Trauma

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way                                                                                                                                                                     James 1:2-3 (The Message)

In the counseling world, and indeed much of the media, trauma and its effects have been getting a great deal of attention in recent years. Of course, we recall that after the Vietnam War, PTSD was introduced as the term that diagnostically captures the effects of trauma in soldiers returning from conflict. In earlier wars, terms such as “shell shock” and “combat fatigue” tried to describe the devastation of the horrors of conflict.

Trauma however, is ubiquitous in human life. Every one of us has faced a trauma (and often, many) in our lives. I use that term, because trauma need not be catastrophic to be called “trauma”. Trauma is any event or prolonged stress exposure that makes significant changes in our lives, and even in how our brains work. Yes, it literally changes how we think and perceive.

We must also avoid trying to gauge “how traumatic” an event is in the lives of others. Judging how “your trauma is more significant than my trauma” (or vice versa) is both futile and pointless. If someone has experienced events that they believe are traumatic, then they are traumatic events in their life.

I say all this to recognize that trauma changes our life, and typically imprints sustained memory of the events(s). How we handle that trauma is the key. How do we respond? Do we seek help for it? Do we keep it a dark secret? Do we let it define our life negatively? Do we seek potentially destructive behaviors to try to deal with it?

There are many healthy, and unhealthy, ways to respond to trauma in our life. In future blogs, I will explore some of these responses.

Prayer: Lord, give us wisdom as to how to respond to life events that can so change our world, Amen

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