Enduring a traumatic experience has different effects on each of us. While some may feel scarred for life, others find the capacity to recover and even grow from their journey. Effective recovery from trauma requires hard work and dedication to the process to include coming to terms with your painful emotions as well as learning from your experience.
What is Emotional Trauma?
Highly stressful events over which you have little or no control result in emotional trauma. You are often left feeling helpless and insecure after such an event. Emotional trauma can be caused by one-time events, like an injury or accident, or by ongoing stress, like abuse or living with a life-threatening disease. Trauma results from all sorts of events in life, including the death of a loved one, losing a job, or a natural disaster.
Trauma usually stems from events that happen unexpectedly and over which you felt powerless to act. Trauma in childhood is particularly hard to process and get past.
Dealing with Emotional Trauma
When you are trying to navigate the emotions and thoughts that happen after a traumatic event, it is vital that you have help. Recovering from this type of experience cannot occur on your own; you need to be connected to other people to heal effectively, regardless of the strength of your inner resources of resolve.
If you want to properly deal with the profound stress and emotional turmoil that comes with trauma, you will need to progress through four stages of healing. Some people spend longer in one phase over another, but those who recover fully find they must complete them all for the sake of their emotional health.
The Stages of Trauma Recovery
Focus on Basic Needs
When you experience trauma, you are likely to become overloaded with emotions, images, memories, and stimulation from stress and other input that leave you feeling as though you cannot process anything, so why bother trying. This feeling of numbness results from shock and overloading of your brain, and during this time, you are not thinking clearly or rationally. Many people describe feeling dead inside or disconnected during this time in their recovery, and the focus on living turns to basic needs.
After your mind begins to recover and can accept more input and stimulation, emotions start to return. In most cases, people can process their feelings and work through them with the help of their support system, but if your trauma was intense or prolonged, you might need professional help to navigate these waters.
During this stage, it is crucial that you express your emotions. Tell your story; talk about it. The more you discuss your feelings, the more you can detach your distress from the memories of the events. Feeling these intense emotions now allows you to heal.
Find something to do that allows you to feel powerful and purposeful. Action helps you make a difference, even in a small way, that leaves you with a sense of control. Find something that allows you to put positive energy out into the world and make a difference for yourself or other people.
Accepting the New You
After surviving a traumatic event, you will change and grow in dramatic ways. You will not be the same person you were before your experiences, so it is essential that you learn to find ways to reintegrate the new you into your life. Your values may have shifted; your priorities might have changed. How will your new life embrace this version of you that has come out of this experience different but stronger than before?