Trauma comes in many forms. It may be a sudden, unexpected event, such as an assault or a car crash. It can be from prolonged exposure to distressing circumstances, such as witnessing violence and gore in active combat. It can be from repetitive hurtful behavior from people we rely on, such as parents, siblings, romantic partners, peers, and mentors. Whatever the cause may be, trauma fundamentally alters the way we experience the world. We become primed to notice and react to threats from others. We find ourselves responding physically and emotionally to people and events that remind us of what or who we have been hurt by. We struggle with feelings of shame, guilt, and alienation from others who do not understand our experiences and who we fear will judge and invalidate us if we attempt to describe them.
Treatment of trauma is complex but the starting point is usually the same--creating a safe space in which people can begin to label and express their emotions, and feel understood and validated in their experiences. From there people can start to work through how the trauma has shifted how they make sense of the world, and can explore feelings of loss and mourning that may accompany these shifts. Last, as they reconcile themselves to the impact of the trauma, people can begin to reconnect with the world around them and feel a renewed sense of hopefulness and engagement with their goals. This is a journey that takes resolve and courage, but which can open people to a whole new and vibrant experience of the world around them.