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Does Talking about Trauma help?

Often, well meaning friends and family will do one of two things when attempting to help someone who has suffered or is suffering from trauma. They may tell you not to think about it and think bout something positive, or they may suggest that you talk about it to get it out of your system.
If you are unfortunate enough to suffer from trauma, you will know that neither of these are very helpful and can lead to frustration and a great deal of upset as those trying to help you think you are not 'trying' hard enough. It just feels like no-one understands and further isolates the sufferer from getting the help they need.

The first issue - the not thinking about it - the thinking positive thoughts - is not a healthy way to process trauma. We all have random thoughts and we all have a brain that gets triggered or goes into alert when the slightest things reminds it of a danger or traumatic experience. This happens even we are not aware of it. Hence, we sometimes say - " I don't know why i feel this way."
Essentially, the more we try to suppress it, the more it pushes its way through in an attempt to heal or to continue to protect you. Thinking positively does not change the fact that the trauma happened, and that when it happened, it set off a chain reaction within you to keep you safe. It may enable you to get through moments here and there but it will not eliminate those awful flashbacks, hyper-vigilance, panic, fear or anger or anything else that you may experience. The brain wants to eliminate the threat of danger, it is over-active sending 'panic' signals constantly. They are not switched off by ignoring them, or thinking positive thoughts. It is a primal reaction that needs a resolution.
Talking therapies can help some people, but going over and over the trauma only either increases the speed at which the 'threat' neurons respond to possible danger, or just make it easier to talk about. Neither really helps.
I am not suggesting for one moment, that hypnotherapy can make you forget a traumatic event. We cannot change history. What we can do however, is change the emotional and physical sensations that those memories bring up. We can change our reaction to them. So why is this useful you may ask when all you want to do is erase that memory from your mind forever. Firstly, the brain remembers, and the body remembers, so there will always be an event or circumstance where those feelings and sensations will arise again because the primal purpose of the brain is to keep you safe. It does not forget, even if you do.
Talking about a serious trauma is likely to re-trigger you causing upset and re-traumatisation. Even in therapy, a good therapist will keep the talking about a trauma to a bare minimum and work on the physical and emotional feelings to make the trauma far less intense, and often make thinking about the trauma just a memory, with no disturbing effects at all.
If you don't have access to a therapist, there are some things you can do to help yourself if trauma is impacting your life. The first is to learn to completely relax, and I do mean completely relax. For trauma sufferers this can be quite difficult in the beginning but the more you do it - 100x a day if necessary, the more natural and effective it becomes. It involves releasing the neck, shoulders, stomach, jaw, eye muscles and every conceivable part of the body. There are many progressive relaxation meditations on YouTube that can help if you find one that resonates with you. I call it the rag doll moments, the moments where you let your muscles and bones drop like they are liquid and just hold that for a few seconds until the panic or uncomfortable sensation has passed. And do this every time you feel even the slightest bit of tension, a door slam, or you hear a voice, or anything at all.
When you are physically relaxed, it is harder to become anxious or be on high alert. The thinking brain comes back on board (where as it shuts down to allow you to fight or flee saving energy) and you can assess whether the danger is real or imagined. Paul McKenna has a wonderful self-havering video on YouTube that is also very calming and can help with the immediate reactions of trauma.
Other wonderful self-help videos can be found with some top professionals in the field such as Peter Levine, Gabor Mate, and many many more. Learning about why the reactions take place, how the brain interprets threat and what to do about it are all very helpful in helping yourself. For more serious trauma, I always recommend seeing a trauma specialist as they can talk you through and see where you are tense, work out where in your body you are holding the trauma and help you take back control from those awful physical and emotional reactions. A good therapist will NOT take months to help you heal. A good therapist will ensure you start to understand from day one and help you with strategies that work for you. In the same way trauma can be caused by one time learning - it can also often be reversed with one time therapy. Multiple or related traumas may of course need more sessions as may deep seated trauma that has crept into other areas of your life, but having said that, sometimes multiple traumas can be resolved in one or two sessions. Especially helpful and fast is the BLAST TECHNIQUE.
Trauma is an awful thing to live with, but it can be resolved - and even in the worse case scenario - reduced significantly. With the healing of trauma comes more restful sleep, a peaceful mind and a life that feels like worth living again. Qualified therapists are trained to deal with all manner of trauma from witnessing violence or accident through to serious and prolonged abuse. They will also fully understand that no matter how small the trauma may seem to others, at the time it occurred your brain and body reacted the way it needed to at the time to keep you safe and therefore, the size of the trauma - or the content has not relation to how it affects you.
Talking about trauma does not resolve it. It can ease the thoughts around it and expressing yourself and being heard is always therapeutic, but it does not resolve the trauma. It can be upsetting, embarrassing and stressful to keep going over and over what happened. Triggers will always arise and having spoken about the trauma twenty times still does not prevent those triggers setting off a chain of emotions and bodily reactions.
Trauma resolution is such a beautiful thing. You not only get your life back, but the relief, the utter relief in both mind and body are amazing. There really is help for trauma.
Always look for a trauma trained therapist, and ensure your chosen therapist is fully qualified, regulated and insured. If you suffer from the effects of trauma, please do get in touch for resolution.

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