Although a hurting soul wants to erase memories, the pain of trauma never remains tamely caged. We hope to abandon and forget, eradicating our recall of incidents that have punctuated our personal history.Yet, flashbacks and triggers rewind us into a past place that seems inescapable in both waking and sleeping moments. Even as life moves forward, we often feel trapped.
Past trauma can feel powerful. The effect of past trauma winds its way into the present however we may attempt to evade its reach. It threatens to cut off a future vibrant with the hope that only our Resurrected Savior and returning King can bring.
It colors our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. It influences our relationships, intercepting the healing that comes from not only receiving but also extending the Love of Christ. Freedom beckons to us from behind the prison walls that we erect in response to trauma.
Paralyzed by fear and fatigue, we relive and experience re-traumatization when prematurely exposed to areas we thought we had healed. With indelible markings, the familiarity of resurfacing trauma scripts our thoughts with words of condemnation and shame.
Denying and deflecting the pain do not outrun trauma’s effects, but rather worsen. We believe that if we somehow shift focus, pinning our pain elsewhere, we will dodge recurrent issues. However, if we don’t confront what torments from the inside, we don’t avail ourselves of the freedom secured by Christ’s death, burial, and triumphant resurrection.
It is when we embrace the Truth of the Gospel into surfacing areas of brokenness, that we receive and exchange what only our Savior and the Spirit of God can do for us. By submitting ourselves to the Father’s Love in this way, we essentially put to death old desires and habits that emerge from a soul wounded by trauma and wearied by life.
The Lord Jesus is the One who adequately and abundantly shields us from harm, even in the place of our most significant and salient weakness. As we surrender our souls and entire selves to the Holy Spirit, we progressively come alive to Him. His comprehensive ministry is one of peace and grace, even as we come out from the clutches of what has made us feel stuck before.
The Holy Spirit’s ministry is not based on our strength, but rather on His dynamite power. The same might that raised Jesus is active in us. He works through us to detonate any demonic foe that obstructs our path the wholeness. Jesus didn’t die for us to wrestle in fear and torment, captive to a traumatic incident and the accompanying triggers. Rather, the Lord wants to build us and restore our souls.
As we develop a safe, intimate connection with the Lord, He engages us in a metamorphosis that takes us from one place of experiencing His glory or manifest presence to another. We don’t remain the same, but we come through pain that we thought would destroy us with a residue of His glorious Presence.
We heal, grow, and change, not just spiritually, but also in other significant and life-changing areas. Beliefs that we have long held about ourselves, the way that we regulate our emotions, and the behaviors we enact are evidence of the change that only the Wonderful Counselor and wise counsel can bring.
This total transformation is a process. It unfolds as our souls and our lives shift in response to the continuous renewal of our minds. Yet, it requires the kind of support and therapy that matches our particular needs.
There are various approaches to talk therapy for different people and their needs. Considering Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) may be a wise option for those who may have experienced trauma and want short and long-term solutions to address, treat, and resolve it.
Understanding trauma-focused CBT.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, even Trauma Focused CBT (TF-CBT), emphasizes the interconnected relationship between one’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. The underlying premise suggests that as we interpret the information from our thoughts, this informs and gives rise to our feelings.
Often, we interpret or make sense of that information, through the lens of our experience. Our behaviors will not only result from what we believe, but they will reinforce it as well. Having a therapist who works with us to explore our thoughts and feelings will also support us in recognizing the connection to our actions.
We don’t always know or understand our behaviors, but the counseling process supports us by being gentle and kind to ourselves as we explore. Our emotions often reveal areas where we have unresolved pain and trauma that we haven’t fully worked through. This can show up at odd and inconvenient times, eliciting an exaggerated reaction or trigger. Many times, when we encounter triggers, it produces a physical, mental, or emotional reaction that is often unpleasant.
Acknowledge triggers.Here, we see the evidence of our beliefs having an impact on our behaviors. Triggers can be frightening because they unlock a fear that we may not have faced since a traumatic incident.
However, we can manage them with awareness. Knowing what scents, settings, and sounds arouse that uncomfortable feeling is important for us to be proactive in caring for ourselves to create a boundary or remove ourselves.
For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. – Romans 8:6. ESV
We don’t have to run from uncomfortable feelings. Instead, we can use a variety of techniques learned in therapy or even embrace activities that will help to still and calm us in the moment. Whether it is deep breathing, finding a comforting object, or engaging in a recreational activity such as doodling, we can use these and countless other coping tools to release the distress.
Essentially, we transfer some of the heightened anxiety that we see in a fight, flight, or freeze response into an action that will ground, stabilize, and comfort us. In doing so, we come forward into the present and out of the moment that catapulted us to the past traumatic encounter.
Act with intention.
Sometimes, we won’t always have a warning or indicator that will help us plan for a trigger. In those instances, it will be helpful to have an exit plan in situations that call for it. Elsewhere, we may need to have in rotation several coping strategies that we can enact with minimal attention or distraction, as that can elevate our distress.
Regular practice of coping skills, and where necessary, providing context and simple courteous communication for those in our closer relationships, will help us include safe people who want to love and care for us in our journey. Learning how to navigate our knowledge of self can help us to self-advocate, practice essential self-care, and gather the tools and support we need.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, think about these things. – Philippians 4:8, NASB
Address thoughts.Although this is true for when we experience triggers, it isn’t limited to those situations. Working proactively with a therapist offers the insight and opportunity to form a healthier mindset. We don’t have to be under the control of our thoughts. We can exercise the godly authority to embrace the mind of Christ and a willingness to shift our thinking by faith and with practice.
The mind is an area where the enemy wars mercilessly, suggesting negative thoughts, and lies, that we then form into limiting beliefs. It doesn’t have to advance that far.
The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. – 2 Corinthians 10:4-5, NIV
Although we don’t know what thoughts will present themselves, we do have a responsibility to tend our minds and guard them with God’s peace. We can be selective about our streaming and scrolling. There are countless choices for music, programming, and entertainment that will build us up.
We can also ensure that we feed ourselves with the Word of God. This is a core element of our spiritual nutrition that deepens our relationship with the Holy Spirit. Yet, through it, He also equips and empowers us with spiritual weapons and practical principles.
Next steps for treatment.
As you search this site, consider your next steps. Select a counselor and schedule an appointment to meet. While you may wrestle with unresolved trauma and the triggers that present, you don’t have to remain imprisoned by them. You can tame this tiger and experience triumph over what has tried to tether you.
“Drowning”, Courtesy of Ian Espinosa, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Chains”, Courtesy of Zulmaury Saavedra, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Freedom”, Courtesy of Fuu J, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Contemplation”, Courtesy of Keegan Houser, Unsplash.com, CC0 License
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