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Understanding Trauma

Updated: Nov 10, 2023

“Once you’ve been bitten by a snake, you’re afraid to even of a piece of rope”. Chinese Proverb

What is trauma? According to the Center of Disease Control (2021) trauma is an event, or a series of events, that causes moderate to severe stress reactions. Proceeding after a traumatic event, feelings of grief, depression, dissociation, etc. are visible.

So how do you cope and move past a traumatic event? Well, let’s start with what can seem helpful but isn’t long-term. Distractions. Distractions such as alcohol/drug abuse to mask the pain of the ramifications of trauma can help short term but not provide lifelong healing and growth. Although we are not responsible for the traumatic event itself, we can be responsible for healing. There are other distractions that people can use to mask the effects of trauma. I’ve seen where people can use relationships. There is a saying that’s often used, “Hurt people hurt people”; in my experience, it is also true that hurt people can use people.

In studying psychology and now in my graduate studies for Mental Health Counseling, I’ve read about people using people and relationships to avoid dealing with the effects of their trauma. So, if those impacted by trauma can make these pitfalls, where and how do we start to repair internally? Engaging in coping skills such as directly addressing your grief around your trauma can be helpful. I should say too that grief can be apart of your trauma even if death or loss are not directly tied to the experience. In trauma, we are often grieving the lack of control we had, the lack of power, or the regrets of what we wish we would’ve done.

According to psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (1969) the five stages of grief are as follow: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Kübler-Ross developed the distinct stages in reference to grief after the death of a loved one. The distinct stages can be applied to trauma in that we can identify where we are and where we want to be. We must believe that we will get to the final stage of grief which is acceptance. We may not understand why we go through certain things in life, but we can be responsible for growing beyond the experience and seeing ourselves worthy of love, respect, and acceptance.

It is perfectly normal to flee from situations and feelings that make you feel bad and in despair. But, I encourage you to begin addressing your challenges.

-Mercedez Mitchell, student therapist intern

“He who returns from a journey is not the same as he who left”.

Chinese Proverb

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