patterns with joy, self-love, self-compassion and connection into our life with time and practice.

Step out of the struggle

The evidence-based strategies our clinicians employ in counseling offer the ability to measure meaningful change in life. People experiencing trauma and PTSD may feel a spectrum of unwanted, chaotic, conflicting and distressing emotions and sensations: apathy, rage, numb, anxiety or depression. Humans naturally employ increasingly effective and costly avoidance strategies to avoid feeling emotional or physical pain like substance abuse or staring at a screen and just checking out of a life that feels too painful or meaningless to engage in.

Find a new path

At the Kaizen Center for Mental Health, our experienced counselors can support you in your journey, helping you work through your trauma and reveal a new path toward peace, joy and deeper fulfillment. If you feel you’ve reached your tipping point, and are ready for real change, simply request an appointment. We’re here to help you.

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