Trauma often gets in the way of a happy life. Psychiatrist and trauma specialist Bessel van der Kolk spoke extensively in Zomergasten about processing a trauma. A big misconception is that a trauma must be a very big thing and that only a few people experience a trauma in their life. It is not so. Many people experience something in their lives that is traumatic for them.
Recognize a trauma
You often only process a trauma when you recognize it as a trauma. Often a trauma is more insidious and seeps out of you insidiously, if you get triggers from your environment. A trauma is a kind of old pain. You recognize old pain the moment you react more intensely to a situation than you could expect from the situation. Then you not only react to the situation, but the situation is something that reminds you of the past. Something that hurts you. In the event of a trauma, the reaction is really intense or you suddenly shoot into an ice-cold apathetic mode in which no one can touch you. Just not you yourself anymore. You are out of connection, with yourself and with others.
To process trauma
You process a trauma on different levels. Talking helps some people, others benefit from EMDR and still others get a lot of healing from doing family constellations. An important point with trauma is that it is stored in your body. That is why EMDR and especially family constellations are very healing.
When a trauma has been processed, you are no longer reliving when you talk about it. Instead, you learn to talk about it from a distance. It’s a memory. However, if someone talks about something with a distance, it is not immediately a sign that something has been processed. It is also possible that someone has closed themselves off from the emotions and is not feeling at all at that moment.
Which is a signal that someone no longer reacts extra violently to triggers. Only it is not always clear what the triggers are. So it sometimes takes time before you realize that something has been processed.
Converting a trauma is a great strength. If someone who was triggered by a criminal parent later starts looking for a criminal justice vacancy, it could be a form of converted trauma. This way the energy of the trauma gets a different (positive) direction.