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Thursday, March 12, 2020

TSL Pt.5: Comfortable in Crisis

One of the perhaps counter intuitive qualities those of us who have experienced trauma tend to develop is a certain level of comfort when operating in crisis. If your house is on fire and you need help getting people out, get your neighbor who has a trauma history. If you see a particularly nasty car accident and there are people calmly helping who are not first responders, the odds are they have a trauma history. It's not just that these folks are calm, it's also that they seem to know what to do. They are comfortable in chaos because they have spent significant time in chaos and coping with the fallout from chaos. They calm people down and direct them where to go with a confident authority, and this isn't an illusion. We should listen to these people in tough times because they handle these situations very well. In fact, many trauma survivors are drawn to helping roles professionally. Walk into your local hospital and you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a staff member who is a trauma survivor. If the cat's tail comes off you will hit several!

What's the problem? The problem is that it isn't healthy for anyone, especially trauma survivors,
to spend time in traumatic situations. We get triggered and our PTSD flares up, setting us back.
Really Bad Advice
We become hypervigilant, our cortisol levels increase in response to stress causing systemic inflammation. Our minds literally become our body's worst enemy. Remember, the familiar is comfortable because it is familiar, not because it is good for us! In spiritual settings, this can cause us to hang around unhealthy environments and leaders. Your pastor may remind you of your father, but if Dad was an alcoholic with rage issues you may want to consider if your pastor is the kind of fella who can help you on your spiritual journey!

As we work through our histories and seek to move forward in a healthier manner, our spirituality will be a huge part of our recovery. It's good to be aware that there may also be places in our spiritual history where trauma or its effects can hide. That's neither good nor bad, it just is. We may read or hear stories from our particular spiritual tradition that remind us of our own trauma history. Recognizing what is happening will help us to avoid being triggered in the future. Finding time and places to relax where we feel safe is always an important part of the journey!

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