“Trauma-informed” isn’t a concept reserved for social workers and therapists. It isn’t even reserved for those whose jobs are about teaching, healing or leading. This is a concept that we can all benefit from learning because we’ll all find ourselves in a trauma-box situation at some point.
Welcome to my 2-part series on trauma-informed wisdom. In this article, you will learn the 5 foundational skills to becoming trauma-informed.
There are moments when someone’s trauma box pops open, both for ourselves and those around us or in our care. That hidden cache of memories, triggers, anxiety, or wobbliness suddenly starts seeping or thundering forward into a person’s awareness, affecting their perceptions, focus, bringing up difficult emotions, sensations and/or memories.
Have you ever been ambushed by someone’s trauma box suddenly bursting open? Or your own?
Have you felt the trigger of a trauma memory suddenly take over, dissolving your clarity or perspective, flooding you with uncomfortable emotions? Did it knock you out? Make you want to disappear into the earth or run away?
Sensing or experiencing someone’s trauma surge to the surface or bubble in the background is not a scenario we are usually taught how to handle. Yet it happens, and more than once in a lifetime.
You feel the trauma energy there, you know the person needs help, but you feel uncertain of exactly what to do, how to really serve or assist them. Or you’re understandably cautious of causing them more pain. Or you’re just too overwhelmed.
But one thing is clear: you long to make a difference in that moment.
You might have found that this fear of how to respond gets in the way of how you show up in your vision of service, business or leadership with others. Or in parenting your children, or managing a workplace.
What is your highest dream of how you can be supportive at the moment a trauma box opens?
To say the perfect phrase, be able to name what’s happening, have a soothing manner, provide safety, be sensitive to the nature of the situation?
This is when having trauma-informed awareness and tools, both for ourselves and others is essential.
In my training and experience, trauma-informed wisdom of any kind involves having a particular kind of lens.
This lens is receptive, on the watch for the possibility of trauma emerging and has a way of engaging with the situation that allows trauma emergence to be okay.
Using this lens, you are welcoming and normalising of the sudden trauma energy that’s filled the room.
We are all able to cultivate a trauma-informed lens. And if you are ever in a role where you hold safe space (e.g., healers, teachers, managers, coaches, parents, friends…) this lens will directly serve the work you do in a meaningful way: you bring one of the biggest gifts we can offer others – safety!
Cultivating this lens can start with creating environments and ways of showing up in the world that are safe and supportive for those who carry trauma loads of any weight and heft.
To introduce you to the foundational concepts of being trauma-informed, here are 5 core capacities:
- Be aware of the reality and impact of trauma. Therefore, you will hold a compassionate understanding that most people have experienced trauma of some kind and it may emerge at any time. Gently expect it.
- Be able to recognise the signs and signals of when trauma is present. What’s more, be open to perceiving that someone’s behaviour or experience may be the result of trauma.
- Relate to the person responding to trauma in the ways they need most. Be respectful, empowering, provide meaningful choices and support their highest outcomes and present needs.
- Have effective and appropriate tools, approaches and sensitivity to support a person or group when trauma arises. Learn from seasoned trauma-informed practitioners, and keep up to date with what tools are considered effective and appropriate, as more research continuously refines this knowledge.
- Be able to consciously avoid re-traumatizing a person or group. Know how to not retrigger them or create situations where they relive their trauma and memories, as this is incredibly painful.
This trauma-informed awareness then influences the way you organise a workplace, an event, your practice, your relationships, and your own self-care. It is powerful!
But in my decades of experience, I have found that being trauma-informed is even more personal.
Your style of being trauma-informed, your skills and responses are all unique to you. We all might do the same trauma soothing processes, but the kind of feeling, quality, empathy and relational style you bring is unique. It’s powerful to know your style as this amplifies your support and its positive impact.
We all have our own innate way of responding and engaging with trauma. It’s the unique loving that we bring.
Through our unique styles, we each offer unique trauma-supportive medicine.
In Part 2 of my trauma-informed series, I’m going to share how my trauma-informed style offers profound medicine for my clients and their life paths through and beyond trauma healing.
But because this is such a critical skill for us all to learn ASAP, I’m offering you 5 more elements that can help you begin exploring your own trauma-informed style now.
I invite you to contemplate what it would look like for you to cultivate your style of trauma-informed wisdom:
- The way you respond to and engage with trauma when it arises so you, and the other person with you, both feel comfortable around the trauma. This brings safety and healing rapidly.
- The ability to engage with trauma with steadiness while simultaneously holding it delicately.
- Your presence, your heart, your awareness, your style all become a sacred, soulful container for a person’s trauma experience. In so doing, you give them a level of safety, honouring, and feeling of being held.
- Your sacred space holding silently gives space for their soul and its injuries to be acknowledged and to heal.
- You can be sensitive to the needs of an individual and/or group to cultivate experiences that allow growth.
Here is my biggest tip: being trauma-informed is being soul-informed.
To me, there is no separation. The wound of trauma is a wound to the soul. The process of healing the trauma wound is the process of soul medicine, mending and recovery. So, knowing your way around the back blocks of the soul comes in handy, too.
Stay tuned for Part 2, where I will share what it looks like to be a truly trauma-informed healer versus what happened when I wasn’t.
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With gratitude for your loving heart,