Transformation of Trauma
Trauma forces individuals to have to relearn and even retool parts of their lives, even if this process is not wanted. The very nature of a traumatic event is one that overwhelms the nervous system of an individual. It could be a one-time or a recurrent event. It could be a horrifying violent event or a small backwards fall. Trauma is not in the story of the event, it is in the unique and individual reaction to the event.
Trauma can be healed.
As recovery from trauma takes place, individuals learn to draw on their internal and external strengths. Examples of internal strengths could include one's capacity to focus on the task at hand, the ability to make thoughtful decisions, the ability to hear the caring behind other people's nagging words, the patience and trust that they will feel better, and the emotional and mental ability to be flexible when life throws additional curveballs. Examples of external strengths may look like one's ability to seek out new employment opportunities, the ability to say no, the knowledge that something is too much for you, the ability to stand up for yourself, the willingness to advocate for change, the awareness to ask for help, and the ability to feed oneself nutritious foods. These are only a few examples of the strengths and resources that go into healing.
When someone heals from trauma, they are able to achieve the capacity to manage and regulate highly emotional states and highly activated physical states. As a result, trauma changes people because there is a drawing on deeper, less used, reserves of strengths. There is a great potential for individual growth in the after-effects of trauma.
Someone who has healed from trauma often has increased resiliency, wisdom and vision (Zettyl & Josephs, 2014). The transformative power of trauma can result in:
restoration of confidence and capability
feelings of control
awareness of choices and options
movement toward empowerment
more capacity for joy, novelty and creativity
renewed interest in forming relationships
Healing from trauma usually takes place in a supportive relationship. The individual who has ever experienced overwhelming emotions and the autonomic nervous system's responses of fight, flight or freeze, can learn to regulate their activation by being in connection with a more regulated nervous system of the other individual. The 'Neurobiology of We', as called by Dan Siegel, emphasizes how healing, growth and our basic survival is built upon the notion of 'we'.
However, the challenge is that impact of trauma, naturally isolates individuals and often makes them feel guilt or shame for needing someone else's strength. It is for this reason that trauma therapy can help restore an individual - possibly not to their former pre-trauma self, but rather to a deep transformed self. The human connection between a highly activated nervous system to a more regulated nervous system allows the client to release activation, to experience emotional regulation, and to restore their own ability to self regulate. Trauma therapy fosters the development of both the internal and external strengths needed to restore and reclaim the transformed self.