Talking about our trauma, in the majority of cases, is helpful. It can be incredibly difficult for the individual processing it because you can feel so much of the experience still in your body, but it’s essential for healing. Like my friend Dr. Dan Siegel says, we need to name it to tame it.
Sharing trauma could be hard for people for these reasons:
- Fear of invalidation
- Fear of judgement/victim-blaming/being seen as embellishing
- Fear of reliving the details of the event
- Overwhelming visceral experiences
Trauma is enshrouded in fear, understandably. It is any experience that has been encoded in terror. But see, the response to traumatic experiences are simply big, huge messy, emotions. Those big emotions of trauma won’t kill you (emotions don’t have that capacity) – but not talking about it could.
If there is a safe place to put your story, either in a journal, with a trusted friend, or with a therapist, here are four reasons why talking it out, and giving your story some light can help:
- Support. Sharing your story can free us from isolation and create a sense of belonging vs. feeling stigmatized or ashamed. A therapist or a support group can witness and affirm (we don’t always need opinions, just somewhere to put it all down for a bit) – and can leave the survivor feel seen. It can be a turning point for many.
- To process. Making sense of what happened can be bewildering for some. Trauma is messy, layered with intensity and emotion, and it can feel completely unspeakable. Turning it into something “speakable” and coherent is a step in the right direction. Just notice how you describe the experience and mostly what it feels like in your body. Also know that you have the power to take a breath, drop your shoulders, or take a break any time. Sometimes the easiest and most powerful way to find your voice is to start with a journal. Write it down, and read it back, until the puzzle starts to come together.
- Your trauma doesn’t define you. Trauma can feel like the most critical point in your existence. There was life before the event, and then there is life after. It’s okay to feel somewhat defined by what happened, even though it can feel all-consuming. Realizing that you’re more than your trauma is also key in the healing process. Talking about it will give you your control back – become the victor, not the victim.
- Find meaning. Trauma makes us examine ourselves. “Doing the work” has a way of making us recalibrate our values. Coming out on the other side of difficult experiences changes us, there is no doubt. When the body can slow done and get “unstuck” from the intensity of the emotion, difficult experiences can also serve to sharpen our sense of purpose, help us focus on what really matters, and become empowered by our own resilience.