Handling Trauma



The older that you become — the more trauma that you will have experienced in life. It’s a given fact of life.

Trauma can start very young. It did for the thousands of orphans, little children whose parents and other relatives were killed in wars. The loved ones died without being combatants, but were collateral damage as civilians.

It comes in many forms. These are varied.

For example, it can be because your child died in a war or in a car accident. It can be that your mother is dying from pneumonia THAT SHE GOT IN A HOSPITAL WHILE HAVING A VISIT THERE. You lie in her hospital bed with her as she is drawing her last shallow breaths with your arm wrapped around her. You say “I love you so much, Mom,” and then her last breath comes and goes. Then you still lie there with your arm around her since it takes a while for the brain to die after being oxygen deprived. It can be because you find the suffering that others endure impossible to bear, such as freezing homeless people sleeping on park benches in the winter or crazed terrorists like the Las Vegas shooter shooting up a crowd of people. It can be that your young spouse died in a plane crash or from a heart attack. … The list goes on and on.

So I decided to write about dealing with trauma from different people’s perspectives since we all need help to not get stressed out, not get PTSD, have panic attacks or depression, and develop stress chemicals in our bodily systems.

So I started writing about the situation here: Pain, Love And Hope. My friend, Steve, gives some good advise there.

Here’s some more. It is from Jeana. She is a retired professor with her doctoral degree in psychology. She works in an international women’s empowerment group as a volunteer and a member.

She is as disturbed as am I over the coming future for this planet on which we live. And we each have different ways of empowering ourselves to deal with the travails that are coming full-steam ahead since our doing so strengthens us.

Some of mine: I don’t drive anymore my Prius (an eco-friendly car) except under a thousand miles a year. I use it only for absolute necessities. I don’t fly on jets anymore on vacation trips. I don’t use air conditioning, but dunk myself in a tub of water when my body core temperature is getting so high in the summer that if another hour passed without my doing so I’d be carted by ambulance to a hospital, keep my home a bit chilly in winter and only buy bear necessities. I also have a biodiversity yard around my home, You should see it. It’s small, but very replete.

Like heck anyone is going to force me to buy this or that to support our economy. No, I’m going to keep my carbon and my ecological footprints really low. It’s deliberate since I care about where this world is headed.

I also have no delusion that I can impact the social wholeness in the direction that societies are taking. Instead I do the actions that I take for myself — to be a right human, one supporting my brand of ethics.

Jeana’s the same way. She grows in her yard much of the food that she eats, has a heat pump to distribute warmth where needed in her home in winter, has solar panels and other measures to support ecological wholeness.

Well, Jeana and I are very open with each other since we mostly see eye to eye. And we both don’t like at all certain aspects about the way that our world is configured. We don’t like the resource wars, starvation, overpopulation, deprivation and other factors.

We also don’t like where the Earth is heading. For example, we understand about where the world is heading in terms of the sixth great extinction event, the possible release of all methane buried in the Earth and under oceans, severe climate change, human overpopulation, around half the world rendered into desertification, worse wars over increasingly less resources, increasingly less resources of very critical sorts like water in some place, no rare minerals and metals left to refurbish clean energy solar panels and wind turbines, and other extremely dire matters. The list goes on and on in our thoughts.

Jeana doesn’t even own one television since it is hard to watch about what’s going on in the world. Besides, what’s the point?

I have one, but I don’t watch it much. Who wants to see TV news with a car crash that killed six people three towns away? Who wants to see a house fire that killed children and a firefighter who tried to rescue them? Who wants to see monstrous movies with carnage between people or people and weird sociopathic aliens from outer space? … So my viewing is very limited.

“We speak not only to tell other people what we think, but to tell ourselves what we think. Speech is a part of thought.” — Oliver Sacks

So Jeana and I tell ourselves and others little stories. We learn through narratives.

Here’s one of hers:

Years ago, she came across a girl, around seven or eight years old, sitting on bleachers (benches) at a school crying her eyes out. I think that Jeana may have been picking up her own daughter at the school or serving as a school psychologist at the time. I don’t know, but ether scenario is plausible.

She, upon seeing the weeping girl, sat down next to her and after a pause, Jeana asked about what was wrong. The girl told her that she was thrown out of gym class due to not having sneakers. (Her parents were financially impoverished and so the girl had only one pair of shoes — boots. No money for sneakers. … Jeana didn’t share with the girl her thoughts on the awful teacher, who had rejected the girl from exercise class at school because what is the point in that causing a contention between the student and the teacher?)

Instead Jeana just listened as the girl spoke of her woes, shame, ostracism from the other boys and girls, her sense of rejection. … To share her sorrows in her trauma and misery helped the girl. So every time that she saw Jeana afterwords in times to come, she ran up and hugged her with a big strong clasping body to body.

Jeana told me that people need to deal with trauma by listening. You need to give the hurt person a quiet space to express the pain and then validate him or her in the traumatized position by showing care.

Jeana told me that you do not say: You shouldn’t feel that way. Your thinking about the topic is wrongful. Instead you acknowledge the disappointments and the pain, especially since those feeling trauma need connection to others and need to reveal their vulnerabilities to someone who cares.

So you talk about the issue. You do empathic, compassionate listening. You help remove the pain and provide a safe place. You use altruism to remove the panic and devastation feeling states. You, thus, help someone else from being overwhelmed and you ask for such help from others when you, yourself, need it.

She told me that finding the strength to help someone else is empowering for them and for oneself. What else is there but to encourage betterment in society by helping those in need and asking for that help when one is floundering oneself from grief, misery, trauma or other sorts of severe troubles?

Jeana likes this person in particular according to her outlooks.

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These two teachers both remind, as does Jeana, that we can overcome adversity if we work very hard. They remind that we can help each other do the same action. We just need to listen with our hearts in the right place.

She has the same views as I that if you cannot bring good — at least do no harm. As an atheist, she is very respectful of others whose religious views or other thinking varies from hers. She would never undercut their orientations — their mental models, paradigms, memes, constructs. Of course, she wouldn’t. To do so would be to undercut the speakers to whom she so avidly listens and tries to support. It would be against her values as a human and as a psychotherapist after her many years of training and practice as an educator.

Instead, you act respectful, loving and supportive. It is very easy to do once you get the hang of it.

Life is full of happy, beautiful and wondrous moments. It also has torturous periods. According to Jeana and me, we must help each other and ourselves through attentive listening, caring and sharing.

Sally Dugman is a writer from MA, USA.




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