For centuries, we’ve been taught that being traumatized means we are somehow broken―and that trauma only happens to people who are too fragile or flawed to deal with hardship. But as a researcher, teacher, and survivor, Dr. MaryCatherine McDonald has learned that the only thing broken is our society’s understanding of trauma. “The body’s trauma response is designed to save our lives―and it does,” she says. “It’s not a sign of weakness, but of our function, strength, and amazing resilience.”
Recently, I found myself in a full-on trauma response. I was presented with some familial information that was completely triggering to my whole person, inner child, and inner advocate for myself and my daughter. Initially my reaction was of fight, verbally accessing memories and pleading my case, but what was interesting enough was how shortly thereafter I turned to “fawn” the people pleasing response where we become what we think others want of us to survive the situation we’re in. Women especially do this. The following day looked like complete freeze and flight. I wanted to either lay in bed and crawl under the blankets as I processed this information or fly away somewhere to never be seen, discovered, or harmed again.
Thank god I’ve done work on myself. I phoned in the trauma troops. 24 hours after the triggering event itself I had a trauma expert on zoom and we were unpacking what was going on with me. She commended my awareness and the amount of work I’ve done on myself. She also reminded me of the power of choice. Of course, I know these things, but when we’re in our limbic brain that is triggered and attached to our stuff, we can’t always access our prefrontal cortex, which is where a coach or therapist is such a profound gift. The opposite of trauma is choice. I have choice, agency, autonomy and the ability to observe my nervous system and its full on trauma response, the inner critical voices that were having a field day and do what is best for me and my daughter. Because it's not personal, its necessary.
When you’re a trauma survivor your path to healing can look a lot like strengthening your relationship container with yourself, so your inner child knows you have her back, that she doesn’t have to tolerate and put up with the things she once did when she was in survival mode and limited in her choices. Having your…