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Overcoming Trauma - Part 2
In trauma recovery, it may be necessary to process some of the trauma memories. We also want to be fully alive in the present and enjoy fulfilling relationships.
Processing trauma memories
The goal is to be able to remember and understand relevant aspects of the trauma without becoming so triggered that you feel like you are reliving it.
Processing trauma memories should be done when you are able to stay within the window of tolerance: That is, where you are not overwhelmed by emotions or bodily reactions. If you become overwhelmed by trauma memories, then you're outside the window of tolerance. The feeling brain takes over, and the thinking brain shuts down. Fight, flight, or freeze responses are triggered. Survival strategies you learned in the past are repeated. If this happens, you risk reliving the trauma and even being retraumatized.
For processing, integration, and healing to occur, the brain's thinking, feeling, and instinct parts must be active, communicating and listening to one another.
The thinking brain must be trained to be sensitive and aware of the feelings and bodily reactions that come up, so it can tell the feelings and the body that "we're scared, but this is not dangerous" or "we are safe now."
In processing trauma memories, it's essential to pace oneself with the guidance of a qualified therapist so it won't be too much too soon.
There are many ways to work with trauma memories. In addition to talking, writing, art, and music may be therapeutic strategies to get in touch with and express aspects of the trauma for which there may not be words yet.
Being fully alive in the present
Traumatized people often feel detached from their thoughts, feelings, body, other people, and the world around them. The goal of trauma recovery is reconnecting and becoming fully alive in the present.
For this to become a reality, you need self-awareness and mindfulness. This means being fully present in your mind, body, and environment. And to notice and reflect on what is going on inside you and around you.
Many people find that deep breathing, relaxation techniques, stretching, walking, and nature help them become more aware and grounded in the present. When you become more open and sensitive to what is going on inside you and around you, you will feel more alive.
To feel physically and emotionally safe, we need people in our lives who are available, sensitive, and responsive. People that come close and provide support when we experience distress, fear, and pain.
Family, friends, therapists, support groups, and religious communities may provide that.
For some, bonding with a dog, a horse, or some other animal may also provide a healing experience of closeness to another being. Being connected and supported is the most powerful protection against becoming traumatized, and it is essential in trauma recovery.
Even if you have been alone and lacked support in the past, you may connect with others now and in the future. Being loved by, supported by, and close to available, sensitive, and responsive people is healing. Recovery happens in relationships.
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