New Year, New You, New Mindset, New Chapter
What does the New Year mean for you? Is it about a fresh start or is it just another day? If you’re one that has experienced trauma in your life past or present, the New Year can be that one glimpse of hope for recovery. Personally, I believe that the beginning of a new year is an opportunity to make some life changes for the good. You ultimately have the power to write the story of the life you want to live. Therefore, if we look at the New Year as a new chapter in our lives, we can then choose how to write that chapter.
Trauma can be complex, that’s for sure, but we can learn to look at it with a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset. It’s not easy but it’s possible! One way to do this is through a trauma narrative, which is a form of exposure therapy that allows trauma survivors to challenge, confront, and overcome their agonizing memories, flashbacks, nightmares or re-experiencing symptoms of a traumatic event or situation through storytelling. A trauma narrative is a technique that therapists may use to help process trauma with clients, which helps them make sense of their experiences along with encouraging them to take back control over their lives through taking control over their mindset.
Naturally, people that have experienced trauma tend to want to avoid these memories or any triggers of the experience because it’s easier than enduring the pain. However, what most people don’t realize is that avoidance may lead to short term relief but ultimately leads to long-term growth of symptoms. When we push away difficult emotions, it only takes away energy and doesn’t actually go anywhere. Avoidance of trauma symptoms can lead to them being even more painful since some triggers may be impossible to avoid. During exposure type therapies, clients are gradually confronted with trauma reminders in a safe environment. The more exposure there is, the less emotional power trauma has over us.
How does the trauma narrative work?
Psychoeducation: The first step in making any type of change is building awareness. We can’t change anything we’re not aware of, therefore, learning about and understanding what trauma is, what symptoms you are experiencing, the importance of treating trauma, and how therapy may benefit is a critical first step. It’s absolutely normal to feel uncomfortable, anxious, or scared when discussing trauma but during therapy, you will never be forced or pushed too far beyond your limits and if it ever feels too bad, you are always free to pause.
Creating the First Narrative: The next step is the first retelling of your trauma story, however, it is based solely on facts only. It helps to write it down focusing on who, what, when, and where the traumatic experience occurred. It can be very difficult to get started, in which case, you may want to break it up into what happened before, during, and after the trauma. It is also very normal for re-experiencing symptoms and difficult emotions to arise during the writing, however, you are always welcome to take breaks. It’s good to know some mindfulness and grounding skills that you can utilize during this process so that it doesn’t become too overwhelming.
Creating the Second Narrative: After writing about the facts of your trauma, it’s time to revise and add more detail. Go back and add information about the thoughts and feelings you experienced during the traumatic experience. Again, this may be difficult but try using your five senses to ground yourself or self-affirmations to reassure yourself that you are safe.
Challenging thoughts: After some time and multiple story sharing, it typically gets easier to discuss and you feel more comfortable going deeper as the emotional reactions to the trauma start to diminish. During this step, you may learn some cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques such as identify, challenging, and modifying or reframing your thoughts. This requires self-awareness and insight in order to challenge your mindset and perspectives during the trauma and come up with a new mindset and perspective currently. This is the step that will allow you to move forward rather than feeling stuck or in standstill mode. Now, you may feel empowered to take back control and power over your life that the trauma has taken from you as you realize that you may not have any control over what happened to but you have control over your reaction and the perspective you take on the situation.
New Narrative or New Chapter: Now it’s time for some closure. After practicing challenging thoughts and re-reading your trauma narrative, it’s time for one final revision. Take a look at the narrative you have written and utilize your challenging techniques to confront any irrational thoughts that you identified during the experience. This will help you take a whole new perspective on the experience that opens the door for post-traumatic growth. You can choose to re-write the narrative with your new thoughts and feelings in place, write a letter to the abuser without sending it (if your trauma involved abuse) or write a final ending or chapter to the narrative as to how differently you feel now as opposed to when the trauma was occurring.
Ultimately, we have no control over what life throws at us this upcoming New Year but we do have control over our reactions to it, our perspective we take in association, and how we choose to maneuver in order to thrive and grow. This is your opportunity to finally change your mindset and start writing your new life chapter. So what will your story entail?
If you need some guidance in making life changes, whether trauma is involved or not, we are here to help! Please contact Life Enhancement Counseling Services today at 407-443-8862 to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced Orlando mental health counselors. We are here to support and help you live the life you want and deserve to live.