Many people are feeling pushed past their limits these days. Does it feel like you have a short fuse, get upset easily, or worry a lot – more than you used to? You may see others getting frustrated, cry, or blow up over small things. Do you want to hide from the world? Is it all too much? Feeling okay through stressful situations is possible when you can widen your window of tolerance of emotions.
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People need support. Absolutely. Providing support is a foundational principle to a therapist’s role because, as said beautifully by Brené Brown, “what we don’t need in the midst of struggle is shame for being human.”
One of the hard things we talked about in the last article, strategies for coping with the hard parts of life, was watching the news or dealing with current events. There is certainly a lot going on in the world — and at times, feeling powerless, as it feels more polarized than ever.
In the last several years, when the world has felt so tough, I have dreamed of a world led by someone on a trauma-informed platform. I have even joked with my family and friends that I wanted to run for president on the platform of safety, kindness, and compassion. And as I’m unable to do that, at least I can do this: Help encourage people to view the world through a more trauma-informed lens. This is the way to bring us closer to safety together, instead of further apart.
As we approach two long years experiencing the global trauma of COVID, we are hoping things are winding down to allow more manageable challenges. Yet many are experiencing symptoms familiar to those experienced by survivors of any long-term or chronic developmental relational trauma (CPTSD).
What if nothing feels “right”?
When it comes to making choices, sometimes there’s a clear winner. The decision is easy. But it seems like these days especially, every choice is harder. There are so many shades of grey. Confusion and uncertainty persist. Information is constantly changing, and we don’t know what’s accurate or what’s going to happen next.
With access to COVID vaccines, it seemed like we were coming to a light at the end of the tunnel. Now as the delta variant continues to spread, the uncertainty that we felt for so long is again looming heavily in the air.
And as we try to regain some sense of “normal” living, the choices we have to make may feel particularly difficult. Should I wear a mask? Should I go there? Is interacting with family safe? Should I send the kids back to their activities?
Decision-making for trauma survivors
After living through abuse, neglect, or violence, it’s normal to promise yourself you will never let that happen again. That promise seems to make sense. You need to feel safe, to find some sense of control. Otherwise, the danger and powerlessness you feel are too hard to live with.
If you and your partner want to pursue couples therapy, that’s commendable! There is so much hope and help available in therapy. What if you’re dealing with intimate partner abuse or violence (IPV)? Therapy for domestic violence requires a trauma-informed approach.
I learned an important concept about how to feel emotions again safely – especially after trauma– over 26 years ago from my favorite graduate school professor, the late Terry Taylor Smith, LMFT:
When you use the word “but” between two statements, it negates everything you say before it, while “and” allows you to be saying (and holding) both.
“And” is a powerful word. As a concept for healing, it’s life-changing. Once you start to employ this concept in your life, the possibilities are pretty incredible. I can’t think of a better time to write about how to feel and hold emotions. When so many are feeling numb and overwhelmed, “and” is more relevant and necessary than ever.