Three Ways to Help People Recovering from Trauma

“Feeling safe in someone’s energy is another kind of intimacy. That feeling of peace and protection is really underestimated.” ~ Vanessa Class

It has been 14 months since I recovered from complex post-traumatic stress syndrome (c-PTSD, also known as complex trauma). I had been treated for years before I was diagnosed. I was suffering from interpersonal relationships and suffering from serious anxiety and depression, but you wouldn’t have guessed it by looking at me.

There are so many misconceptions about trauma that we weren’t very aware of it before we were diagnosed in 2020.

I’m your typical millennial woman in her thirties, balancing a successful corporate career with a jet-like lifestyle. My Instagram feed is packed with hand-picked photos to explore Europe, have a flashy dinner at Edinburgh Castle, or entertain your friends with a cocktail on the flat right next to Water of Leith. ..

After that, 2020 was a hit. The world plunged into a pandemic, and I lost my job and livelihood, thereby losing my visa and the right to live and work where I fell in love. With thousands of distractions at my fingertips, I’ve become trapped in a house that has nowhere to go and no one can distract.

I was faced with deportation because I lost my right to live in the UK, but I couldn’t because all my return flights to Australia were suspended. I was in trouble and got stuck between where I wanted to go and where I had to go.

Everything was revealed. It’s the only way I can explain the slow, painful plucking of a carefully spliced ​​life. The illusion of control has disappeared. In an isolated prison, deprived of choice and freedom, I faced all the shadows I had carefully avoided.

If you’re trapped in a cell, you’ll face a negligible part of yourself when your social calendar is full. We often think of trauma as occurring when we experience a sudden violent incident such as a car accident, when we are assaulted, or when we are in a war zone. They are all true.

Trauma can also occur over time with long-term exposure to events and events that cause the nervous system to become dysregulated.

My formation (before the age of 7) was so volatile and there were so many upheavals, trips and changes that the conflict of parental relationships created the perfect breeding ground for c-PTSD.

The stress and anxiety my parents were experiencing caused unfriendly divorce and custody disputes as a result of first trying to move from India to Australia for five years and finally to Canada. Result: Neither parent was able to meet my emotional needs.

What is a trauma?

The American Psychological Association describes trauma as “an emotional response to terrible events such as accidents, rape, and natural disasters.” Dr. Gabor Mate goes a step further and describes trauma as “… the invisible power that shapes our lives.” It shapes our way of life, our love, and our understanding of the world. It is the source of our deepest cuts. “

Not everyone who experiences violent or terrible events develops PTSD. In fact, even if the majority of people are exposed to at least one traumatic event in their lifetime, only a small part of the population develops trauma.

What is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorders are considered “severe reactions to extreme or horrific traumatic events”, flashbacks of events, intrusive memories and nightmares, activities that cause these memories, avoidance of situations or people, and hyperawakening. And may include hypersensitivity.

Complex things-PTSD

Complex trauma, or stress disorders after complex trauma, occur after repeated long-term incidents that disrupt the ability of the nervous system to regulate itself. Complex trauma arises from events experienced early in child development and causes problems in memory, personal identity, and interpersonal development.

Symptoms of complex trauma include negative self-confidence, problems maintaining healthy relationships, difficulty expressing emotions, pleasing people, substance abuse, and continued emptiness.

The diagnosis of complex trauma in early 2021 seemed to have emerged in the air after being trapped in the water. It was painful. My lungs burned. However, there was also relief.

At first I felt like I couldn’t fill my lungs with enough oxygen, but then slowly and gradually my body began to believe that oxygen was there, and I was rumbling, grabbing, and fluttering. I was able to stop doing it.

For years, I was surrounded by a toxic relationship with a man who had been fighting his demon since childhood. For years, I never felt I was doing enough. I wasn’t good enough, smart, or clean enough to deserve the relationship, career, or life I wanted.

I dipped my toes into the shallows of my life. I longed for the community and at the same time pushed it away. I wanted intimacy, but I felt stuffy. I wanted to succeed, but it was horrifying. Every time my life got better, something became imbalanced and everything collapsed, so I had to pick up and rebuild the pieces.

I was in a spiral of taking one step forward and five steps back in every area of ​​my life. The pandemic highlighted this because I was forced to return to Australia and was unemployed and in debt.

I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but this constant spiral of stress and loss was a subconscious play that I continued to recreate. The subtle and insidious self-jamming mechanism from childhood that kept me safe now stumbles me and keeps me trapped. I continued to cycle through the familiar reactions in the nervous system — one of unsafe, lonely, and abandoned.

For the past 14 months, working with a trauma-savvy therapist, reconstructing nervous system safety, self-regulating, and learning to reconnect yourself and your body is sometimes a dire process. was.

Throughout, it was interesting to see how different people responded to my pain, loss and sadness.

We are not taught how to sit with our own unpleasant feelings, not to mention the feelings of others. We live in a culture where “only a positive atmosphere” is a spiritual practice, but in reality we need to be able to witness and love our shadows in order to be completely healed.

If your loved ones are struggling, if you know who is struggling, how to reserve space for them from those who have received well-meaning but useless suggestions through my recovery I have some advice.

Retaining space for someone is essentially completely present for someone else. This means a zone with no agenda and no judgment.


Please check in yourself first. Are you ready, willing, and open to be completely with this person now? Can you leave your opinions, suggestions and personal experiences on the door?

If not, it’s okay. Self-care begins with you, and forcing you to be with someone when you are not in the correct headspace does not help others.

Inform them that you are not currently in the proper headspace and refer them to the helpline or an expert. Check in with them to make sure they follow through and have someone to talk to.

You will benefit both of you. This results in joint regulation.

When you are calm and completely with the struggling person, you “borrow” your nervous system when they are in an enhanced state of arousal and activation. Forgive them. When your own nervous system is activated, this only exacerbates what they are feeling and causes more sensations of dysregulation and danger.

This is a deep healing experience for others when you can sit with someone and witness completely for them without having to judge their thoughts or try to fix things. It can be.

Witnessing in our sorrow without judgment, sympathy, or awkwardness removes some of the shame we experience when dealing with difficult emotions.

In many cases, people with complex trauma did not meet their needs and their childhood emotions were not verified. Being with someone who cares about you and feeling seen and verified at your most vulnerable moments is a deep healing experience.

Practice conscious and reflexive listening

When we are listening to someone, we pay only half what they are saying. We rarely focus on their words, as half of our attention has already formulated our response.

Reserving space for someone is completely present, not only in our ears, but with full attention to what they are saying and how they are saying it. It means listening. Not only pay attention to their words, but also protect their body language.

Allow pause. Silence can be unpleasant, but when dealing with difficult emotions, you may need a little silence to put together your thoughts and sit down on what you just said. Do not immediately try to fill the pause in the conversation.

Look back on what the person said and reflect it in the mirror. This does not have to be verbatim. “I see that this situation really hurt you. I heard you’re overwhelmed and stressed because you lost your job. You have a really scary image. Can you share more?”

This allows them to expand and clarify as needed, or feel like they’ve heard if that’s all they want to share.

Observe without judgment

Be willing to listen without deciding what others are saying or how they interpret your experience. Our people with complex trauma grew up awake and aware of the emotions of those around them. This was essential to our survival as a child.

This means that we need to be aware of both linguistic and nonverbal responses to what we are expressing. Listen with empathy and compassion, and even if you disagree, be open to what we share.

Even if you think others are making it worse.

Even if you have a solution.

Although we may feel overreacted, trauma often provokes a reaction to what we have experienced in the past. When we are triggered, we are reacting not only to the situation we are currently facing, but also to the unprocessed emotions from the previous situation. It deals with the past and the present at the same time and is overwhelming.

It is a deep healing experience to be witnessed by someone who cares about us without judgment when we are triggered. Often, people with trauma, depression, or anxiety are already ashamed of their feelings and reactions, so witnessing us without someone’s judgment may be relieved.

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