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This week we are honored to publish a guest post by Dr. Jamie Marich, Ph.D., LPCC-S, LICDC-CS, REAT, RYT-500. This is an excerpt from her forthcoming Trauma and the 12 Steps: An Inclusive Guide to Recovery (North Atlantic Books, July 2020).
The English word trauma comes from the Greek word meaning “wound.” That word, traumatikos, implies that the wound can be healed.
Think for a moment about the word wound in a physical sense. What do we know about wounds and how they heal? When I present live trainings on trauma, I ask participants this question because discussing what we know about wounds in the physical sense helps us better understand trauma in the emotional sense. Let’s examine some elementary knowledge.
Wounds come in many shapes and sizes. There are open wounds, which include incisions (such as those from knives), lacerations (tears), abrasions (grazes), punctures, penetration wounds, and gunshot wounds. Then you have closed wounds, such as contusions (bruises), hematomas (blood tumors), crush injuries, or the slowly forming chronic wounds that can develop from conditions like diabetic ulcers. Each wound has its own distinct character, and various causes can lead to the respective wounding. More importantly, different wounds can affect different people in different ways.
Most will agree that failure to receive the proper treatment after a wounding can complicate the healing process. Sure, some wounds— especially minor ones—often clear up on their own with little or no treatment. Consider the difference between a healthy person experiencing a minor scrape and a hemophiliac getting that same scrape. Treatment could be a life-or-death matter for the hemophiliac because of his condition. Most wounds require some level of treatment, even if that treatment is as simple as cleaning the wound and putting a bandage or antibacterial cream on it. Significant wounds may need sutures or stitches accompanied by a dose of precautionary antibiotics. The most severe wounds— stab or gunshot wounds—require immediate medical attention, or the sufferer risks loss of a limb in the long term (especially if infection sets in). Death can result in the worst cases. In sum, if the injured neglects requisite treatment, the wound can get worse, and this worsening can lead to other debilitating physical symptoms.
Like physical wounds, emotional traumas come in various shapes and sizes for people, resulting from a variety of causes. For some people, simple traumas can clear up on their own. For others with more complicated emotional variables (many of which can be biologically based), the healing process may take longer. If an individual who has experienced a major emotional trauma doesn’t obtain the proper conditions to heal (which can include formal mental health treatment), it likely will take longer for the trauma to heal. Other symptoms may develop in the process. A major factor when drawing parallels between physical and emotional trauma is the notion of re-wounding. It’s bad enough for a person to experience a traumatic event and not have the optimal conditions in Emotional wounding can take on an even greater degree of pain than physical wounding, because physical wounds can leave outward evidence of their impact. People can be more likely to show us sympathy in the wake of physical injury, yet fail to validate us when the wounds are unseen. I am still saddened when I hear stories of professionals minimizing a person’s trauma because they may not have had it “as bad” as someone else in the same treatment group, at least in the opinion of that insensitive professional. If an experience is traumatic for the client, then it is traumatic; it is worthy of addressing clinically. I have embraced this axiom since the very beginning of my career, and I believe that it has helped to promote positive, healing relationships with my clients. I am glad that my helpers took this approach with me, or I may have denied myself the treatment and wound care that I needed. All too often, I hear clients say, “Well, that really wasn’t a trauma, it’s not like I went to war or I was raped or anything….”
Sound like something you may have heard before?
Yes, it is a common tactic for abusers to say things like, “You don’t know how good you have it,” as a way to justify their own abusive treatment. Yet it breaks my heart when people I serve don’t believe that they have “real trauma” because of a minimizing comment they heard from a treatment professional, twelve-step sponsor, or clergy. There is a genuine need to debunk the abundant myths and outdated ideas that still exist about the nature of trauma.
Jamie Marich, Ph.D., LPCC-S, LICDC-CS, REAT, RYT-500, RMT travels internationally speaking on topics related to EMDR therapy, trauma, addiction, expressive arts and mindfulness while maintaining a private practice in her home base of Warren, OH. She is the developer of the Dancing Mindfulness approach to expressive arts therapy, the co-creator of the Yoga Unchained approach to trauma-informed yoga, and the creator of Yoga for Clinicians. She delivered a TEDx talk on trauma in 2015. Jamie is the author of EMDR Made Simple: 4 Approaches for Using EMDR with Every Client (2011), Trauma and the Twelve Steps: A Complete Guide for Recovery Enhancement (2012), Trauma Made Simple: Competencies in Assessment, Treatment, and Working with Survivors, Dancing Mindfulness: A Creative Path to Healing and Transformation (2015). In collaboration with Dr. Stephen Dansiger also wrote. EMDR Therapy and Mindfulness for Trauma Focused Care (Springer Publishing Company, November 2017). Her newest title, Process Not Perfection: Expressive Arts Solutions for Trauma Recovery, released in April 2019. North Atlantic Books is publishing a second and expanded edition of Trauma and the 12 Steps, due for release in the Summer of 2020.
This excerpt is from Trauma and the 12 Steps, Revised and Expanded by Jamie Marich, published by North AtlanticBooks, copyright © 2020. Reprinted by permission of publisher.
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