Emotional regulation. Anger management. counseling. peace. chaos. contentment. relationships

Trauma Recovery in 3 Steps

What is trauma?

Trauma comes in all shapes and sizes. Trauma can be big, or it can be small. What seems to be a big trauma for you may not be traumatic for me at all. Just as unique as we all are, so are the traumas we experience. The way we see and view the world will help determine how we decide what is dangerous, what is safe and what is a threat to us.

Whatever you have faced, whatever traumatic experiences you have encountered in your life you are not a lone. Your emotions and traumas matter! In order to begin the healing process, it is important for us to understand and make sense of the trauma, find some self-compassion and self acceptance of the event, and then to re-story our interpretation of the event.

Making sense of the trauma:

Think about a time when you’ve been involved in some sort of “out of the norm” experience; maybe you witnessed an intense car accident, or maybe you were in an intense car accident. What was your initial response once the dust settled? Typically we tell our friends and family all the details about the event over and over. We do this for two reasons…

  1. It helps us process what we just went through and witnessed. If we were in a bad car accident we often don’t realize how intense it was in the moment because we sometimes go into a survival mode or fight or flight mode. In this state it’s difficult for us to account for all the details of the event because we are too busy trying to survive! So when the dust settles we try to piece everything together that happened and this helps us make sense of everything that happened.
  2. Second, we feel the need to tell the details of the story over and over to help us gain some control back. When we experience a traumatic event we often feel out of control and are in a state of chaos. Gaining some control helps ground us and helps us find stability.

Self-Compassion and Self-Acceptance:

Self-compassion and self-acceptance help us heal and produces feelings of love and hope. The use of judgment and criticism keeps us stuck in a negative mindset that perpetuates our uncomfortable feelings of shame and guilt. If we had some responsibility for a traumatic event (maybe we did or said something that had a negative impact on someone) we can easily become stuck in this negative downward spiral of self-loathing.

When we are critical and judgmental of ourselves we keep ourselves down and in the position of the victim. If we are down and out, the last thing we need is another kick to the ribs! Providing yourself with compassion and acceptance is the beginning of true healing. If you find yourself laying on the ground bruised and in pain, offer yourself compassion and empathy to help yourself up. Life is hard as it is, we don’t need to be adding to our discomfort!  Tell yourself, “I know what I did was not okay and I regret what I did, but I am not defined by those mistakes. I am someone who was struggling and didn’t know how to handle the situation. I forgive myself for those mistakes”.

We have no choice but to accept our reality; avoidance does not make the pain go away.

The Re-Story:

Once you have moved though understanding your trauma, and showing yourself some compassion and acceptance, you can now move to the third step of healing; the re-story. Remember, we only have control of ourselves in the present moment. That means, in the moments we experienced or played a role in the trauma, our behaviors made sense in that moment. It is not an excuse for the negative behavior or experience, but it is an explanation for the behavior. One of my favorite phrases is this – “all human behavior makes sense within context”. With this mindset, we can begin to understand how we work and why we behave the way we (and others) behave.

The re-story sounds like this; “When I was young I didn’t know what I know now. Now that I am older and more mature, I realize how much pain I was experiencing as a child. That pain lead to feelings of depression, loneliness and fear. Today I am able to look back on my past with compassion and acceptance and I can learn from those experiences. Now I know how to regulate my emotions and I am now stronger and happier because of this.”

With acceptance and compassion we can break free from our painful and traumatic past. There is freedom after suffering if we love ourselves first.

 

A letter from my professor:

In one of my classes in graduate school, my professor shared a letter with the class that he wrote.  I think this letter is beautify written and is something I reflect on regularly.

“When a person goes through trauma they must face it head on. They must evaluate, what did the trauma do to me? How does this make me feel? What did I learn from it? Now mourn it. Take time and mourn it. And put it away! Like a death it’s over…your life is not. When abuse destroys the soul it destroys everything in ones life undoing relationships, planting seeds of inferiority and unworthiness. It begins to shape the way we think about ourselves, the way we act and the way we act out. Mourn it. It’s a death, let it go. That person is dead, mourn them.

And in the distance is a new soul that is beautiful, that is strong, that is good. You are full of possibility and and so worthy of being loved. The most precious possession that ever comes to someone in this world is the power of new possibility. Take back the power and create your new possibility.”

~ Dan Sagert

If you are suffering you are not a lone. If you are facing trauma right now just know that you are brave and there is hope in your pain!

Thinking Outside of Your “Man Box”

The man box, we all have one. Lets see what is in yours…

The Man Box

Tony Porter is an activist dedicated to helping end violence against women, and he has come up with a really simple and easy to understand idea about how (some) men think. You can check out his TED Talk about the Man Box here.

Tony Porter came up with the idea of the “Man Box”. In this man box are all of the things men think it means to be a man. Some examples include; not showing emotion, always being in control of the finances, being the sole provider for the family, don’t cry, and being strong- just to name a few.

Where does the content of our man box come from?

We learn through our environment. So if our father, grandfather, uncles etc. believed that you can’t say “I love you” because it made them appear weak, then there is a good chance you will also take on this belief. Once you are an adult and have children of your own, you may also find it difficult to express love and empathy as a man. We are a product of our environment, and this is the process of socialization.

Through socialization we begin to form our beliefs about the world at an early age. We don’t get to choose our environment as kids.  What we don’t transform we transfer. The pain and suffering we experience today comes from generations of pain and suffering. Our fathers, grandfathers and great grandfathers pain is now ours. If they have not transformed their pain, they are giving it to you. Lets start thinking about what we need to transform in our own life journey so we can end the cycle of pain, suffering, and abuse for the next generation.

Us men need to, and can do better. Lets start to think outside our man box and make some transformations!

Thinking outside your man box

In order to transform what we think it takes to be a man and begin to break free from our pain and suffering, we need to think about 3 things;

1) Recognize where the contents of your man box come from

  • Remember, we can’t choose our environment as kids, but as adults we have the ability to change our thinking. Be a non-judgmental observer and think about your childhood. Who were your male influences? what were their beliefs? How did they treat others? Were they able to show you love, kindness, and respect?
  • Once we are able to reflect on our past and start making some of these connections between our environment and our current behaviors, we can then start to make sense of our behaviors. Then we can see where the contents of our man box came from. If you don’t like what you see, challenge yourself and make some changes!

2) Evaluate and challenge the contents of your man box

  • If you have read this far, good job! you have also probably been able to identify some of the contents of your man box. Do you see anything you don’t like? See something you might want to transform so you don’t transfer it to your kids? Great! Now you can start the process of challenging those old beliefs in your man box.
  • Ask yourself (without judgment) how is this belief serving me? my kids? my partner? co-workers?. Ask yourself, what is the honorable intention of this thought, feeling and behavior? If it is negative and abusive, then change it! One of the really cool things about our brains is the potential to rewire them and form new and healthy beliefs about ourselves and the world we live in!

3) Re-define your idea of what it means to be a man

  • Now that you’ve been able to identify and challenge your old ways of what it means to be a man, you’re almost there! Now you get to re-define how you want to move forward in life as a new man! Think about the things you were missing out on as a kid. What are some of the positive messages you wish you could have received as a child? What are some things you see yourself repeating in your family that had a negative impact on you as a kid? If you want to be more present for your kids, then take some time out of your day to be with them. Ask your kids how their day was. Ask about how they are feeling about that upcoming test. Start re-defining your man box!
If you want more help understanding and re-defining your man box I’d love to help you! Simply click here for more information about scheduling your first appointment!

Men and Empathy; The Struggle is Real.

Why do some men have a hard time with empathy?

Lets start with some definitions…

  • Empathy means to deeply understand, and share the feelings someone else is experiencing. Put yourself in their shoes.
  • Sympathy means to express feelings of pity, and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune.

Empathy allows us to connect deeper, and listen more intently. If we are allow ourselves to be more vulnerable with each other through the use of empathy, we will experience healthier and more satisfying relationships.

Sympathy creates distance between people and prevents healing. Think of sympathy in terms of a sympathy card; the card offers some passive consoling from a distance. “I’m sorry for your loss” is much different from, “I am so sad to hear about your father passing. I know how close you were to him and you must feel devastated”.

Here is a great video from Brene Brown explaining the difference between empathy and sympathy!

So, why do men struggle with empathy?

In short, society told us not to show any emotions (other than anger of course) in order to maintain power and control over self and others.

From a very young age men are being told to hide or stuff their emotions. If a young boy is learning to ride his bike, falls and begins to cry, what is the typical response from his father? “walk it off kid, stop crying and act like a man”. That father has effectively taught his son that it isn’t acceptable to show emotion.

Remember, empathy requires you to access your vulnerable emotions in order to connect with others suffering.  So, if men have been taught not to express our emotions, how can we access them for others in order to connect? How in the world are we supposed to have the vocabulary for it when we have been spending our entire lives stuffing them deep down not allowing ourselves to practice this skill?

Emotions always get what they want, and they want to be expressed and heard! When a man feels those vulnerable emotions like, sadness, fear, embarrassment, disrespect, or anxiety, and he fails to express those emotions he will end up resorting to anger as a way to express the vulnerable emotions he is feeling.

3 things men can do to increase empathy

  1. Emotions do not mean you are “weak”, they mean you are human.
  2. Everyone experiences emotions, it’s okay to let people know exactly how you are feeling.
  3. practice makes perfect. Start by putting your vulnerable emotions out there for others little by little.

Men have been socialized for a very long time to deny our emotions, so rewiring our brains to become more comfortable with using empathy in our relationships will take some time and mindful effort, but it can be done!  I want to challenge you to re-think what being a man means to you. Lets start exercising our empathy muscle and start experiencing more loving, connected and fulfilling relationships!

Click here to schedule an appointment and start your journey to a more empathic life!