Be the Person That Works Through Trauma. Not the Person That Enables it.

We can’t help what happened to us. But we can control how we choose to respond to it.

Our brain automatically goes into survival mode when we encounter threatening situations.

For example, families caught in the middle of a war will be forced to make decisions they normally wouldn’t.

Hmong people are refugees from Laos and Thailand.

They fled to parts of Europe, Australia, and the United States after the Vietnam War.

They survived the war by walking through the jungles of Laos during the middle of the night. To prevent being heard and slaughtered by their enemies.

Men, women, young children, the elderly, and babies traveled this journey together in packs.

I still remember hearing stories about how a cousin of mine was a colicky baby.

His parents drugged him with so much opium, my mother was shocked he survived. And is an adult in his 40s today raising kids of his own.

Elders and young children (whom slowed the groups down) were tricked into being left behind with the saying, “You stay here. We are going to look for a safe place and will come back for you.”

My uncle (a soldier) during the war told me how he encountered the body of a young girl on his travels through the jungle. He recalled how her body was found laying next to a tree stump.

She had walked around the tree stump so much, there was a path around it.

These stories are heartbreaking.

And yet they had to be made for the survival of a group.

The survival of each other.

Almost every human being will encounter some type of trauma in their lifetime. Especially, when forced to go through circumstances such as the above.

As mentioned above, our brain will go into fight or flight mode.

According to Cherry (2022) the fight or flight response occurs when we encounter something physically or mentally threatening to our survival.

Our body releases hormones which determines whether we should stay and fight or run to protect ourselves (Cherry, 2022).

The response allows us to find quick solutions to cope with the threat we’ve encountered. It gives us the opportunity to rule out ways to escape (Cherry, 2022).

However, the fight or flight response can remain activated even when we are no longer in a threatening situation.

Once again, forcing us to make decisions we normally wouldn’t.

Such as eating a big bowl of food for each meal even if we are full.

Because we are afraid we might encounter another situation where food is scarce.

Anxiety is actually a fear response.

Although, anxiety is needed in certain situations to survive.

We must learn to determine when it is rational to respond in a certain way due to our anxiety.

And when we should face the fears of our anxiety and push through.

Because our anxiety, in that moment, is an irrational response because we are currently safe.

If we don’t work through our trauma then we risk the possibility of passing these behaviors down from one generation to the next.

Such as our need to control every aspect of our lives and the lives of the people we love around us.

Again, trauma changes us.

It teaches our brain to adapt to situations and tries it’s best to prevent us from encountering the same threatening circumstances again.

Therefore, as our brains adapt, we can pick up the need to control every situation we encounter. As a sense of protection.

We hold on to this need to control. Even to the extent where we try to control the lives of our loved ones.

So they too don’t hurt.

So they too don’t experience threatening positions.

But at some point we have to work through our trauma.

Work through our need to control every aspect of our lives and the lives of others around us.

When our need to control no longer serves a healthy purpose. But becomes detrimental to us and the relationships we have that surround us.

Because then it becomes abuse or borderline abuse.

Believe it or not, abusive behaviors whether physical, emotional, mental, verbal, or sexual stems from the perpetrator’s need to control.

Abuse, regardless of the form, is a power dynamic.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline indicates abusive people feel they have the authority to restrict and control people’s lives. Because they believe their own needs and feelings should be put first.

According to Dictionary.com, abuse is defined as being harmful to someone. It even includes in its term, speaking unjustly, harshly, or insultingly to someone.

When our behaviors no longer the serve the healthy purpose they were intended for. We need to reflect on finding ways to let them go.

Because now we are just using our past to justify our actions.

Even if our actions are harmful to us and/or those around us.

Written by Eriko Her, M.A., T-LPC

References

Cherry, K. (2022, September 21). The fight-or-flight response prepares your body to take action. Verywell Mind. Retrieved October 12, 2022, from https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-the-fight-or-flight-response-2795194 

Dictionary.com. (n.d.). Abuse definition & meaning. Dictionary.com. Retrieved October 12, 2022, from https://www.dictionary.com/browse/abuse 

Why people abuse. The Hotline. (2022, March 14). Retrieved October 12, 2022, from https://www.thehotline.org/identify-abuse/why-do-people-abuse/

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