A therapist shares how to heal trauma in order to build self-confidence.
When we experience trauma, it can have a profound effect on our lives. We may feel like we're not good enough, that we don't deserve happiness, or that we're not worthy of love. This can lead to a loss of self-confidence and a feeling of isolation. It's important to remember that trauma is not a reflection of our worth as individuals. It's something that happens to us, and it doesn't have to define us. Clinical social worker and Psychotherapist Caroline Browne of Kente Therapy Space shares that “we have to recognize that healing from trauma takes place in the body, meaning the human brain's pathways; the central nervous system is working to keep you safe from danger and attack. The traumatic experience may impact your mind, body, and self-esteem, but you are not a failure". There are things we can do to heal the trauma we've experienced. By working through the pain, we can begin to rebuild our self-confidence and sense of worth. We can find our way back to a place of strength and hope.
Understanding how trauma affects our self-confidence and why it is important to combat those negative feelings is critical to face in order to begin healing. Peter Levine, Author of Walking The Tiger - Healing Trauma describes that "Trauma is not what happens to us, but what we hold inside in the absence of an empathetic witness." When we experience something traumatic, we tend to bottle up our emotions and keep them inside. This can lead to a feeling of isolation, as well as a loss of self-confidence. Caroline shares that "In our environments, we sometimes live in places where violence, pain, and suffering are somewhat normalized. We receive mixed messages to never complain, let anyone see the extent of the pain, and to keep on keeping on. Finding a safe support system to process experiences to affirm yourself is often the first step in learning you're not alone. Often the victim is blamed for the traumatic situation and criticized for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The development of self-doubt, self-loathing, and blame can turn into ANTS - Automatic Negative Thoughts - ANTS leads to negative feelings and not the best outcomes. Learning how to express our suppressed emotions safely helps to discover new pathways to heal, regain hope, connection, self-awareness, support self-confidence, emotional well-being, and recovery." So how can you begin the healing process? Caroline shares the following:
Start with kindness and self-compassion for the very fact that you survived
When it comes to healing from trauma, kindness and self-compassion are two of the most important things you can give yourself. It's easy to be hard on yourself when you've been through something tough, but it's important to remember that you survived for a reason. Beating yourself up will only make the healing process more difficult. Instead, try to focus on the positive things in your life and learn to be kind to yourself. Give yourself time to heal and don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Start with the understanding that you are not responsible for the trauma. You did not ask for it, deserve it, or could have prevented it and It's not your fault. Acknowledge that something happened to you that was out of your control. Remember, to see yourself not as a victim but as a survivor.
Take the time to breathe
Breathe deeply for 5 seconds. Hold your breath for 5 seconds, and so on 5-4-3-2-1. Repeat until you start to feel a sense of calm. You might not think that something as simple as breathing could help with trauma, but breathwork is actually a powerful tool for healing. When we experience trauma, our bodies go into survival mode, characterized by shallow, rapid breathing. This can lead to feelings of anxiety and panic, as well as physical symptoms like chest tightness and headaches. Breathwork helps to calm the nervous system and break the stress response cycle. It also increases oxygen flow to the brain, which can help to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. In addition, breathwork gives us a chance to focus on the present moment, which can be very grounding for people who have experienced trauma. If you're looking for a way to ease your trauma symptoms, breathwork may be worth a try.
Use the 5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Technique
If you're feeling overwhelmed or disconnected from the present moment, consider trying the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding technique. This simple exercise can help to center and focus you, providing a much-needed sense of calm. Here's how it works: Start by taking five deep breaths, in through the nose and out through the mouth. As you exhale, imagine all of your stress and anxiety leaving your body. Next, take a look around you and name four things that you can see. Try to really notice the details of each object - its color, texture, shape, etc. Now, put your attention on three things that you can touch. Again, try to notice the specifics of each sensation - is it rough or smooth? Soft or hard? Hot or cold? Next, tune into two things that you can smell. Really take the time to savor each scent - what does it remind you of? What does it make you feel? Finally, pick one thing to focus on that you can taste. Whether it's a piece of candy or a sip of coffee, savor the flavor and pay attention to how it makes your mouth feel. By the end of this exercise, you should feel more present and grounded in your body. If you're still feeling stressed, repeat the exercise as needed until you find relief.
Surround yourself with support. Learn to use "I" statements to express and identify your feelings
It's important to find people you can trust - whether it's a friend, family member, therapist, or support group. These people can help you to feel understood and supported as you heal. It's also important to learn how to express your emotions in a healthy way by using "I" statements. I statements can also be helpful in everyday interactions, as they can help you to communicate your needs and boundaries. These are simple phrases that help us to identify our feelings in a specific situation. For example, "I feel scared when I'm in large crowds" or "I feel sad when I think about my childhood." By using I statements, we can begin to understand our emotions and start the process of healing.
Know that you are doing your best, and your best will look different from one day to the next
Doing your best can be a tricky thing to navigate. Some days, it may look like getting out of bed and facing the world. Other days, it might mean staying in bed and taking a break. The important thing is that you are being true to yourself and your needs. Trust your instincts and do what feels right for you in the moment. There is no single definition of "doing your best." What works for you on one day might not work on another. And that's okay. The most important thing is to be mindful of how you're feeling and make choices based on what will serve you best in the moment. So don't stress about it - just do what feels right in the moment, and trust that you're always doing your best.
Carry a transitional object, something special that brings you comfort
The physical act of carrying a transitional object can help to remind the individual of their strength and resilience. The object can also serve as a symbol of hope and a reminder that the individual is not alone in their healing journey. The transitional object can be anything that brings comfort, such as a beaded bracelet, a photograph of a pet or loved one. It is important to choose an object that is small enough to carry with you, so that you can have it with you when you need it most. When carrying your transitional object, take care of it and treat it with respect. This will help to reflect your own self-care and respect for your healing journey.
If you find it challenging to say "No," try saying "Not right now."
If you've ever found yourself in the position of being unable to say no, don't worry - you're not alone. In fact, it's a pretty common problem. In fact, it can be empowering to know that you have the ability to set boundaries and make choices that are best for you. Using the phrase "Not right now" is a great way to set boundaries without shutting someone out completely. It gives you the power to choose what you do and don't want to do, without feeling guilty or like you're being rude. So next time you're feeling overwhelmed, try saying "Not right now" and see how it feels. You might be surprised at how empowering it can be.
Remember to praise, and reward yourself for taking steps forward.
We all know the feeling of finally taking a step forward after what feels like an eternity of being stuck. It's a great feeling, and one that should be celebrated. After all, you deserve it. But how exactly do you go about praising and rewarding yourself?
Step 1: Give yourself a pat on the back (literally or figuratively). This is an essential part of the process, as it helps to validate your effort and reminds you that you are worthy of praise.
Step 2: Choose a reward that truly speaks to you. It could be something as simple as buying yourself a new book or taking yourself on a special date. The important thing is that the reward makes you feel good.
Step 3: Take a moment to reflect on your progress. This is a crucial step, as it allows you to see how far you've come and sets the stage for continued healing. Remember, every step forward counts!
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to healing after trauma. However, there are some things that can help to build self-confidence and promote healing. These include doing your best, carrying a transitional object, setting boundaries, and praising and rewarding yourself for taking steps forward. By using these tips, you can begin to rebuild your self-confidence and move forward on your healing journey.