Ever since we rolled into 2021, my social media feeds have been peppered with graphics regarding trauma and trauma responses. Since I don’t believe in coincidences, the Universe is probably trying to tell me something.
Which means I’ve got to journal it out…in the form of this essay. You’re welcome.
Joy and ease…
I’m really big into joy and ease, which you know if you’ve been following along for even just a little while. I believe living a life of joy and ease is the actual purpose of our human existence. This means it’s our birthright to infuse everything we do with a sense of joy and a feeling of ease – both of which are possible when we lead with compassion and generosity.
But what happens to joy and ease when we experience trauma?
If you’re anything like me, those two get stomped on like the fighter who lets his guard down and ends up curled into the fetal position, pressed tightly against the cage surrounding the octagon. Joy and ease get bloodied, bruised, and often TKO’ed in the face of trauma.
But that doesn’t mean trauma ends joy and ease. Instead, it means we need to look at how we respond to trauma so we can reconnect to our joy and ease.
What is trauma?
First, let’s be clear. I’m no expert. I haven’t studied trauma as a professional. Remember, I’m just musing here.
With that in mind, I can only speak about trauma from my personal experience. For me, it ranges from being the recipient of schoolyard bullying, the death of multiple extended family members all within a short time frame while I was young, two divorces, a bit of work bullying, assorted other incidents that felt like slaps to the face, and a pandemic.
Kind of a lot when you think about it. And yet, joy and ease has become my default.
Trauma experiences lead us to question our worth and abilities. We may shrink in on ourselves, dimming our light because the trauma causes us to believe our light isn’t worth shining. Or we may come charging out of the gate, determined, angry, and overcompensating by doing all the things, believing worth is proven by staying busy.
I’ve done both. I bet you have too.
The thing is, when we respond to trauma in these ways, trauma wins the cage match. And while I can’t speak for you, I can say for myself, I’m always rooting for joy and ease to come out on top.
Here’s how I help joy and ease win:
I start by allowing myself to get quiet. This happens in one of two ways, depending on how I’ve reacted to the trauma.
I slow myself down when I realize I’m racing around, frantic and frazzled. I stop doing all the things and give myself permission to just. sit. still. The antidote to action is stillness. I close my eyes and rest.
If I’ve caved in on myself instead, I give myself the gift of time outdoors. This lets me feel like part of the world again. The antidote to wallowing is action. I let the fresh air cleanse me.
In both instances, thoughts regarding the trauma arise. It doesn’t matter if the trauma was recent or in the distant past. Trauma has a way of re-entering the ring when you least expect it. And each round must be fought.
So I let those thoughts rise. I let tears flow. I let anger course through me. I talk it out in my mind, a mental cage match between pain and self-worth. And here’s what happens every time:
I find myself turning to compassion, generosity, and forgiveness. I face down my trauma experiences, again and again, and each time, I refuse to back down. That mental cage match conversation somehow lets me distance myself enough to see the bigger picture, to see that the one causing the trauma is just as human as I am. And as such, is connected to me. Because we’re all connected. We’re all one. My experience is your experience is her experience is the world’s experience.
I forgive myself. When I do, I automatically forgive everyone else and joy and ease receive a resurgence of energy, enough to knock trauma right out of the ring.
Before I go, I just want to reiterate these are my musings on trauma and how I’ve chosen to respond to it in my life. Your experience may be different. But please, no matter your experience, don’t let trauma win. Do what you need to do to give joy and ease the space to be victorious. You’re worth it. Really.
I’d love to know the ways you’ve chosen joy and ease over trauma. Let’s start a conversation in the comments.
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