Nov 1, 2022

Arrivals and Departures, Part 8: Five Questions that Every Trauma Survivor Asks

If you’re coming back from my last article — How do I choose to self-define? Part 2—  welcome back to the Arrivals and Departures series!

At this point in the therapy process, clients are working from a secure base of self-worth and inherent value. We’ve moved through the negative core beliefs that emerged following trauma — I’m not good enough, I’m worthless, I’m unlovable — and we’ve come back to baseline. We chipped away until we got to the foundation.

And the next question is — Who is the person I want to be? Who is the person I’ve always been and never had the opportunity to embody?

We did the hard work of rehashing the highs and lows of life to really identify the conditions that bring out your absolute best self.  And now we’re ready for the next step that ties it all together. Clients are beyond ready to put it all into action at this point — and the next question they ask is the catalyst for that step. This next step is evidence that recovery is possible. Keep on watching to hear the question that puts all of the hard work into practice.

This is the time in therapy when clients are ready to put their words into action. And, by following the Trauma Transformation System, we’ve avoided one of the most common mistakes that people make in behavior change. What is that mistake? So, the mistake that most people make when they go ahead and try to change a behavior is that they don’t first change their identity.  

You can see this difference everywhere, but its so subtle it’s difficult to pick-up. Let me give you a couple of examples.

Have you noticed how vegetarians reject offers for meat?    

They don’t say — “No thanks, not today.” They don’t say — “I don’t enjoy chicken that much.” No. Across the board they say — “No, I am a vegetarian.”

Same goes for smoking. When someone offers a non-smoker a cigarette, that person says, without fail — “I am not a smoker.” They don’t say — “No thanks, I don’t like menthol cigarettes.” They don’t say — “Not right now”  

They say with undoubted certainty — “I AM not a smoker.”

The I AM is the differentiating factor here, my friends. We have to shift our identity before we can change our behaviors. That’s why the first half of my Trauma Transformation System centers identity-based healing and change. When a client’s identity is transformed to align with their values, they are then very quick to ask and act on the question: How can I fulfill my highest aspirations?

The HOW is no longer a question about identity. That’s been contented with. The how speaks to the process of change, or, the behavioral mechanisms of change. This question focuses on the small and consistent behavior changes that we have to make in order to convert the vision of ourselves into reality.

Let’s get back to Daisy for a moment, the client that I talked about in the previous article.

Daisy did a phenomenal job in EMDR, deconstructing aspects of her identity that emerged from her traumatic childhood experiences. She uncovered her negative core beliefs, which included “I’m not safe” and “I’m not enough”. After very diligent and pointed mind-body therapy, Daisy transformed these beliefs in her mind and body. She now lived with the core beliefs — “I can handle anything” and “I am enough”.

From that identity, Daisy started to reconsider the structure of her days. She started spending more time in nature. At first, this was short walks after work. During those walks, she tracked her body. Measured her pulse, felt the openness of her chest and throat. She checked-in with the spiritual parts of herself. Daisy tapped into her emotions. These walks in nature were small experiments. They were tests to determine if this behavior change aligned with her values and life vision. In fact, it did. Daisy felt more grounded and at ease than every before, but particularly when she was walking in nature. Daisy prioritized more and more time for walks in nature. Soon, she was working remotely to allow greater flexibility for hiking and traveling.

Want to learn more about Five Questions that Every Trauma Survivor Asks? Click HERE

Daisy continued these tests in other areas of her life. She began tracking her mind, body, and spirit when she was with friends and family. She started spending less time with people who challenged her blossoming identity and more time with people who supported who she was becoming. Daisy also had a value of “balance”. Therefore, it was important to her to maintain long-term relationships, even if they caused her some distress. So, Daisy changed the ways in which she interacted with certain people and worked to create space in those relationships for her new way of being.

Daisy continued to make small changes in her life until…it looked completely different! And she was finally the person she and others never allowed her to be.

Daisy moved from a highrise building in a major city to one of the most rural parts of the country. She runs a farm and operates a general store. Daisy has never been happier. And, she trusts that if this way of life stops working for her, she will adapt once again. Daisy made small changes for years and eventually those small changes accumulated into a different life and a different Daisy altogether.

When clients experience congruence in their daily life — behaviors, partnerships, friendships, career, parenting — and they have a vision for their future that also aligns — peace is available each and every moment.  From that platform of congruence, a truly remarkable and final question punctuates the therapy relationship. To hear that question, 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