Trauma Recovery

TRAUMA CAN IMPACT YOUR LIFE

Following a frightening trauma do you feel:

  • Watchful, afraid, and quick to panic?
  • Numb or shut down?
  • Disconnected, isolated, and detached?
  • Angry, having frequent outbursts?
  • Destructive or self-sabotaging?
  • Like your loved ones can’t possibly understand how you feel?

Trauma can take many forms and is not limited to surviving violence. Trauma is anything that is painful or frightening and overwhelms your ability to cope leaving you feeling confused or helpless. Trauma can occur from a problematic relationship with parents or partners, death of a loved one, assault and neglect, chronic discrimination, accidents, financial loss, and bullying. These experiences can cause you to feel out of control and in danger, unloved, alone, abandoned, flawed, or hopeless.

You may have gone through a difficult experience that left you feeling overwhelmed and not realize that it was traumatic. It can be hard to find the words to describe what you’ve been through and it may feel like family and friends move on readily while you are still in pain. Perhaps you wonder why you seem to still be affected by your experiences and think that you “should just move on” and “stop living in the past.” The reality of trauma is that you can’t just leave it behind. Trauma stays with you because fear and pain remain. Trauma therapy can soothe fear, mobilize helpful defenses, and heal pain.

THE TRAUMATIZED BRAIN

If you’ve endured a traumatic experience it may feel like your body and mind get stuck in that trauma moment. When trauma happens, your brain literally starts to shut down as a way to protect you from the inescapable danger you are faced with. As a result of this shut down, you lose access to the parts of your brain that think, speak, plan, and remember – leaving you to feel confused, frozen, or overpowered.

Following trauma, you might feel panicked and nervous, you may wake up sweating or trembling, or you may feel distrustful and angry; this is called hyper-arousal. You may also notice that you tend to feel numb, shut down, or zoned out; this is hypo-arousal. These are both protective states that your mind snaps into when it perceives danger. Hyper-arousal serves to keep you aware and ready to defend yourself in case of a threat whereas hypo-arousal reduces how much pain you feel if escape is unavoidable.

Trauma reactions are not failures to cope, they are your body and mind actively trying to engage the protection needed at the moment of trauma. Trauma reactions like shame, anger, and dissociation are your mind’s best attempt to keep you safe. You can learn to recognize your trauma thoughts and behaviors as incredible skills that you developed to ensure your emotional and physical survival through danger. We will emphasize and explore your astonishing, intuitive ability to rescue and protect yourself.

HOW TO HEAL YOUR TRAUMA

Trauma and stress can separate you from your intuitive coping systems. Trauma therapy teaches you to return to those coping skills in several stages.

  1. Build essential coping skills – I will teach you skills that make the symptoms of trauma more tolerable giving you a greater sense of mastery and control over your most challenging emotions and memories. When you are suddenly hit with inexplicable fear, your trauma memories have likely been triggered. Trauma therapy can teach you to manage panic attacks, social anxiety, and depression – some of the most common trauma reactions. We can bring calm to panic, soothing to anger and sadness, and replace impulsive, destructive behaviors with healthy relationships and boundaries.
  1. Teach mindfulness – You will learn to observe your trauma memories with distance and curiosity instead of fear and overwhelm. Mindfulness teaches you to tune into yourself with non-judgmental observation. When you learn to observe your most frightening thoughts and memories with curiosity, thoughts that were once devastating become tolerable and feel within your control. Mindfulness also teaches you to find internal sources of strength that you may not have otherwise known were there. Together, we will learn how to listen to the messages sent by your body and mind and capitalize on your brain’s incredible ability to heal itself. Attending and giving voice to these thoughts and feelings can bring relief from struggle.
  1. Understand your survival skills – We will put your trauma reactions into context and bring understanding to behavior that others may have labeled as ‘unnecessary’ or ‘irrational.’ Following trauma, you may be baffled by behavior that seems problematic like retreating from your relationships, feeling intense anger or shame, or clinging to others. I will teach you that these seemingly inappropriate behaviors are actually your best attempts to survive and cope. We will explore shame, anger, numbing, and panic and discover the utility of these difficult emotions.
  1. Activate healthy defenses – I will teach you how to activate the defenses that you wanted to use at the time of trauma – you will be able to bring control to a memory that felt uncontrollable. In trauma therapy, we conceptualize you as a resilient person, constantly striving towards growth and wholeness. I can help you realize that potential by teaching you to feel mastery over your past. We can break the cycle of fear, retreat, and isolation, bringing you a greater sense of calm and control of your world.

We will foster resilience and hope; we will reflect on your incredible ability to survive and thrive. Against all odds, most people who have undergone something traumatic find positive outcomes as they heal. You will discover that you are a resilient person, constantly and intuitively striving towards growth and wholeness. I can help you find new and more effective ways to cope with stresses, improve family dynamics, unshackle yourself from traumatic experiences, and feel empowered to live the life you want with deeper connections and ease.

“BUT, NOTHING THAT BAD HAS EVER HAPPENED TO ME”

Trauma comes in so many forms; two different people may experience the same situation radically differently. If you feel overwhelmed by memories of a distressing event or relationship, then you can benefit from trauma therapy.

If you have struggled with an invalidating, inconsistent, or intimidating relationship with a parent or partner, trauma therapy can increase your sense of safety in relationships. When an attachment figure feels unsafe, unreliable, or unstable that can have an enormous impact on how you learn to see your environment. Even if your parent or partner was never abusive of neglectful, their problematic way of relating to you may have had an impact on how you experience others, yourself, and the world.

“I’M AFRAID TO TALK ABOUT MY TRAUMA”

Processing trauma is understandably intimidating. Our first step is to create a safe space where you feel comfortable to explore your memories and experiences at your own pace. The initial stage of trauma therapy involves teaching you resources that make your trauma reactions more tolerable. I will teach you:

  • Grounding techniques so that you are less overwhelmed with panic and dissociation
  • Self-soothing skills that allow you to re-regulate your nervous system
  • Mindfulness, allowing you to detach from the intensity of your thoughts and emotions
  • To be a more active participant in your life, experiencing more interest, serenity, and enjoyment

TRAUMA RECOVERY IS POSSIBLE

I integrate neurobiology and the modern science of brain research, attachment theory, trauma expertise, mindfulness, and the application of advance strategies such as sensorimotor psychotherapy and somatic experiencing, in a blend of cognitive, emotional, and physical interventions.

You can recover from the pain of trauma and build a more fulfilling life. To learn more about trauma therapy I invite you to visit my blog. There you can read about techniques to cope with common trauma reactions. If you think we may be a good fit for your growth feel free to call me at (201) 674-5603 or email me at contact@drmacdermott.com to schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation. I’d be happy to answer your questions.