We regularly hear from single parents who have experienced abuse of some kind and sometimes from more than one perpetrator. The pain of trauma is so deep and life-altering, is it possible to forgive those who hurt us? Therapists Laurie and Bill Lokey share their perspectives on this significant and complex question. Laurie Lokey is a licensed counselor who has worked at Onsite Workshops for ten years and in private practice in middle Tennessee. Her husband, Bill Lokey served as the senior clinical director for Onsite Workshops supervising over seventy therapists throughout the United States.
Bill shares that defining trauma is fraught with preconceptions. Some think of trauma as life-threatening events, and those events do create trauma in our brain as well as emotional pain, but trauma is broader. Bill says trauma involves emotional and physical pain as well as a sense of helplessness. Trauma sets us up to feel continually unsure of our safety and to be on high alert all the time. Our bodies are in a state of constant readiness to react even when there is no actual threat. Trauma can feel very crazy-making because our reactions are often bigger than what a situation warrants. Those with trauma are on edge and this reactivity makes relationships challenging. Recognizing trauma triggers is part of the journey to heal, as is the process of grieving.
Trauma is interesting because we are each impacted differently by events that happen so even when two people experience the same thing, they process and store the information uniquely. A sense of helplessness is often a contributor to how our bodies respond to trauma and impacts how we are triggered. When we are triggered by a seemingly separate or random event, where we feel afraid and unsafe, we react from the limbic part of our brain and go into fight or flight mode. When we get grounded again and back in our rational brain, we often think, "What happened? Why did I react that way?"
Laurie says she had to learn that pain wouldn't kill her but not looking at trauma would. She says, avoiding it cost Laurie her first marriage. Laurie shares that it's not just big "T" trauma events like sexual abuse or devastating car accidents but it is also the impact of little "t" trauma, the chronic daily experience of not enough or too much of something. In our lifetime, these experiences, both big T and little t trauma, add up. Untangling trauma includes processing the big T and the little t experiences that leave us feeling helpless where there was no one to protect us. And this involves so much grief.
We may see dysfunctional or destructive patterns of behavior in our own lives yet be reluctant to identify trauma as a root cause because of the shame we feel. Maybe we blame ourselves and think we are responsible for what happened to us. Some of the voices in our head may tell us we caused the abuse because we were "promiscuous" or never said "No".
"Brilliant resilience" is how Laurie Lokey describes some of the coping strategies trauma sufferers develop. Children find ways to get what they need and try to decrease their pain in whatever ways they can. The eating disorder she developed at twelve years old was one of those ways as she tried to receive nurture when it wasn't available through other healthy ways.
When we have experienced trauma, big or small, what is needed is healing connections with safe others including God. But the challenge for trauma sufferers is being able to move toward healthy connection when trust is difficult to find. There are benefits when you engage in the process though.
For the detailed show notes, tips and links go to SoloParentSociety.com
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