Nov 14, 2022

Arrivals and Departures, Part 4: Five Questions that Every Trauma Survivor Asks

If you’re coming back from my last article — Why am I broken and how can I fix myself? - Part 2 —  welcome back to the Arrivals and Departures series!  

After we move through beliefs around being “broken” and “damaged”, clients then have space to consider these beliefs from a distance. These distortions are no longer embedded in their identity. There is some distance there. And now we can truly examine how these distorted beliefs became hard-held truths. When we begin to broach this topic, clients then ask a pretty scary and provocative question. It’s one that significantly changes their relationships, including the one they have with themselves.

At this point, clients are starting to feel the freedom of self-esteem. They are reaping the benefits of valuing themselves. They are recognizing how EASY life can be when we live from a foundation of self-worth. When choices and relationships and conversations emerge from a foundation of “I am worthy”, they are honest and smooth.

The conversations are not always easy, but they are simple because they develop from a pure truth about who you are. For example,
  • I am worthy. And therefore I request that you stop gossiping about me with our mutual friend.
  • I am worthy. And therefore I request that you make time to have a conversation about our marriage.
  • I am worthy. And therefore, I ask that my compensation reflect the market data for my qualifications.

Clients start seeing results. And they start seeing them fast. Naturally, they then begin to wonder — why haven’t I been living like this all along? How did I get so confused about who I was in the first place?

Want to learn more about Depression and Trauma: What is the Connection? Click HERE

That is when our work begins to move to the very important question: What defined my “brokenness” and who did it serve? The answer to these questions are often deeply gut wrenching — I mean that literally and figuratively. Clients guts — their stomachs, esophagus, and intestines — can have very strong reactions to these questions. Nausea, cramping, acid reflux. I have seen it all plus some.

The reason why clients’  bodies can have such strong reactions to these questions is because we have to go back to their earliest memories with caretakers. Caretakers could be parents, grandparents, foster parents, teachers, pastors, physicians.  Many adults believe that they are free from caretakers when they move out of their home. And, in some senses that is true. Often, they then become primary caretakers for others. However, adults do have caretakers, but they are often not identified as such. And as we get older, caretakers become romantic partners, employers, landlords — these people are more removed from our immediate safety than the caretakers in childhood, but they are still responsible, in part, for our safety.

For example, let’s take a landlord. A landlord is a caretaker for housing. They are responsible for ensuring their tenants have a safe place to live. When landlords abuse their power, they are neglecting their role as caretakers for their tenants.  A caretaker is anyone who is responsible for keeping another person in their care safe. I want to make sure this point is relayed we can experience trauma from caretakers across the lifespan, beginning in utero with our parent and culminating at the end of life with healthcare staff and family support.

Defining your caretakers and learning how to look at how they protected you and failed to protect you is an important step in the therapy process. Want to see how some of my clients did that work? Check out the next article in the Arrivals and Departures series!

If you want to talk to a licensed therapist, click HERE to learn more about Dr. Cammy