“I am working faithfully in the trauma recovery workbook that you recommended to my wife for me. But for the life of me … I cannot stop going back to the moment of those tires screeching.”
I leaned toward him and nodded as he dropped his head into his hands.
I whispered gently, “I am so sorry. Can you tell me more?” Through sobs, I heard the heart wrenching story.
The question that he came with was not asked until the end of the session.
Because he began to pour out the details of the moment that had been haunting him every moment of his life since it occurred over 30 years earlier.
The question was: “Are there some things that you cannot do on your own without a trained professional in trauma recovery?”
Since I’ve received that same inquiry multiple of times over the past month as I’ve been writing about trauma, I thought it might be helpful to you to hear the answer too.
Before I begin, this is not an advertisement for me, or for my practice. This is information that I think is very important to people struggling with trauma.
Yes, there are some things that you simply cannot do without a trained professional. However, those things may not be necessary for you in your recovery process.
We are all individuals, and are able to receive healing in different ways. For some, they are able to find healing in a workbook. In a workshop. In private prayer and meditation time.
Certainly! Make every attempt to heal in these ways! My hope and prayer is that you will find your complete healing.
His second question was also the second question I received in almost every message over the past month.
“What things can be accomplished with a trained professional that might not be healed otherwise?”
I will write this week about the five main things that I find people end up needing help with when they do not find complete healing and restoration on their own.
Sometimes it’s helpful to know and understand them so that you will know when you might need extra help. Again, not everyone needs help with these things.
1. A POWERFUL DEBRIEFING PROCESS
Sometimes the debrief in and of itself can be very healing. I would say that over 80% of the people I have worked with have never recounted the details of what happened.
Sometimes they have had pressure to keep the secret.
But often, they had just believed that no one was strong enough to handle it.
There was a moment in the midst of one of my Coach Training programs when for training purposes, one of the student was willing to speak of some heinous abuse from her childhood.
I had warned the other students to be very quiet and respectful, not staring at her, but looking down instead, and to honor her debriefing moment.
In the midst of the debrief, someone in the classroom reacted, screaming and running out the door.
I was so concerned that I would lose this student who was debriefing, and her healing would come to a screeching halt. Thankfully, we recovered, and her process was healing to everyone in the room.
I share that, because it’s a vivid example of why many people have not shared their trauma. They are afraid it will horrify someone.
One of the major reasons for needing a professional, is because they are trained to stay with you, walk with you, and not react.
How will you know if you need to do a debrief with a professional? If you have the sense that the trauma is still deep within you and it feels like it could erupt at any time.
Bringing it from the depths of you begins the process of healing.
However, it’s certainly one of the things that I would say should be avoided unless with a professional.
You deserve to have your story heard, validated and respected.
2. HEALING EXERCISES
In healing exercises, a professional will help you access the reptilian (primal) part of your brain that contains the memory of the trauma. They will guide you through exercises to do healing in that part of your brain.
In order to do the healing process, the trained professional will be using the pr-frontal cortex part of their brain. While using data they have gathered from you, they are able to guide you in that process.
The reason it is not easily done alone is because you would have to flip back and forth between two parts of your brain to accomplish the healing.
You could compare it to typing one paragraph of a dissertation, hand writing the next. Typing the next. Hand writing the next.
It would cause you to flip back-and-forth between two modalities that are very different as far as the brain is concerned, and the momentum of the typing would interfere with the tedious handwriting.
What do those healing exercises look like?
With the man I was working with with trauma around a horrible accident, I had him close his eyes and access the moment of the wreck like on a DVD player, and press pause.
We pressed pause on the moment that the car slid into the tree, his sisters screams stop abruptly on impact. I won’t describe the rest of the scene. He believed she was dead.
The words “I killed her!” came screaming out of his mouth.
Thankfully, although there were serious injuries, she was not killed in the accident. But the words “I killed _______” have rung through his mind for years.
- When they lost a contract at work, he told himself: “I killed the deal!”
- When he and his first fiancé had broken up, he told himself “I killed her love!”
- When his mom passed away, because he was struggling with alcohol at the time, he told himself: “I killed her with my drinking.”
In the healing exercise, we took him back to that moment and had him (as an adult) say the words, while imaging that very scared 17 year old boy, “You did not kill her. It was an accident.”
He cried and cried a he imaged comforting that 17 year old he had once been.
Then we took a piece of paper where he had written down the words:
- “I killed her …”
- “I killed the deal …”
- “I killed my mom …”
We ripped it up, we stomped on it, and we buried it. What needed to die were those words that had haunted him.
There are not exercises that we can simply prescribe, because every situation and every person is different.
But if you are haunted by your trauma, you so deserve this kind of healing!
When I train my coaches to do this type of healing, to know what kind of exercise to do, and how to conduct it, I use real client volunteers to teach it.
It’s always so powerful and moving, that what used to be called the “hotseat” was renamed “sacred ground.“
Not in a religious way, just in the way of a very safe, and powerful place to heal.
If you need it, you deserve it, my friend!
3. REPROGRAMMING OF BELIEFS
Beliefs get set in stone in moments of trauma.
Often, we have no idea this has occurred, or that the beliefs are even in there and directing our lives.
A careful a trained professional with a very careful listening ear can pick up those things that you might not even stop and consider.
For example, recently I was working with a wonderful man. In the midst of his trauma, as a boy, he had been assigned some very adult tasks. As he was recounting the events, I heard him say the words: “I failed.”
Those words were repeated a couple of other times during the debrief.
When the right moment came, I had the honor of leaning toward him and saying gently, with great firmness in my voice: “You said multiple times that you failed. You should have never been asked to do those things in that moment. They should have been taking care of you!”
“You did not fail. You were failed!”
He admitted that those words had haunted him in every arena of his life.
Not only would he have missed something very critical, but he would not have known how to reprogram it.
The way we are reprogramming it, is by imagining him as an adult speaking those words to him as that young boy. “You did not fail, you were failed!”
Once again, an exercise difficult to ascertain and conduct on your own.
Perhaps just reading this will help you access some of the beliefs formed in you.
No one said directly to him… “You failed.“
The things they did say and what they did do planted the message deeply within his heart.
Perhaps the messages that were planted in you were not spoken either. And yet they have screamed loudly inside your head and your gut for years.
You deserve to be living from a place that empowers you and encourages the greatness in you to pour out!
Certain with words like “you failed“ do not promote that!
Trauma leaves prints in your brain that direct you for the rest of your life.
Unless… UNLESS you identify them and reprogram them!
I hope and pray you will do that for yourself, my friend. And if you can’t do it on your own, get help!
4. ENVISIONING A COMPELLING FUTURE AND TAKING FLIGHT
Trauma leaves most everyone with huge antenna. Looking for what could go wrong, and expecting the worst.
Without even knowing it, our focus remains in the rearview mirror, and any looking forward is with expectation of danger.
For example, when I asked the man who was traumatized by the horrible accident as a teen what he looked forward to in the future… Here were his responses:
- I would like to start my own business, but I know most fail, and I can’t afford the risk
- I would like to take my wife on a really nice vacation. But they always cost more than you plan, and we would either feel cheated because we couldn’t spend any money, or spend too much and come back and have to pay the price
- I would really like to play on our church’s baseball team. But some of the players aren’t that good, and with my luck I would end up injured.
I smiled as he said those things, because they are the typical responses of someone who has dealt with lingering trauma deep within.
I asked the question again, except this time I suggested: “If I could take away any risk, any possiblily of failure, any bad things that could happen, and anything going wrong… What would you love to do?
He stared at me as if dumbfounded for quite a while. Then he smiled and shook his head as he said: “I have no idea!”
Of course not! He had never had the experience of creating a compelling future.
It’s one of the saddest things I see in people with trauma. It’s almost like they have an airplane, they have the key, they have the license… But they never crawl into the cockpit because they simply can’t imagine it taking flight.
Often that requires help.
With this amazing man, I got him started talking about opening his own business. I asked him what he would like to do if it was a possibility, with all the resources he needed, and it was absolutely no fail?
(And by the way we never fail due to lack of resources, but only lack of resourcefulness). I helped him become resourceful in his thinking.
He started with: “You will laugh at me and tell me I’m not qualified. But I would like to start some kind of coaching group to help men know that it’s OK to deal with their trauma.”
I leaned forward and assured him that I thought the excellent work he had done in healing his trauma absolutely qualified him.
I asked him to tell me more. He said: “I could short cut the journey of wasted years for them. I could tell them that instead of seeing it as being weak, that it would be the most courageous thing they had ever done. I could get them started and send them to you or other pro’s you would recommend.”
I smiled one of the biggest smiles I have smiled in quite some time and said: “Or you could become a Certified Trauma Coach and walk them through it yourself.”
He looked at me with eyes the size of saucers but with the first little ray of excitement I had seen. He asked with great excitement: “Could I do that? Do you think that would be possible for me?”
It was the first spark of what would light a bonfire that would become his compelling future.
You too, my friend, can find a compelling future. If you need some help, make sure you get it.
Find a compelling future and let the spark light a bonfire for you!
5. RESTORATION OF RELATIONSHIPS
First of all, many people are not able to clearly see how unresolved trauma has affected other people in their lives.
No matter how much we love them, it just does have an impact. And usually not a positive impact.
Usually, because of the trauma, and the impacts of the trauma, we are unaware.
But regardless, it is important to turn back and bridge gaps, healing damage that has been done.
For example, with the man I opened the story with who had been in a serious accident with his sister in the car, he had never talked through that trauma with anyone. Yes, others knew it happened, but no one knew what happened to him in those moments.
Subsequently, in an early marriage, his wife had been unfaithful to him in ways that affected his career. She had blamed him completely, and worked to turn family members against him.
He left that marriage with two messages:
- “I am not a enough”
- “I am not worth honoring”
As a result of the early trauma and young adult trauma, he had entered his current marriage with these beliefs:
- He would “kill” the marriage
- He was not enough
- He was not worth honoring
It was no wonder that his current wife felt like he sabotaged every bit of the love she tried to give him.
When I had them together, I asked her if she ever felt like he was somehow trying to “kill their love?”
She melted into tears saying: “Those are the exact words I’ve felt!”
Then I asked her if his need for continual assurance, for continual affirmation, and for continually seeking approval ever got on her nerves?
She nodded positively adamantly.
I asked her, “Would you respond differently if you knew that deep down he believes he isn’t enough, not because of you but because of old messages and beliefs?”
With great tenderness she leaned toward him and took his hand. Declaring that she would assure him every day with great honor.
Then I looked at him and asked him to tell me some of the dishonoring things that he had done to her.
In a moment of courageous humility, he named a few:
- When she cried out in despair and hurt, I mocked her and told her she must have serious problems
- I have lied to her and deceived her about my drinking
- I am constantly leaving her even though I know she has abandonment wounds .
I told him that I knew him well enough to know that he was a good man. But despite being a good man, he had been living a self-fulfilling prophecy.
He believed he was not honorable, so he actually did dishonorable things, which reinforced his belief about himself.
Together, the three of us did some fun and invigorating things to stomp out those old messages. We replaced the old with the new:
- Instead of “I killed ______” …
I am a great healer and I give life to my wife and my marriage
- Instead of “I am not enough” …
I am more than enough, and she is overwhelmed with my love for her
- Instead of “I am not worthy of honoring” …
I am a man of honor, a man that makes my wife proud to have my last name
Powerful work, beautiful results!
Unfortunately, even he admitted that he could have never seen those patterns or how they had affected his marriage on his own.
My hope and prayer for you is that in reading some of these examples, you will be able to have some of these insights on your own.
Stay committed to your recovery process.
Work on it in small ways daily.
If you’re getting results, keep putting one foot in front of the other and you will see breakthrough!
If you get stuck along the way or need extra help… Please get help.
You deserve full recovery from your trauma.
You deserve complete fulfillment.
You deserve a rich life!