My amazing friend, I'm grateful that you've chosen to listen or read this podcast, because in one way or another, all of us are going to experience some trauma in our life. Of course there can be a tremendous variation in kind and intensity, but today, if I may, I would love to share some ideas and suggestions that I promise will help you to deal with the traumatic events in your life, and i'll also talk about some of the challenges that trauma can create for us.
Look, I've been a therapist for over 20 years, I've published two books including a best seller for Teens just like you, and I have counseled thousands upon thousands of teens with really tragic and difficult trauma, and in all honesty, whenever teens open up about their challenges and trauma, they immediately begin to feel more in control over their lives. There's no doubt in my mind that talking about, and disclosing trauma to another person is a tremendous act of courage... and my friend, we all need courage and confidence.
I've also found that when people talk about and share that trauma with trusted adults, and with professionals, I find that these amazing teens immediately begin to grow... it's as if, some of those traumatic events and situations are holding us back... almost as if we are stuck in that past, and talking about it, is the beginning of your climb out of that hole.
Btw, if you don't feel like you've experienced significant trauma, this episode can actually help to deal with any future trauma in a better way, which will protect you from some of the negative challenges that can happen when we experience tragic and traumatic events.
When people experience trauma, they often talk about having nightmares or unwanted memories of the trauma. They talk about avoiding situations that bring back memories or feelings that are connected to that trauma. They sometimes express really high emotional responses (like sadness, or fear, or nervousness).
They also talk about having a difficult time trusting others, and being really hypervigilant, which really just means that their brain is always on high alert. This is what happens, when trauma occurs. For a lot of you, these feelings, or memories will naturally go away, but for others, these feelings and thoughts just seem to stick around, and don't leave.
Sometimes our brain can get a little stuck in trauma, and that's why I wanted to talk about it today, so that I can get you some tools to help and get this trauma unstuck, so that you can keep moving upward, and forward, and go into life confidently, more in control, willing to get in the mix, in the game, to be involved, instead of having fear direct and drive your life... I do not want fear to drive your life.
I want you... your goals, your dreams, your objectives... your best and most intelligent ideas to guide and drive you.
Let me briefly share a couple of things that you need to know right away about trauma:
1. You are made to overcome trauma! Your brain and body are made to experience some really hard things, to process them, and to overcome them. Just like the weather and the seasons, your body is a magnificent instrument, and it naturally moves through the tragic and traumatic things in our life with time. Be patient with this process.
2. There's an old saying that says, "if you can name it, you can tame it". The logic here is very simple. When you understand better how things work, and the way things are, it helps you to know that you're not crazy, but that you're experiencing something natural and normal. This is what's called awareness, and this awareness gives you power to address and overcome these challenges.
3. Sometimes your brain gets stuck. This is natural as well. It's important for you to realize that your brain remembers everything, especially events that are dangerous and life-threatening. If you can think of your brain as a survival mechanism, then you'll realize that your brain works really hard to remember these moments of intense fear, or harm, or abuse, or other situations, so that it can warn you.
But sometimes, the brain thinks that these events are happening all the time, which can leave people feeling afraid, and nervous, sad, stuck, and out of control. Sometimes when your brain feels this way, it wants to Fight, or Flight, or Freeze... what I want to teach you today, is to learn to Focus, so that you can regain more control over your life, over your thinking, and your feelings.
Btw, all of this is to be done with patience, with kindness, with understanding, and with some confidence that you can do something to make things better... little by little.
So how can you help yourself and others to deal with these challenging and difficult circumstances in our lives? Well, I'm glad you're asking, because here are 3 key steps that will help you to deal with any situation. You ready?
Step One - Talk about your trauma. One of my favorite sayings is "whatever we can talk about, we can begin to control. Whatever we can't talk about, controls us."
Thus one of the goals of trauma is for you to find a safe place where you can express and talk about your trauma. My friend, I know that talking about these circumstances is incredibly difficult. Some of you may feel embarrassed, ashamed, you may feel that it's your fault, or you simply don't want to talk about something, because when you do, you feel sad, or nervous, or you feel like crying... and because you're trying not to cry, you hold it in, and you don't talk about it.
Look, I don't blame you, but I'm just here to tell you as your friend, that we must talk... Like Eleanor Rosevelt said, "we must do the things we think we cannot do." Think of those traumatic events like a puzzle that's not put together... Talking about it helps to put that puzzle together, and when the puzzle is put together, we can deal with it better. Talking is powerful, it's healing, it's empowering.
Step Two - Learn some skills to help you to deal with the thoughts and feelings that trauma can create. Trauma can be really hard to deal with. It can steal your focus. It can cause you to feel sick to your stomach, or afraid, nervous, among many other feelings. These emotions can be so strong that they'll flood your body, and you may even feel a little out of control.
This is one of the reasons why people don't want to talk about it, or why they try to avoid situations that remind them of their trauma... but like I said, we cannot allow fear and trauma to take over and direct your life. So when you begin to feel those emotions and your brain seems to be stuck on the memories and the thoughts connected to your trauma.
Call it what it is!
"This is my trauma acting up. My brain and body are remembering the trauma. This is just my body and brain sounding the alarm and telling me to be ready." The next step is to shift gears inside your brain. Much like how you would shift gears in a car, or how you would change directions when you are walking - I want you to physically do anything else.
Don't fight against those feelings, or get angry with yourself for thinking about them... instead just do something else. Talk to a friend, listen to your fave playlist, read a book, play a game, pet your dog, get up and go for a quick walk, or run, or bike ride, watch a show, send a nice text to a family member or friend... just shift gears, and do something fun, useful, helpful, smart... in other words, don't fight back against your brain... fight forward, and do something fun and intelligent.
Step Three - Keep growing. Sometimes when people experience really serious trauma, they can develop a serious condition called Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. It just means that their trauma is making life really challenging.
Our ultimate goal, and this is my personal goal for you, is to grow from your trauma. One of my favorite quotes is "Grow through, what you go through." You know I'm all about Growth Mindset, and as challenging and tragic as some of our life situations can be, I want you to know that with time, some help, some courage, and full dose of love and compassion, we can absolutely grow, even when we are still feeling some of the negative consequences of those tragic and traumatic events.
Look, there is a lot to be said about dealing with trauma, and sometimes trauma requires some hard word - but can i just say, it's important work that has to be done. If you are experiencing any abuse now, or have in the past... please, please, consider opening up to a trusted adult, a counselor, a family member, you choose, and let's fight forward!
My friend there is help. Talk to us... and we can help to facilitate this process for you and make this a bit easier. Best of luck to you my friend... remember, line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, there a little, slow by slow, small by small progress is coming.
Stay humble, stay flexible, and be resolute about living in a kinder, wiser way.