You were overwhelmed. Something happened: it felt like a hit and run, or possibly slowly built over time. The emotional baggage feels too heavy. Trauma is not good.
Then you read this title and ask, “How can anything good come from overwhelm? From trauma?”
Your body was designed to sustain an incredible amount. It is flexible and adaptive, programmed to survive. Event more amazing is your brain. Lodged in the emotional center is your capacity to sense danger- even the slightest hint. When danger strikes you are able to do whatever necessary: fight, flee, even collapse in a “play dead” numb state (depression) to simply make it through.
And how do you sense danger? By continually scanning your environment and the people surrounding you.
Your brain is able to relationally pick up on the slightest change in emotion happening in another person’s face or body posture. Naturally, even without trauma experiences, you do this every day.
But trauma changes things.
Because danger physically, relationally, or emotionally took place, your emotional center in the brain can get stuck on high alert. You’re always prepared to fight. Always ready to run. Or always feeling numb. Your emotional center is on high alert.
Not being able to escape this state can feel miserable. Your trauma can continually resurface at the slightest trigger. If you stay here, trauma will never feel like a gift. Prison is more like it.
Trauma experiences can be isolating. Healing from overwhelm is a dire journey and I strongly recommend you don’t do it alone. But healing exists. If you need help, please reach out to myself, a safe friend or family member, or another helping professional.
Three Gifts From Working Through Trauma
Ability To Read People
After you are able to heal the overworked alarm system of your brain, you will still possess a highly-tuned scanner. You scanned for emotions and behaviors constantly before because it was a matter of safety. Now you can still identify all, but are not triggered. You get to understand and choose to act, instead of being in reactive mode. Trauma has gifted you with deep interpersonal understanding.
Reconnecting With Self
This is a gift to yourself. For too long you have been unable to describe and recognize who you are. Somewhere along the way you lost it. In working through trauma, you are reintroduced to the feelings, thoughts, behaviors, and beliefs that make up you. It is from a strong sense of self you can make choices for your future. This gift of discovering yourself feels like coming home.
Facilitating Healing in Others
You have done the grueling work of beginning and continuing healing. Now you are able to offer and hold hope for others. Isolation and shame are strong in those who have experienced trauma. You offer the gift of knowing they are not alone and the ability to create safety.
Those of you who have journeyed back through overwhelm can testify to the gifts left by trauma. The honed ability to scan and sense what is happening stays with you. It is almost like you can sense things not seen or heard. The tension. You probably have interpersonal abilities to connect and navigate relational scenarios. You are able to sense safety (or lack thereof) and create safety.
These gifts, although it may seem currently like a curse, are invaluable when turned towards other people. Our world is unfortunately filled with much pain. You have made it through (or are working to continue trudging forward), and now have the opportunity to turn, sense pain and hardship, and extend a hand of relief. A huge part of this is being a living picture of your genuine self for others to see.
We are meant for connection. Your gift and intuition, when used for safety, can be a beautiful gift to yourself and those around you.
Article wrtten by therapist Alexandra Hoerr