Oh no… he used the “T” word!
Yes, young Bucky, I did.
And here is your trigger warning for what may follow…
Since this fucking blog represents itself as various rants regarding thriving beyond trauma, and I’ve written 40 some-odd (mostly odd) posts about that, perhaps we’re due to discuss this trauma business.
There are many more qualified experts than yours truly to “tackle” the subject of trauma, and many have.
However, what I offer here is my limited understanding and experience for you to chew on.
And speaking of “tackling,” I mostly chose that word because of the “T” alliteration with trauma.
It’s the poet in me…
The interwebs (they NEVER lie) say that tackling is to “make determined efforts to deal with (a problem or difficult task).”
Of course, most folks in this culture of mixed cultures may think of tackling someone in football (American or otherwise).
Regardless of your chosen definition, I seriously doubt I’ll make a determined effort nor slam trauma to the ground.
I humbly (not so humbly, for I do use the f-word frequently. You know. Fuck. I think you knew. I just wanted to write fuck) submit to you the following (fucks)…
I think it’s important to not only acknowledge and discuss trauma, but rather than “tackle” it, we shall walk right up to the motherfucker, eye it with cautious curiosity, take a sniff, embrace it, and then slam that bitch down behind the line of scrimmage, hopefully, in the end-zone.
This is me trying to sound like I know shit about American football…
Well, and approaching trauma.
Okay, maybe that was an unclear example.
Permit me to eschew obfuscation…
Imagine you’re walking up to a grizzly bear (trauma). You’re terrified (angry, nervous, or what have you).
As you get closer, you discover it’s a person in a Winnie-the-Pooh costume.
You gently remove the Winnie-the-Pooh mask (don’t tackle Winnie-the-Pooh… I shouldn’t have to say this)…
And the person you find under the mask is you!
Kinda like Luke and Vader…
Make sense now?
Perhaps, it’ll make more sense later (to both of us).
A Tale of Ts
Yes, that was another “T” alliteration.
Isn’t poetry fun?
Once upon a time, a daddy T and a mommy T sat down to have some tea. The mommy T asked the daddy T, “What kind of tea would you like?”
The daddy T said, “Tih, please.”
The mommy T, unsure of what Tih was, inquired, “Tih?”
The daddy T smiled and said, “Yes. I’d like some “Tih-Tea.”
And nine months later the baby t was born….
Now you know the Tale of the Ts.
Okay, not really…
That may be a tale of Ts, but mostly just one to amuse myself….
What I really mean is trauma is often categorized into two types.
Big T trauma and little t trauma…
Stop distracting me!
Since earlier I said I won’t be making a determined effort (tackling), I’ll let you check out the following definition of big T and Little t (see what I did there?):
To wit… “In addition, acute psychological traumas, such as the death of a parent, are part of the big T trauma definition. Chronic (ongoing) trauma, such as repeated abuse, can also qualify as big T trauma. Little t trauma refers to events that typically don’t involve violence or disaster, but do create significant distress.” (Interwebs)
So if big, horrible ongoing shit occurs in someone’s life, that’s Big T trauma.
If one suffers some less significant loss, that’s little t.
Trauma is highly subjective.
In other words, what may be very traumatic for one person may be not-so-traumatic for another.
I won’t attempt to conjure up the why for this subjectivity.
It could have to do with temperament, social supports, ideologies, etc…
Okay, I just conjured up some potential whys.
The point is, as a starting point (repetitive points), it’s important to understand that some events are significantly distressing to some folks.
And said events are significant enough to have long-standing effects such as feeling unsafe, fearful, enraged, hyper-vigilant, anxious, depressed, overwhelmed, a need to over achieve, and in this case, over explaining… to give a few examples.
The motherfucker of all this is “trauma is not the exception; it’s the expectation” (Source unknown).
Many, many people (I’m hesitating to say all, but I think all people) have experienced trauma.
Trauma is not the event…
It’s our reaction to the events.
We are not necessarily in control of our reaction to said events…
In many cases, denial and shutting down emotionally to a traumatic event is a protective measure to keep our heads from exploding… Well, not literally.
So before you beat yourself with the board and nail, remember, be gentle with yourself whilst approaching the Grizzly-Winnie-the-Vader.
Before I go on to bore you with more explanations, consider the following examples from my own life…
Big T Trauma:
My father repeatedly abused me mentally, emotionally, and physically.
He screamed, yelled, threw things, chased me, told me I was stupid, beat me with a black leather belt, ping-pong paddle, or whatever was convenient.
He made it clear I was not wanted.
Little T Trauma:
I lost my tree trimming business, and my ex-wife left me (while I was struggling with the effects of the Big T trauma through my poor choice to self medicate with weed).
Now it could be argued that my little t trauma could be a Big T trauma, but again, it’s subjective.
To me, although distressing, business and marriage loss were not AS traumatic as the on-going terror I lived with as a child.
Which brings me to my next point…
When one experiences a single significant traumatic event, they are often diagnosed with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Imagine being in a near-fatal car wreck. That’s one event.
In the case of my abusive childhood, that was an on-going series of traumatic events.
When trauma is experienced as repeated events over a period of time, that is referred to as a Complex of Post-traumatic Stress, or CPTSD.
My ex leaving and the business failing were PTSD-inducing, whereas dear old dad gifted me with CPTSD because it was on-going.
So, if you’ve lived in an abusive relationship, chances are you have CPTSD.
Let me qualify this information… I’m not a doctor, but I play one on TV.
No! I’m not diagnosing you!
But hopefully the limited information I’ve provided gives you a little more insight (or at least curiosity) about what you may or may not be experiencing.
So if you find yourself over-reacting to situations, and your emotional level doesn’t fully match the significance of a current event, you may be reacting from your trauma.
Sometimes, shit that reminds us subconsciously of feeling unsafe in the past gets the full blast of that past reaction today.
Just because someone criticizes me today (as I perceive it), doesn’t mean that I am going to get a beating.
However, understanding that a strong reaction to a current event may be linked to unresolved past trauma can aid in letting that shit go and learning to respond more calmly.
But wait, there’s more…
She Blinded Me With Science
Just in case you weren’t around in 1982 or just want a little nugget of music history from 40 years ago…
I thought the 1980s were 20 years ago… D’oh!
Briefly, I will attempt to give you a layman’s explanation of what I think I remember from school about the physiological science of trauma.
[Cracks knuckles and neck]
Give me a second…
I’m way better at the softer sciences and poorly written titty jokes…
Or so I tell myself.
The primitive part of our brains are referred to as the Limbic System.
Bear with me…
Contained within the Limbic System is a gem called the amygdala.
This beaut stores our emotions.
All of our emotional memories, particularly trauma, are linked to this part of the brain.
It’s part of our survival instinct and where our Fight, Flight, and Freeze reflexes live.
When we perceive danger, the signal goes straight to the Limbic system.
The information bypasses our rational brain (the prefrontal cortex) and goes right to the emotional survival brain that’s linked to part our adrenal (adrenaline) system.
That’s why when I see a snake, I don’t have to fucking think about it. I just jump and get the fuck away from it.
It’s automatic and has worked very well for millions of years.
So, when I perceive that someone is threatening me, it’s more likely that I am reacting from the old threat of my father than the current circumstances.
And when one experiences a particular trauma over and over again (or any thought pattern for that matter), there’s little highways formed between the neural transmitters (sends thought signals—again, laymen’s explanation) called neural pathways.
The more frequently a particular thought signal is sent, the stronger the neural pathway gets.
So when my little brain repeatedly experienced a sense of danger, I grew thick-ass neural pathways that triggered the trauma button.
And as neural pathways get stronger, they develop thick walls (kind of like the plastic coating on a wire).
As the neural pathways get bigger, they become the default route of thoughts and feelings.
The brain likes to take the path of least resistance for sending signals.
So when my brain established these well-used neural pathways, it became a habit for the brain to send signals down the trauma chute.
They (whoever they are) say that “neurons that fire together, wire together.”
The more we think or feel something, the more it becomes our brains’ habit to think and feel that way.
It’s not a moral failing on your part to lose your shit when triggered.
It is a PHYSICAL condition in your brain.
You are literally WIRED that way.
Yes, young Bucky, the brain is PART OF the body.
So, gently remove the nail out of the board you’re beating yourself with and cut yourself some slack…
So, David (you may be wondering), does this mean we’re fucked and cursed to always react from a place of trauma since were “wired” that way?
Oh, good question imaginary reader!
I have a simple (not-so-simple) answer to that…
It depends… (stock psychological answer 😜)
We’re All Fucked…
Whew, I don’t know about you, but that last section hurt my brain.
Maybe not as much as the Jim Carrey gif (yes, I wanted to make you imagine that image again—just trying to shake the mental Etch-A-Sketch to help us move on to the next sciency explanation.
Speaking of hurting brains…
Here’s a concept that may blow your mind…
When you learn something new, you are literally growing new neural pathways.
Yes, your brain is PHYSICALLY changing.
That’s why it’s often uncomfortable to learn new shit.
That’s why it can also be exhausting to learn new stuff.
When you learn new things, you are using energy to physically change (grow) your brain.
This phenomenon is often called neuroplasticity.
By introducing new thought and feeling patterns (usually through consistent effort), you create new neural pathways.
And the motherfucker of this is, when you have well-established trauma highways in your fucking head (thick-ass, well-protected neural pathways), forming new thought and feeling patterns is arduously slow and difficult work.
And how do we do this work of creating neuroplasticity and minimizing the number of times we flip someone off for tailgating us?
Again, another brilliant question, curious reader!
The good news is there are many methods for forming new mental habits and changing your brain.
Without bogging you down with too much information(oops… too late 😬), I’ll tell you about some of the things I’ve tried with some success.
I have tried a few therapy models including EMDR, EFT, psychotherapy, CBT, and Somatic Experiencing Therapy.
I’ll let you research them on your own and won’t go too thick into the weeds describing these various modalities (maybe I’ll feel more motivated to re-research these and elucidate in a different post).
I will lightly touch on (that’s what she said), Somatic Experiencing because it fascinates me.
I’ve heard “our issues are in our tissues.”
In other words, trauma is often stored in parts of our body.
When feeling stressed, I use to have a tight stomach and my right shoulder hurt.
One could say I stored my trauma there.
Maybe you feel pain in your back, or jaw, or God forbid, your genitals.
It’s often linked to where you experienced the trauma.
In Somatic Experiencing, a therapist guides you through tuning into and manipulating the parts of your body where you feel trauma.
It’s not talk-therapy.
You move your body and release the stored trauma.
If you’re curious, I encourage you to watch this video and check out Dr Peter Levine’s book, Waking the Tiger.
I also cannot stress the importance of developing a mindfulness routine and finding a support community (of fellow trauma survivors) to lessen the blow of over reacting.
And, although this isn’t for everyone, I’d like to give an honorable mention to the use of psychedelics.
There is a lot of compelling research out there right now proving psychedelics used in a controlled environment with a skilled clinician can greatly reduce the effects of trauma and promote healing.
Again, I am NOT a doctor nor am I giving medical advice. I am merely sharing my own experience.
So if you decide to drop some acid and trip balls, don’t tell them I told you to.
You’ve made it this far.
And no, we didn’t tackle Winnie-the-Pooh.
Remember when facing your trauma (and yes, you need to face it, it doesn’t just go away), you’re facing YOU.
For fuck’s sake, be gentle with yourself.
It’s a rough ride…
Allow me to share a recent example of coping with trauma.
Mind you, I’ve been through a lot therapy, worked the 12 Steps in trauma support groups (for years), counseled people with trauma, studied it in school, practiced mindfulness, meditation, and affirmations (for years), exercise regularly, and have taken heroic doses of psychedelics.
Does it mean I’m cured?
I’ll probably be coping with this shit (I mean gently, of course) for the rest of my life.
However, it has gotten easier.
Last week, I faced a potential conflict with a coworker over drug use at work.
I got the idea in my head that this individual may become violent were I to confront him about violating work policy.
I felt extreme anxiety and agitation over the possibility of this conflict.
I couldn’t sleep, I was bitchy with my beloved Tricia, I obsessed furiously about the conflict, and ultimately chose to quit my job rather than face this individual.
Not really David Goggins, do hard shit stuff.
But wasn’t it?
I was fully aware at the time that it was a trauma response.
I was reacting with a disproportionate amount of terror about a potentially physical and/or aggressive altercation.
I could not WILL the feelings to go away.
So I meditated, felt the feelings, consulted with Tricia, a friend in AA, my brother, ruminated, bitched, whined, and complained.
As I said, I ultimately left the job because it seemed healthiest to leave that toxic environment.
Perhaps, I overreacted.?
At the same time, I remained mindful that I was experiencing a trauma response rooted in childhood, was gentle with myself, allowed the feelings with self-compassion, and chose to take care of myself while trying to be considerate of all affected.
I did not beat myself up for having a trauma response.
And now I am sharing this with you in the hopes it will serve you in dealing with your own episodes.
I encourage you to pay attention to your reactions to life. Educate yourself in trauma, PTSD, CPTSD, and recovery therefrom.
Fear of facing these things is normal.
Facing them will not kill you.
You will not cry forever…
But you gotta feel to heal…
Continuing to live with untreated trauma is a motherfucker. It’s hard on you and those around you.
You deserve to be happy.
And remember, you can’t do this alone.
We’re in this together.
Help is out there.
Today, you get to choose you.
Be well 😊
Thank you for tuning into another installment of how to avoid tackling Winnie-the-Pooh. Be the Pooh. Live the Tao of Pooh…
As we embrace the Pooh within (that sounds wrong), we thrive beyond mother-fucking trauma! Perhaps I should dispense with the use of mother-fucking when describing trauma in order to be more respectful of our trauma and mothers? Maybe next week…?
Be sure to follow, like, and comment on this blog. You can email me at email@example.com for tips on thriving beyond trauma. Act now while supplies last! The supplies being my brain cells, of course… 🤪
Be sure to check out the podcast Greenleaf4Life on all major platforms. We’re taking a brief hiatus between seasons one and two, but there’s plenty to listen to!
You can also check out me, Tricia, the kitties of House Panther Manor, and other random shit on Instagram and TikTok:
Thank you for reading! Have a wonderful day! 😎
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