This blog does include a story of an individual’s trauma and how they have healed from it
Hello, everyone! Today, I wanted to talk about a topic I like to call victim versus victory. I have helped patients process a lot of trauma in my office over the years. The typical definition of trauma is a profoundly distressing experience; divorce, financial trauma, sexual trauma, childhood abuse, mental trauma, or physical abuse. We have all met people who have suffered horrific abuses and seem pretty normal. And the flip side, we’ve seen people go through one of the above and never seem to recover emotionally. But why?
Recovery has several factors… previous traumas, support systems, and personality types. I developed a bit of a twist on the definition of trauma to help explain these three factors. I tell my patients that trauma is anything that, at that moment, is too much for the brain to handle, and the adults (or support system) are either unaware, unable, or unwilling to assist in placing it in its proper emotional place. So now we have a bit of a different definition to work with that includes large and small events that we may not have considered. When I start working with patients, and we seem stuck, I will have them make a timeline of their life. Record all the events – marriages, births, siblings, schools, friends, pets, deaths. Write the heroes and the villains of your life. Once this timeline is in place, we begin to see if there are trauma patterns and/ or emotionally healthy support systems. Since research now shows you are more likely to be a victim of adult abuse if you had childhood trauma, we must take a good look at this as early as possible.
Another factor I find that plays a part is the personality you have – I find there are two brains, one that typically only sees solutions and one that typically only finds problems. There is no right or wrong with either of these – they both have pros and cons! But, with that said, when it comes to trauma, I usually find the person with a problem-oriented brain can get stuck in “the victim” faster and longer… Typically, they have been conditioned over the years as a “Debbie Downer” or “Negative Nancy” by others who don’t know how to appreciate a brain that strategizes differently and is only asking for solutions to what they see as a potential pitfall.
So, to transition your brain from victim to victor, the first step is to acknowledge whatever the trauma was, YOU SURVIVED. Stand in that knowledge and power for a moment because this is SO important. It doesn’t matter how messy or ugly or all the ways you beat yourself up over trying to have done it differently. YOU SURVIVED.
Years ago, I was working with a young college girl that had been brutally attacked by a group of men. One had bought her a drink, and the rest was fuzzy until the rape. She couldn’t get past the fact that she never fought back. She said, “my mind went blank, and I just laid there – never screamed or fought or anything.” I was the first person who sat and asked her how big the men were. She said, “huge, compared to me.” I asked her how tall she was and how much she weighed. She was 5’3″ and 110lbs… So I asked her what she thought she could have done against the group of giant men? And she began to cry and said “nothing.” And I said, “exactly… so, at that moment, your brain’s survival system kicked in, and you knew you had three options – you Fight (which you couldn’t). You Flee (which you couldn’t), so you Froze, and you survived. So, why are you angry at yourself when you did exactly what you needed to do to maintain your life?” At that moment, it all began to shift for her, and she began to release her self-abuse.
Other steps can take this even further. Once you have everything on paper, the next step is to go back to the first trauma and write out what should have happened. Where were the adults/ support systems? What should they have said or done? Write it all out. Then we will alter how our brains show us the memory of this event.
Let me explain! Studies have proven that our brains will listen to what we say and create truth out of that story. For example, if you constantly say, “I am always in pain,” your brain will fire signals to create pain. The more you say, the more it becomes true. And while that seems a tad overwhelming, it’s fascinating to see just how much power you have over your thoughts. Come to find out; our minds will never make us out to be the bad guy or liars. We entirely have to power to rewrite our past stories looking for lessons and positives. Once you have this idea firmly in place, go back to the event and see it like a movie director; see yourself, the people involved, the event, and then see what you wrote down that should have occurred. Replay it 4-5 times. Put yourself in a space where you can say this would have happened if the adults had been in their highest, emotionally healthy selves, but they weren’t. Release and forgive that they didn’t protect you, acknowledging that they did the best they could at that moment. And replay as it should have been again.
Over the next few weeks, pay attention to what pops up in your brain, that inside voice, and write down when you get angry, fearful, or overwhelmed and shut down. What is your brain saying to you? Is it kind, or are you somewhat mean to yourself? I have found that people with trauma often become addicted to that brain chemistry (stress response) and will recreate it themselves with their internal talk if they have to. Write down when you first began to feel this way or whom you are mimicking in your family. Ask yourself, “Who taught me this mentality?”, “Where did I learn to do this?”, “Would I allow someone else to talk to me like this?”. Write it down. Another step in this process is going to be your self-talk. Begin to catch yourself speaking negatively, reliving negative memories, say “delete, delete, delete,” and reframe your mind. If you speak life over yourself, continuously and out loud, you will begin to experience a more uplifting mindset in life. You will feel very strange at first. That’s okay! Over time, this won’t seem like a practice. You’ll start to notice you look at yourself with kinder eyes, and you can relive your memories without feeling triggered.
So, why do I work so hard with patients on this Emotional Pillar? Because if you don’t know how to process trauma, you can become stuck in those thought processes. Research proves this energy will attract more negativity to reinforce the trauma story. As this continues over time, we can develop a “woe is me” mentality and begin to spiral into a negative state… Unfortunately, this can turn into a manipulative cycle where you use your trauma to get emotional responses, favors, or simply an immediate reaction. But, what is magical is that we can change these thoughts and restore relationships, first with ourselves and then with others, in a healthy manner.
This process is one of my favorite things to teach both here in my office and online, I am available for phone consults or if you like to do this work yourself, the Life Dream Today course. I am passionate about working with women to create loving mentalities towards themselves and their families. We all experience negatives in life, but the difference between a victim versus a victory is how you move forward to grow, creating armor out of the shackles.