I’ve worked with many women and men who have experienced trauma. Some from childhood, some from their military service and many from other life experiences. One thing that they have in common is that they’ve lost confidence in their ability to make positive choices. When we can’t trust ourselves to make good choices, every life situation can become more challenging and laden with fear.
I met my client Greta at a restaurant that was new to her. As she looked at the menu, her anxiety became palpable. It was a small family owned cafe filled with strangers and regulars chatting up the waitstaff and gently talking and laughing with each other. The kind of place where you could feel the love and wanted to become a regular. Oblivious to the atmosphere, Greta gripped the menu tightly and poured over each item as if her life depended on it. She had no dietary issues and no aversions to any particular food, just an intense fear of making a choice. Her fear wasn’t confined to restaurants. Whether it was choosing new clothes, letting her kids have a play date or where to go on date night, every choice elicited intense fear and anxiety.
Lacey was smart, talented and motivated. She was extremely proud of being able to buy her dream home and money-wise enough to pay it off in about half the time. Then she met the man of her dreams, or so she thought. He moved in, they got married and she believed that she had her happily ever after. He convinced her that since he was paying half the bills, he deserved to have his name on the deed. She agreed, he divorced her and she lost her home. After that she lost all confidence in her ability to make decisions and the rest of her life began to spiral down. Not making good medical choices led to her health deteriorating and being unable to commit to the decision- making of her previous career led to minimum wage jobs that offered no security or growth opportunities.
Both of these women have complicated issues, as does anyone who experiences trauma. And facing it may be the most challenging experience that we can have.
My Spirit friends have this to say: Be gentle with yourself. These issues are too deep to handle on your own. It’s important for you to find a therapist that has experience in dealing with trauma, someone whom you can trust. And breathe.
Just breathe. When you begin to panic focus on one breath, not trying to control it, just observing as you inhale and exhale. Start with one breath and if you’re comfortable make it two, then three. Focusing on breathing is a technique that has been used for thousands of years to help people find calm. But for some it can cause panic to deepen. If this happens to you, let it go. Discuss this with your therapist and they will suggest different approaches that may be better suited for you.
Spirit says: You matter. You matter to this world. Whether you believe it or not, we know that you have value. Please get qualified help so that the trauma will be just a piece of the puzzle of you, not the definition.