Surviving trauma is complicated by the way our minds and bodies respond to overwhelming, threatening events. A traumatic event does not feel “over” because we are left with a “living legacy” of trauma responses that reactivate trauma-related responses, feelings, and body memories. Worse yet, the “living legacy” of trauma consists of an array of symptoms and difficulties not easily recognizable as trauma related. Each represents a way that the mind and body adapted to daily threat and danger, to being trapped, to being too young or too powerless—or a way that the mind and body adapted to manage all the feelings and body responses. However, the living legacy doesn’t feel like memory nor is it experienced as a past event. It takes knowledge and practice to differentiate a feeling or body memory from a situational reaction in the present.
We must help clients remember that a traumatic event is just an event, no matter how horrific. If these events felt part of a long-ago past, survivors would not feel haunted or damaged by them. But because the trauma-related reactions are constantly being triggered and re-evoked by ordinary life, the legacy of trauma is kept “alive” long after the events are over.
In short, traumatic effects are not something your clients asked for or can control, but helping them to understand their emotions, symptoms, and behaviors will help them live more comfortably in their own skin. You can divide a roadmap to trauma recovery into six sections: 1) Recognize the effects of trauma, 2) Develop recovery skills, 3) Challenge trauma-related beliefs, 4) Navigate emotional and physical pain, 5) Cultivate healthy relationships, and 6) Overcome challenges to recovery.
My new Living Legacy of Trauma Card Deck
can be a friend and mentor to your clients on their journey to trauma recovery. Each section includes an array of exercises and reminders for clients struggling with trauma-related reactions. And you can download an example from each section right now to get started on your clients’ healing journey! Click here to download 6 practices from the Living Legacy of Trauma Card Deck