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What to learn from a traumatic experience.

A traumatic experience is no fun. Let's state that upfront. How it effects your life will depend on how you process the experience.

All experience is processed and it is processed in you. Even though digesting the event may be hard, even very hard, understanding the process underneath it is the first step in recovery.

We like to think a golden pill will magically forget or release the event. There are a lot of trauma techniques out there. However, why would we assume that processing a traumatic experience is any different from processing any experience?

Let's take a simple example. You eat an apple. First the apple and the option to eat it appears. Second, you decide to take a bite, you taste the apple and out of that you make your experience. The apple tastes good or not so good, it ripe or not so ripe. Third you learn something from the experience. Perhaps you learn that you don't like apples or that you have a better understanding of when the apple is ripe. Fourth, you integrate your learning into your knowledge and belief systems. This is the processing of a regular experience.

Let's take an example of relative minor scale trauma. You burn your finger on the stove. Many of us have had that experience as a child. It really hurts. What's the process? First, the event itself happens. You burn your finger. Second, out of the event you make the experience of pain. Thankfully, because if you would not make the experience of pain, you'd likely lose your finger. However two people will experience that same event differently. One may stand pain better than another. One may get angry at the one leaving the stove open, the other may feel self-pity, and yet another will think it is nothing to worry about. Third, you learn something. Perhaps the idea that stoves are dangerous. Or that you are not careful. Or that the world is not a safe place. Many lessons can be learned from that experience. Hopefully you learn to simply be careful with a stove. Fourth, you choose to accept your new point of view and transform your frame of life. We could see this experience as a traumatic experience - big or small.

Now let's take the example of rape. This would be considered very traumatic - rightly so. First, the event happens. Second, you make the experience from the event. One will experience it differently than the other. Third, you learn something from it. Your conclusion about the experience. What does it tell you about you, people and the world? Fourth, whatever you decide to learn from it gets integrated into your worldview and self image. Your perspectives, conclusions and opinions may have changed. This learning may disappear from your awareness into your subconcious and guide your future behavior. Soon, you may not even remember what you have learned in that moment and how that effects your life currently.

What makes a traumatic event different from a regular experience is the effect it has on your life moving forward. The traumatic event only has relevance to the degree it is effecting your present life negatively. If it does not effect your present life in a negative way - what relevance would it have to invest time into it still? You might therefore want to start with the present moment instead of going back to the traumatic event.

A negative effect means your current experience of life is not what you want it be. Perhaps your experience is depressive, anxious, tensed, empty, restrained, lifeless, aggressive or sad. Whatever it may be - it's not what you want it to be. It doesn't not feel good.

Now you are looking for a solution to feel better - even feel great again. You are looking for the 'cause' of your negative experience. The 'cause' may or may not be the event you have in mind. Therefore, starting with the present moment ensures you follow the link to the root cause of the present negative experience you are having.

Based on the above process, what conclusion may you make about how the past events, any experiences, effect you today.

We have four steps to consider:

  1. The event

  2. The experience of the event

  3. The learning of the experience

  4. The acceptance and integration of the learning into your believe and knowledge memory.

If you are not feeling great today, you may find inspiration in the triangular perspective to find the root. Using this concept you look at your current experience from three points of view: I want, I am and I experience.

It goes like this. My current experience is or is not what I want to experience because of who I am today.

If your current experience is not what you want it to be, then you are not who you want to be.

Why would you not be who you want to be?

Let's go back to the 4 steps of experience processing. In step 4 you integrated what you learned from the experience that you made from the event. That is who you have become. Step 4 is the new I am. The traumatic event has changed you. Since your current experience is negative - what you have become is not in balance and harmony with your normal, true and authentic self. You are not yourself.

The 'solution' you are therefore looking for is a way to bring back harmony and balance - to be your normal self again. What may seem as counter intuitive is that the place to start with harmonizing yourself is to remember clearly what you want in life (I want).

For instance you may want: I am safe, I am free, I am strong, I am smart, I am beautiful, I am worthy. Likely in step 3 of the traumatic experience processing one or more of these wants have lost their balance and are in conflict and disharmony with your true self. You need to find which ones need to be harmonized. You will know this simply by feeling and listening to your intuition. When you think of 'I am worthy' - how does it feel. Follow the feeling.

Following the feeling will bring you to the relevant experiences that need re-processing and re-framing to be harmonized working in step 3 of the experience processing: re-learning. You are now moving from the I want perspective (I am worthy) to the I am perspective (your current believes about your worthiness and your learning from the experience).

How do you re-learn from that experience? This requires looking at it from all possible view points. This can be challenging. However, looking at the event as your current self - removed from the situation - may provide the distance and opening to look at it differently than when you were in the middle of it. This is the trick. Distance and opening. To step into the shoes of all those involved. To view yourself from a distance. Perhaps looking at it from this position does not lead to the conclusion of unworthiness. Every experience is 'framed' - see if you can reframe it so that your normal self isn't effected negatively.

Moving back to step 2 of the traumatic experience processing you may find blocked emotion and energy. The reframing in step 3 may release that. Or you may need some body or visual meditative work to help bring movement.

Step 1 of the experience is what it is - it will remain unchanged. Step 2, 3 and 4 are your subjective processing steps - there you have the opportunity to harmonize and re-balance.

There are two reasons to start your recovery and search process with I want. They both have to do with resonance. Resonance skips the cause-effect reality. Resonance means that two waves 'tune in' to each other. Compare the concept of resonance with a song you love. The song resonates with you - it gives you good vibes. An idea can resonate with you too - it's an idea you like or consider interesting. People can resonate with you. Resonance attracts and amplifies.

So when you put your attention on what you want, two things happen. Because you start resonating with what you want (I am worthy), the feelings, ideas and actions of worthiness enter your life. Second, all past experiences relevant to worthiness are being remembered.

When you instead direct all your attention to your traumatic experience, following the idea of resonance, what would you expect to happen? Exactly. Resonance attracts and amplifies. You start resonating with the experience of trauma and negativity. That is not the solution.

Does that mean you need to ignore the trauma. No, that's not the case. You start with I want. Because again at the end, the only reason you'd look into past experiences is because of their effect on you today - standing in the way of what you want. Therefore, bring your attention to what you want. Now resonance will bring in more of those thoughts, feelings, emotions, actions and ideas. And it will also bring in relevant memories, including those blocking you.

Once those relevant memories appear - you know the work you need to do - transform what you have learned from those experience and release the blocked emotion.

Step by step you bring harmony into what you want, who you are and what you experience. You can be your normal self again.


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