On Healing Trauma


Trauma is defined as any stressful event which is prolonged, overwhelming, or unpredictable. 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.

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. 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 indeed.

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.