On Healing Trauma

Hey Bryan,

There is a lot of talk about trauma these days, from early childhood to soldiers in the Middle East. One cannot read the news it seems without seeing PTSD somewhere. How permanent is this stuff? Can it be cured? Can the effects be diminished over time? Is there really any help other than drugs? Just what the heck is it anyway? - Thanks, Dave

I recall as a teen being injured during basketball practice, actually knocked unconscious, and lying in bed when my mother got home from work. When she asked me what had happened I explained the best I could through my tears. My mom listened, turned my light off and then walked back out. Honestly I can’t recall if I was that injured or not, but when that happened it injured me worse. I moaned and cried out loud, begged and pleaded to go to the doctor, finally out of frustration she relented. I left the hospital in a neck brace and on crutches. I had sprained my neck, had a concussion, and torn ligaments in my knee.

Trauma is defined as any stressful event which is prolonged, overwhelming, or unpredictable. That means any stressful event, and stress can occur in more situations than we can possibly imagine. From pre-birth trauma to medical trauma, adoption, automobile accidents, witnessing a crime or murder, living in a stressful environment and everything else before, in between, and beyond, trauma can rear its very silent yet devastating impact.

In his seminal text, Affect Dysregulation and the Repair of the Self, author Allan Schore cites the findings of a meta-analysis of societal trauma: 50% of men in our society have experienced severe trauma and 60% of women. If you consider trauma as occurring on a spectrum of mild, moderate, severe, then essentially every member of our society has experienced some degree of trauma at some point during their lifetime. It is also important in understanding that when traumatic events continue on unexpressed, unprocessed, and misunderstood, it has the potential to impact the person for the rest of their lives.

There are so many levels from which we are impacted by trauma. Yet, it is in our immediate past and present day experiences that we most often look at trauma. I am convinced that this is merely the tip of the iceberg especially when it comes to parents and children who have been impacted by traumatic experiences. First of all, most parents are unaware, in denial, and flat out resistant to considering the impact of highly stressful past events on their current life circumstances. We tend to want to take a very puritanical approach to our pain, thus not surprisingly this carries over to our child-rearing.

Did my mother approach me this way because she was uncaring? Absolutely not, my mother is one of the most caring people that I know. However, when it comes to us and our family it is very easy to rely on past imprinting of just “tough it out”. As much as the trauma we may have directly experienced in our past or present is the impact of the generational trauma that has impacted all most all of us. I always encourage the parents and therapists that come to my camps to think not current generation pain, but go back a generation, two generations and see what you find. In the 1960’s the pioneering psychologist Bowen coined the term “generational transmission of stress” implying that stress and trauma are actually transmitted from one generation to the next. Forty years later science has confirmed this beyond a shadow of a doubt.

A passionate and concerned mother asked me the other day, “How long will it take for our family to find peace in our home. For our children to be more normal and just have the day to day challenges of normal children?” She didn’t like my answer, “Find peace now, today. This is when you will find peace. Not in the next moment or year, but today. Accept that your children are who they are and love them as they are, this will bring peace. If you are waiting for some magical moment when peace and normalcy will arrive, or come knocking at your door, then you have an expectation for the way things should be as opposed to an acceptance of the way things are. The problem with this line of thinking is that when peace and normalcy finally arrive, because we are too busy waiting for what we expect to show up, we don’t welcome what does. When this happens then peace and normalcy leaves our home as unwelcomed guest because we were too busy waiting for what we thought was going to show up.”

Healing is a process. It is a journey through repairing damage that has been done long ago. When a child has been mistreated, abused, deprived, or neglected during their most critical brain stages, then their brain has been shaped differently. In many ways he becomes a stranger in a strange world of expectations and demands, like a foreigner speaking a foreign language when everyone else speaks in the native tongue.

Additionally, what of the imprints we carry from a generational perspective? To have been witness to an adult treating a child in a manner of abuse, neglect, or maltreatment, is a reflection of how that adult was inevitably treated at some point in their own life. Not only is the child therefore victim to the adult, but also to the generations of mistreatment, abuse, deprivation, and neglect that came many generations before. Healing is therefore not merely about bringing one child or family into a sense of peace and normalcy, it is about changing the very fabric and imprinting of life. It is about what will be passed down through the DNA to the next generation of children. Healing trauma is a very big deal.

Let us not forget that life and love in and of themselves have the potential to heal. How many of us who have come from traumatic environments, circumstances, and relationships have been able to rebound and move forward? Maybe not finding perfect peace and harmony, who ever truly does, but able to experience the joys and wonders of the world, along with the sadness and grief that it offers, without ending up in jail, broken down, and alone. Many more have attained this than not. And what of the ones who have not? My personal belief is that as long as there is breath there is hope and everyone has a purpose and the value of that purpose cannot always be determined as it relates to the fabric of our lives.

Choose Love,
- B.


Can people see without their eyes? How people can hear without ears and other mind boggling healing stories and some of the latest onLearned Optimism healing trauma, both physical and emotional, see Dr. Norman Doidge's classic book on Neuroplacticity  The Brain That Changes Itself available at Amazon,com. Yes, it is brain science and yes, you can do your own brain surgery! For more on this exciting field you will want to read Martin Seligman's Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life. Both these books will provide the incentive, motivation and roadmap for learning to make the changes you desire both in your life and help to positively influence those in your family. Truly, you owe it to yourself. If you have a challenging child, you NEED help.

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Comments

  1. This quote from your article is bold, mind-boggling and a wonderful invitation to enter into the here and now… I love it!
    “A passionate and concerned mother asked me the other day, “How long will it take for our family to find peace in our home. For our children to be more normal and just have the day to day challenges of normal children?” She didn’t like my answer, “Find peace now, today. This is when you will find peace. Not in the next moment or year, but today. Accept that your children are who they are and love them as they are, this will bring peace. If you are waiting for some magical moment when peace and normalcy will arrive, or come knocking at your door, then you have an expectation for the way things should be as opposed to an acceptance of the way things are. The problem with this line of thinking is that when peace and normalcy finally arrive, because we are too busy waiting for what we expect to show up, we don’t welcome what does. When this happens then peace and normalcy leaves our home as unwelcomed guest because we were too busy waiting for what we thought was going to show up.”

  2. Thanks for sharing this with us Bryan. It’s sometimes hard to remember that healing takes time and that with our kids we need to understand that they “are where they are” in the healing process.

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