Let’s chat about trauma. What is trauma? And why must EVERY woman expand what they know about trauma ASAP?
Trauma, trauma, trauma. What is trauma? This subject right here…oooh weee…I need all of my ladies to tune in! And if you are a good-hearted person, you will share this with a girlfriend. What I am about share with you today is life-changing. In fact, If you are a high-achieving, ambitious woman or even aspiring to be one, this, girlfriend, is for you. This is the first in a 3 part series that is going to make you look at everything from a different lens—helping you understand what’s beneath the surface of some of the thoughts, challenges, blocks, or feelings you may experience when you are dealing with yourself, your partner, your family, your work, how you show up in business…all of that. So let’s get into it.
Now, I do want to put a disclaimer out. Often, when people hear about trauma it brings up negative emotions. It feels icky, sticky, deep, and heavy—going places within us that we often don’t want to go. And I get it. I completely get it. However, today I want to challenge you to flip that perspective upside down and think about trauma as being freeing, because it is. The recognition, the awareness, and the ability to understand how trauma may exist in your life and being able to unpack and process those things are one of the most powerful gifts that you can give yourself. I’m sharing this from first-hand experience; be open and available to learn something new today.
So walk with me today, girlfriend, as we discuss trauma.
Why don’t we know?
Trauma exists in many of our lives—the residual effects—and we don’t even realize it. And why is that?
- #1 We don’t really know how to define trauma; we don’t have a clear understanding. And I, for one, was one of those people. I had a warped perception of what trauma was until I began to do really deep inner work. As I began to process, unpack and understand trauma’s impact on my life, I wondered,” Why didn’t somebody help me understand how powerful this was earlier?” Duh…
- #2 We’ve been living with the residual effects of trauma in our lives for so long that we think it’s our personality. It’s the way we are, the way God designed us to be. That was my belief. There were “things” embedded in me from trauma that happened early on in my life that I assumed were part of my DNA, my personality. I literally spent many years fighting myself, trying to change these things about my “personality” (defensiveness, mood swings (I’m a Gemini lol), shutting people out) when there were underlying root issues (trauma) that needed to be unpacked and processed. Powerful.
- #3 Another reason we don’t recognize trauma in our lives is because many things have been normalized in our society, our families, our race, or our culture. For example, there are things that may have happened to you and when you tried to express the way you felt, you were told things like “Girl, put your big girl panties on,” “Be strong,” “Nobody has time for that.” We suppress those feelings and keep moving. We become so busy accepting the status quo that we normalize trauma in our lives.
- #4 The final reason I want to share is that many of us women (again I was guilty) carry so much masculine energy that we are disconnected from the way we feel. I was so busy being strong, resilient, independent, and wearing my superwoman cape that I didn’t give myself the chance or opportunity to process many of my emotions and recognize some of the trauma that was living in my body.
Those are all common reasons we may not recognize our trauma wounds.
So, again, what is trauma?
Trauma was first introduced with military combat. That’s a very common association even today, as many of us think of war veterans and the trauma they experienced when they came home from war, often with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder.) The word trauma traces back to the Greek word “wound.” This is significant to understand because trauma is NOT about the event that may have happened, but more about how an individual EXPERIENCES the event. It’s about the wound that is left after the event.
Trauma is also very subjective. Two people could experience the same event. One person may walk away from the event and be fine—with no impact, no trauma, or anything. The other person could experience that same event and subsequently, have trauma in their lives. Why? Here are several quick reasons…
- Personality differences
- Past experiences
- Who’s with you when you experienced the event
- Your support system
A definition of trauma that I really love is that trauma is a deeply distressing or disturbing event that hasn’t been adequately or properly processed, unpacked, or understood. And through that neglect, it has been able to cause a huge, undeserved shadow over different areas of our life.
That definition is very relatable. Think about it. Something happens in our life, and we stick a band-aid on it.
- We push it down.
- We keep moving.
- We don’t properly process it, unpack it, or understand it.
- We give our own meaning to it in a way that we are not even conscious of.
And why does this happen at an unconscious level?
I don’t want to get too scientific on you, but this is important to understand in being able to really think about the ways that trauma could potentially show up in your life. There is a part of our brain that is there to keep us safe, called the amygdala. It’s typically very quiet, just there minding its business. However, when we experience a traumatic event, the amygdala is activated. It says, “I’m in danger. I’m not safe.”
Once that part of our brain is activated, it then begins to activate in the future whenever it associates another event with the original traumatic event. When that happens, that part of our brain kicks in above our thinking brain—the cognitive brain. We don’t even allow that event to be cognitively processed. The amygdala, because it’s trying to protect us, jumps in and processes it saying, “I’m in danger. I’m not safe,” sending us into fight, flight, or freeze.
Fight, flight or freeze is your body’s natural response to its detection of danger. Its purpose is to help you react to perceived threats. (Imagine how your body responds if you are walking down the street and see a pit-bull running towards you ready to attack). Instantly your survival instinct kicks in and your body experiences hormonal and physiological changes that allow you to act quickly to protect yourself from hurt, harm, or danger. Some of those bodily changes include heart rate increasing rapidly, your hearing sharpening, and your perception dropping so you can respond quickly. You prepare to fight, take flight (flee), or freeze (fight or flight on hold).
It’s an automatic, unconscious response. It skips over our cognitive brain, happening at the subconscious level. We quickly begin to react because we think we are in danger, even if it’s not that same original incident. Our brain, for protection purposes, has universalized the experience to relate to anything that seems similar, sending us back into fight, flight, or freeze.
Here’s a practical example of trauma that can occur in your early years and take root in your body:
An eight-year-old child gets a bad grade on a test at school. When they get home, they tell their parent. Perhaps that parent has had a long stressful day from working long hours, has narcissistic parenting tendencies, is intoxicated, or is just overwhelmed with life issues. The parent is angry and starts yelling at the child, slamming doors, blaming the child for the failure, and then walks out. The child is left to process this event. They feel terrible—like their world is about to end. They can’t make sense of it so they blame themselves. A trauma wound develops around making mistakes.
That wound remains there and impacts how the brain processes future events. The brain is continually triggered in similar incidents, sending the child into fight, flight, or freeze anytime they feel like they messed up.
We can see that these unresolved events can cast a shadow on our lives, become embodied in who we are, and move with us into adulthood as if it’s just our personality to respond to mistakes with anxiety. Powerful, huh? It becomes ingrained in our subconscious without us even realizing it; we relive the trauma repeatedly. It starts with the primary event that multiplies and then universalizes that trauma in our brain.
This is powerful in allowing you to see how you may be blocking yourself from your next level. There may be a small disconnect, a little bit of work that you must do to clear out those trauma blocks that can hinder you from truly living the life you desire, from a place of grace, flow, and ease.
Being able to unpack, process, and understand trauma positions us to reclaim our power, allowing us to control how we respond to life’s events. We are no longer in fight, flight, or freeze.Being able to unpack, process, and understand trauma positions us to reclaim our power, allowing us to control how we respond to life’s events. Click To Tweet
Two Ways We Respond to Trauma
There are two primary ways that we respond to trauma. First, there is hyperarousal. Hyperarousal (fight or flight response) is when a person’s body suddenly kicks into high alert as a result of thinking about or sensing something that feels traumatic. Some symptoms of hyperarousal are irritability, being jumpy or easily startled, heavy feelings of guilt or shame, anxiety, or angry outbursts.
Another way we can respond is hypoarousal (freeze response). Hypoarousal is characterized by things such as numbing, isolation, social withdrawal, or disconnect between body and feelings in response to perceived threats, traumatic memories or reminders, or some emotions.
Personally, I was able to reflect and recognize the evidence of hyper- and hypo- arousal in my life. That awareness was key. You cannot fix something that you’re not even aware exists. Once we give ourselves a chance to become aware–by educating and becoming open and available to learn new things—we can make powerful shifts in our life to elevate to new levels.
This is essential for many women, like us, who are always looking to elevate life. Although our life can already be good in many ways, we know that there’s more and we are willing to do the work to get to the next level in our life. However, unless we properly unpack, process, or understand the things that serve as blocks in our life, they can become a wound. This wound can affect our ability to truly flourish and experience the power and impact we are called to have in our world.
Be a willing participant in your own rescue. Heal your trauma.Be a willing participant in your own rescue. Heal your trauma. Click To Tweet
My mission itself is to help women overcome so that they can become. Overcome anything that stands in the way of them living their best, most bold, most intentional life so that they can become everything that they’ve ever desired in their lives. That comes with doing some work, but the work is where the magic happens. You have to show up, do the work and allow the magic to happen.
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Until next time, I leave you with light, love, and high vibrations! Toodles. Talk soon.
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