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How Can We Make Post Traumatic Growth More Likely?

Last updated on July 3, 2020

I’m still listening to a few final workshops from last week’s Action Trauma conference (you can read my initial highlights blog from last week HERE) and also listening to as much of this week’s Trauma Super Conference as I can fit around appointments.

What makes it trauma Work towards post traumatic growth with Eve Menezes Cunningham online trauma therapist

It was so popular on Monday, the site’s crashed. Still, it’s worth seeing if it’s all resolved by the time this post goes live so you can register for the free talks.

The thing I love most about trauma therapy is that there are so many things we can do to heal.

So many approaches.

My own includes traditional talk therapy, psychoeducation, self care coaching, a somatic approach (body work you learn to do for yourselves with trauma sensitive yoga and mindfulness), and energy work (yogic elements as well as EFT, NLP and crystal coaching) depending on what feels best for you.

Post traumatic growth is possible – it can take a long time and energy but it’s worth it.

And support and self care can help you get there faster and less painfully.

What is trauma?

I was reminded of one of my favourite definitions during Dr Lissa Rankin’s talk. She quoted EFT pioneer Dawson Church saying trauma is something that:

  1. it’s perceived as a threat to survival
  2. it’s overwhelming for our capacity to cope
  3. it’s isolating, making us feel alone
  4. it violates our expectations

Collective trauma

The two obvious ones right now are Covid and the need to end white supremacy and other oppressive systems immediately.

With Covid:

  1. Even if you’ve been fortunate enough (like me) to have been in lockdown somewhere safe and beautiful, that potential threat (for me, I’ve been most concerned about passing it on that getting it) is potentially exhausting. It’s awful thinking of those who’ve died or are still suffering with it, the people who’ve been unable to be with dying loved ones as well as ALL of us who were simply unable to see loved ones for so long
  2. It hasn’t overwhelmed my capacity to cope because I’ve been consciously attempting to work with it from the start (sharing loads of Covid Self Care tools and resources has helped me, too) and have been doing what I can do personally (eg, washing hands, wearing a mask when inside shops etc, keeping 2m away from others, disinfecting etc).
  3. While isolating in many ways (Butterfly hugs will never replace ACTUAL HUGS), the internet has helped me stay connected with loved ones as well as having been able to work throughout the pandemic
  4. None of us could have predicted this in February let alone last year.

The murder of George Floyd (again, white privilege here) was an even bigger shock to my system:

  1. My life wasn’t threatened but we’re all connected. None of us choose – or do anything to deserve – where we happen to be born, what colour we are, who we’re born to etc etc. I suddenly feared all white looking people in case they were amongst the white supremacy apologist ‘all lives matter’ people (missing the Black Lives Matter TOO point entirely)
  2. It initially felt overwhelming to my capacity to cope (again, am so conscious of my white privilege and living here in Westport in the beautiful west of Ireland)
  3. I reached out to local people who I hoped would want to do something to show support for Black Lives Matter because at this point, white silence really IS violence. A few of us held a couple of peaceful presences in Westport over a couple of weeks and being able to talk to friends and loved ones about what else we might do (and I’ve joined lots of anti-racist groups including United Against Racism Mayo although none of this feels anywhere close to enough). I’m also tending the tree I planted in honour of the BLM movement
  4. My expectations KEEP being violated with the brutal murders of Black people continuing and London police officers TAKING SELFIES with murder victims, Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry.

A LOT is coming up for healing

Sunlight may be the best disinfectant but how do we heal? Where do we go from here?

Not just the title of the Oprah BLM special, where do WE go from here?

With Covid, maybe you’re focusing on what you can do (maybe you’re completely unaffected!).

With Black Lives Matter, I’m horrified to be adding names to the tree (Elijah McLaine and Rayshard Brooks this week). I’m having lots of conversations and watching and reading loads in an effort to figure out how to do better.

Am also doing LOADS of Metta and Ho’oponopono and some chanting.

This simple, calming practice can help open the heart (like the jewel in the lotus blossom) as well as empowering us to use our voices.

Heart opening, courage boosting, voice finding, calm inducing chanting

Posted by Feel Better Every Day with Eve Menezes Cunningham on Thursday, July 2, 2020

It feels wrong to be asking how these situations might be trying to help us when so many people have DIED (both from Covid and systemic racist brutality).

Still, I feel more empowered to focus on the amazing activists working for global social justice and peace, the RESISTANCE, than I feel when I let myself stay stuck in the horror of not everyone being ANTI racism and facism in 2020.

Similarly, Covid has shown us that we CAN change our behaviours in a more dramatic way than most of us have ever experienced in such a collective way. We can protect each other from the virus and work together not just to minimise the spread of Covid but to support local businesses and community initiatives and find more collaborative, sustainable and compassionate ways of living.

Working towards Post Traumatic Growth?

What is coming up for healing in YOUR life?

ANYTHING can be used to support our growth if we’re able to ask, How is this situation / trigger trying to help me?

On Friday, I was so happy to have help removing some debris that had been left by the previous person here, just as I thought what wonderful Feng Shui it would be, the garden guy told me there was a container he couldn’t remove.

On account of the ‘something dead inside’.

Not human but still, I was so shocked and grossed out (have never smelled anything LIKE it), my capacity to cope was temporarily overwhelmed to the degree that I couldn’t remember my phone number. I couldn’t even discern if 2 was a number.

What was it? Fish? Sheep? Cow? Cats? Dog? Why on earth? Whaaaaaat?

After I dragged the number from the phone (so the garden guy could send me a pic of the contents – I hadn’t been able to get closer than 4m away on account of the stench. I’m vegan and squeamish), I recognised that I needed to sort myself out so went for a walk.

It took 40 minutes of moving, stomping, tapping (my neighbours are so lovely and already know I’m a bit strange) to be able to laugh about it.

By the time I got home, I’d walked for an hour, moved the shock out of my body and felt more resourceful.

I didn’t want ‘how to dispose of a body’ in my search history so phoned the local waste company. They gave me the number of a company that deals with dead sheep and cows and while it cost more than I’d hoped, I remain very grateful that it’s gone.

But while I walked, after about 40 minutes, I was able to begin to ask, How is this situation trying to HELP me? I spent the last 20 minutes reflecting and shuddering.

Shaking is a good trauma release, too.

And I suddenly realised that it was an opportunity to heal something that had come up from my past. This situation was completely unrelated, but the strongest feeling – shame – was too familiar.

By recognising that, it lost some of the charge.

How is a trauma (something with a little t – it’s better to work with a therapist for something bigger and unresolved) trying to HELP you right now?

You can read some Covid specific advice HERE

But ask yourself, how is your upset / trigger trying to HELP you?

What’s coming up for healing?

Another tiny (but it was frustrating) example from yesterday was spending several hours attempting to deal with a call centre and alleged instant messaging.

As soon as I was able to make the connection with the thing that was coming up for healing (apart from the basic admin need of having to sort the account) with a pattern from my childhood and adult life, I suddenly got through to a HUMAN.

With a lovely Irish accent.

He was able to not only help with the urgent issue but to sort something which will make all future dealing with them MUCH easier.

‘That’s all very well for your trivial examples but…’

I KNOW.

This is why post traumatic growth can’t be rushed.

I often think of people like Michael J Fox. Yes, he went on to do amazing things with his foundation but he spent a good DECADE raging at the injustice he felt at his condition.

Be KIND to yourself, however you feel, wherever you are.

It might be far too early to even ask yourself:

What might be coming up for healing?

What MIGHT be better as a result of your surviving whatever you’ve survived?

And if that’s the case, I hope that knowing that post traumatic growth is POSSIBLE helps you connect with that resourceful part of yourself as often as you need to.

That you access ALL the support available to you.

Sometimes, with trauma, the gift is other people – after a house fire in 2008, neighbours we hardly knew were offering us rooves. Over a decade later, I still feel so moved by that.

With Covid and the state of the world, we can follow Mr Rogers’ advice about always looking for the helpers.

Not letting ourselves be seduced by hopelessness and despair, thinking people suck, you can’t trust anyone, that there’s no point to anything.

Instead, focus on the signs of hope – global discussions are happening around who is honoured with statues and what that says about any society hoping to call itself civilised.

More and more people are committing to becoming anti-racist.

Most people (in my imagination) are honouring social distancing guidelines and wearing masks when recommended because they care about protecting others.

With love,

Eve Menezes Cunningham self care coach therapist supervisor

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