2 Must-Know Tips to Heal from Psychological Trauma
Updated: Feb 8, 2019
There’s a story in the Bible where Jesus is out on a lake with his disciples when a pretty wicked storm blows in and starts throwing waves across the boat, threatening to sink them. All the while, Jesus was passed out napping, cool as a cucumber.
Once the storm had come to a rolling boil, Jesus' entourage were understandably afraid for their lives and started to panic. That’s when they woke Jesus shouting, “Lord, save us!”
So He did. Jesus woke from his nap, sassed the boys for their lack of faith, then spoke to the storm and everything simmered down.
His disciples were amazed.
I fiddle around with lots of things in my self-healing practice. I meditate. I read. I write. I practice Qigong and mindfulness. I see a therapist. I eat better. Drink more water. Spend quality time in the present with my people and my pets.
I’m pretty open to whatever works and have found a great many things that help, but early into my healing journey, I made a fundamental mistake.
My mistake was that I somehow got it in my head that the point of healing was to return me back to the way that I was before the trauma.
It’s a common mistake to make and seems to happen to me when I think of trauma as a “before and after” proposition. The script goes something like this:
“I used to be ‘that’ way, then something traumatic happened, and now I’m ‘this’ way. If I’m going to heal, I’m going to have to get back to being ‘that’ way again.”
But that’s not how healing from trauma works.
Putting broken things back the to way they were before they broke is an approach that usually works best on things that were at their ultimate best in the first place.
Toasters, automobiles, glasses, and parachutes are all things that, when broken, are best returned to their pre-broken states.
But people can always be better, so attempting to return to a pre-traumatized version of myself is an exercise in ripping myself off. If that’s the way it worked, Amazing Grace would sing more like:
"I once was lost, but now I'm found. Was blind but now I see. I wish I was lost and blind again."
That's just silly.
2 TIPS FOR HEALING BETTER
The older I get and the more that I heal, I am regularly reminded that the ultimate point in all of my wellness practices is to gain mastery over the storm. Whereas I was once like the panicked disciples in the story, now I’m trying to be more like Jesus. Cool as a cucumber.
I do this in two primary ways.
TIP 1: PRACTICE MAINTENANCE
I'm working to develop a toolbox of skills and habits that help me to maintain my wellness when things are going relatively well. That's because wellness is not a destination, it's a lifestyle.
You don't "get there" and then stop, like you would on a road trip.
For me, it's a lot more like trying to lock onto a moving target. That's because life isn't static. Things are always changing. The weather. Other people's moods. The stock market. My blood sugar.
It isn't enough to merely locate wellness; I must continually make adjustments to myself in order to continue tracking with it.
TIP 2: DEVELOP A RECOVERY PLAN
Listen. Shit happens. If you've been traumatized, you know this more deeply than just about anything else.
So in addition to tracking with the moving target that is wellness, I also maintain wellness practices as a way of empowering myself with the ability to regain control for those times when things get rough and my cheese slips off the cracker.
"When the shit hits the fan" is the WRONG TIME to begin thinking about how to return to a place of relative calm.
Overwhelming moments are always going to swing back around, just like nasty storms do out on the lake. Count on it.
When they do, I want to be able to marshal as much of my inner faculties as possible for the purpose of taking back control when I experience the next, unavoidable moment of overwhelm.
Getting to know myself as intimately as possible (when things are calm) gives me a much better chance of bringing myself back when the next storm blows in and the boat starts to falter.
What can youdo to stay healthy and return to center when your own storms blow in? I encourage you to take some time to observe yourself over a period of days, weeks, and months to get a sense for what your rhythms and patterns are.
What sets you off? Make a note.
What calms you down? Make a note.
"Study to know thyself" so that you will be better-equipped for what's coming by making it your objective to return to peace, and not to the way that you used to be.
I believe there are better things waiting for all of us, but we must first abandon our need to become our pre-traumatized selves again.
Instead, we must learn to fall in love with the possibility of being stronger, more resilient, and a helluva lot more valuable to those who are going to need a healing helper.
As a parting gift, I share with you this AMAZEBALLS song by Ben Rector.
Heal well, my friends!
And be safe out there.