6 Things I Have Learned in Trauma Recovery

I have been at this recovery “stuff” for a while now. Most of us have discovered that this is a lifelong journey. I am not the only person who has figured that part out. But there are some other things I have discovered as I have moved through the darkness in to the light. I share these with my clients often, but honestly, most of us need to hear them more than once. Our defense mechanisms can make retention difficult to say the least. So I thought I would share my secrets with you even though they aren’t really secrets. But if I tell you they are secrets, your inner child parts might be more willing to listen up. So here they are.

1) There is a voice behind every emotion. Many people ask me how to find their inner child(ren). It may be the most frequent question I hear. It is not surprising. I write about the inner child(ren) all the time. And while there are many options for reaching out to the inner child(ren), there is one method that never fails. You must look behind the emotions. Any emotion will do: sadness, hopelessness, rage, even joy can provide you a window to the inner child(ren). And while you may not hear the voice at first because the emotion may be too intense, eventually you will hear a message. And when that happens, it is time to let that voice speak. I recommend writing it down. And I recommend not interrupting. It is tempting to soothe that voice. It is tempting to offer solutions. But don’t. Honestly, they are sick of hearing from you. They have something to say.

2) The way you feel has nothing to do with the present moment. There is a reason why trauma survivors dissociate. For years, the present moment was a horrible place to be. And while we have a habit of repeating the past (more on that later), the present moment is probably not what it once was. But there’s a problem. There is a backlog of traumatic response in the form of emotions. They are bad and we don’t want to feel them. So we avoid the present moment like the plague. But as you step in to recovery and step in to the present moment, you will get a sense that things are very wrong. Emotions are everywhere and they don’t make any sense. They are too old to make sense. They need to be felt. You should feel them. But feel them without allowing your thoughts to explain them. Your thoughts will try to make those emotions about now. I call it the “thought trap”. Don’t fall in to the trap.

3) There is no short cut or exception to unconditional self-love. If you make a decision to ignore your negative thoughts, you are not loving yourself. If you make a decision to ignore the past, you are not loving yourself. If you put on a mask that is approved by society, you are not loving yourself. You have to get raw. You have to get real. You have to accept the nasty parts of you that make your stomach turn. You have to accept the thoughts that make you cringe. You can make all the decisions you want, but there is no short cut to unconditional self love.

4) Your intuition sounds insane. There are a million memes out there about following your intuition. And they are right. But they don’t tell you how to find it. And they don’t tell you that you won’t like what it has to say. So I am going to tell you. It is the voice in your head that makes you laugh and not in a good way. It is the voice that tells you to do the thing you think is the craziest. Let’s be honest. You are used to hearing your inner chld(ren), your inner teenager and your false self. They tell you what you want to hear. You already agree with them. You are them. At the very least, you created them. You have long since turned off your connection to your higher self because the world proved it wrong in childhood. So if you are looking for your intuition, look for the most unbelievable statements. There it is.

5) Triggers and flashbacks get a bad rap. The medical community (and many in the therapeutic community) love to tell us to avoid our triggers and medicate our flashbacks. They tell you to find a way to get through life while avoiding them as best you can. But those triggers and flashbacks are reminders of where you need to go next. They have a story to tell. And they aren’t going to shut up until you listen. You can medicate them. You can hide away. But eventually, they will be back for a visit … somehow. Maybe they will come in your nightmares. Maybe they will show up as dementia in older age. (I mean really. What do you think people with dementia are acting out?) But they have a story to tell you. And they aren’t stopping until you listen.

6) Until you wake up, you will live your childhood. As survivors, we are often proud of ourselves for living and escaping our trauma. And we have every right to be. So it is particularly frustrating when we first wake up and realize we have recreated it in our adult life. We may have even recreated it several times. The inner child(ren) have something to resolve and they will stop at nothing to resolve it. Unfortunately, their approach to resolution is to relive it again and again while not changing their belief and actions.  So it is not until you wake up and involve your adult/ego self in the process that you can end the cycle of crap. Sorry to break it to you. But honestly, if you are reading this, you know it already.


Written By Elisabeth Corey, MSW

6 Things I Have Learned in Trauma Recovery was originally published @ Beating Trauma and has been syndicated with permission.

Photo by Steve Snodgrass


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