I have been coaching trauma survivors for a few years and I love it. I love it so much, I have been known to jump around my office and cheer for the amazing progress a client is making. I love it so much, I struggle to find balance because I always want to check in with my email and Facebook. It isn’t coming from obligation. It is coming from purpose.
And I love that feeling, even when I have to focus on balance because of it.
But when the intuitive message came through loud and clear that I was supposed to start my first group, I was hesitant. It was one thing to coach clients on a 1-on-1 basis, but it was very different to run a group. Let’s face it, those of us with relational trauma can struggle in groups. I wondered what I was getting myself into. How many triggered survivors would I have to talk out of leaving the group? How many times would I cringe as I watched conversations with varying opinions go in a defensive direction? I worried.
Mostly, I worried whether or not I would be capable of moderating a group of survivors in a way that would feel safe. I did not want to be a part of the problem. I did not want to run a group that became another source of invalidation for a survivor. I have heard the stories. It’s hard to find a home when we already have a tendency to separate and isolate as a defense. And when someone disagrees with us, we might take that all-or-nothing stance:
“We disagreed, so now they hate me.”
But it hasn’t been that way. The groups I have been facilitating have brought a new level of healing to so many survivors. So today, I thought I would tell you some of the benefits I have seen in my own groups, so you can consider whether it might be time for you to take that step in your healing.
- It stops the isolation. This benefit is something I often discuss but it deserves repeating. As survivors of trauma, we isolate. We learned it from our abusers, who told us that we could not talk to anyone, that nobody would help us. And more than likely, we learned it when we attempted to get help anyway to no avail. We learned it was best to keep the events and shame quiet. And that is what we did, creating an isolated world of pain. Often the first “tribe” we find is a group of survivors. When we find people who get it, it starts to change everything. It is that first step out of hiding and in to visibility.
- It reduces our shame. As we surround ourselves with people who went through similar experiences, we can’t help but realize our shame is not ours. It is easy to understand that another not at fault for their abuse. And when we understand that, we can’t blame ourselves either. The more people we meet who experienced trauma, the more we can free ourselves from our own self-blame.
- It validates our experiences. Tonight I watched an exchange in my support group between several amazing survivors as they validated each other’s rage. I have to admit, I haven’t found many groups out there who validate intense emotion. And I am thrilled that I moderate one that will. But finding people who will validate our trauma experience by believing us and validate our emotions is nothing short of a miracle in this journey.
- It moves our recovery along at a faster pace. The great thing about building our awareness in group settings is that others are becoming aware of what we are not yet. And when they mention their new awareness, we benefit. It allows us to explore something we didn’t know was there, furthering our recovery. And inevitably, we do that same thing for others.
- It triggers us. You read that right. When we get triggered in relationship, we are being given the gift of new awareness. Our pain is helping us to see what we might not have seen. It allows us to examine our relational patterns and where they come from. It allows us to heal our inner parts who are struggling with this particular situation and change our approach to relationships going forward.
I ask you to consider what a group can do for you. Are you ready to explore your healing in a group? Are you ready to take your awareness to a new level? Are you ready to take a risk and learn something new? If you are ready, go find a group for you. It might be a virtual group or an in-person group. It might be my group or another coach’s group. But help yourself by taking this step in your relational trauma recovery. Get out there and heal.
Shameless plug: I currently run two amazing groups for you to consider. My support group is available to anyone who purchases my One Voice eBook. And my Building Awareness Together group is an 8-week work group starting on January 22nd.
Written By Elisabeth Corey, MSW