Trauma-Healing

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Image Description: A list from Souldipity Coaching. Gray background, black text. The text is written out below in the post.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve been living a time of collective trauma. In the midst of it, it may be helpful to hear this again and repeat it to ourselves; we need reminders to be gentle with ourselves and one another.

These things are true as well:
-It’s okay to be upset and in a place of need in our lives.
-It’s okay to feel confused and unsure of what to do about it.
-It’s okay (and good, even if it doesn’t feel easy) to seek help for trauma, pain, or difficulty.

For the sake of our own health, that of our family, and that of our community, I think this is a good time to learn more about trauma — not only because of this collective one we’re facing, but also, because some of us have been carrying and processing previous traumas for a good while now. Or we may feel stuck in physical trauma reactions without knowing that’s what’s happening inside our nervous systems. This is particularly true if we are cycling through these physical fight, flight, freeze, or fawn reactions, but are not quite aware of a single event or storyline to point to as their cause. (<— Helpful link there)

I really appreciated this image that I placed at the top of today’s post. It’s a list from Souldipity Coaching. I offer it as encouragement, particularly if we want to celebrate the ways we have already healed. It reads,

Signs you are healing from trauma

-You are aware of your triggers and patterns
-You are not as easily and intensely triggered
-Quicker return to your normal state after you’ve gone into fight/flight/freeze
-Your emotional intelligence has improved
-Feelings of powerlessness and helplessness change into confidence, worthiness and inner strength
-Selfsabotage, shame, and guilt are diminishing
-Feelings of being stuck turn into realisation that taking a step forward is possible

That’s encouraging, isn’t it? And if you read this and think, “I’m not there yet…” I still want to offer that encouragement. We’re always in process, and these things can become true for us:

You can become aware of your triggers and patterns
You can learn how to regulate your nervous system so it’s not so easily and intensely triggered
You can have quicker return to your normal state after you’ve gone into fight/flight/freeze/fawn
You can grow in your emotional intelligence
You can change your powerlessness and helplessness into confidence, worthiness and inner strength
You can diminish self sabotage, shame, and guilt
You can shift your feelings of being stuck and realize that a step forward is possible

Therapy is crucial for healing trauma. If you can, please seek it out.

Community is crucial for healing trauma (it can’t stand in for a therapist, but it’s also just as important). If you can, please seek this out.

Our best inner resources are crucial for healing trauma, and we all have them. If you can, please activate them. And remember, you don’t have to do this all by yourself or by your own strength alone.

Opportunities to check in with each other are crucial during times of collective trauma. It’s good to check in personally with loved ones and invite others to check in with us. I hope you hear that intention in this post too. If you need someone to talk to, I will listen.

Renee Roederer

Do You Have Trauma Brain? (Show Yourself Kindness)


Today, I’d like to share this video from Dr. Nicole LePera, who goes by The Holistic Psychologist on social media. I highly recommend her Facebook and Instagram accounts as well as her YouTube Channel.

She asks, “Do you have trauma brain?” Here are some signs she mentions:

1) Obsessive desire to be chosen by others without any awareness about how you and your body feel about the connection

2) Chronic social anxiety

3) Need for consistent distraction

4) Ego states of self-judgment and comparison

5) Lack of trust that leads to procrastination, self-sabotage, and shame cycles

If you notice any connections or resonance with these, be kind to yourself, know you’re not alone, and know that you can find help for these.

Captions are available when viewing from YouTube.

The Deeper Healing

May be an image of text that says 'WHAT WE THINK HEALING WILL LOOK LIKE: Meditating Peacefully WHAT HEALING ACTUALLY LOOKS LIKE: Unpacking Trauma Having Difficult Conversations Setting & Enforcing Boundaries Taking Radical Responsibility For Your Actions By @heidipriebe Implementing Healthy Routines'
Image Description: The top says, “What we think healing will look like,” and the bottom has a pie graph with various responses to “What healing actually looks like.” This image is by @heidipriebe. Text in full below.

Healing is… not always easy. But it’s deeper and fuller than coasting or living in a conflicted way. Maybe there are rifts we need mend in our relationships. Maybe we need to stand up for ourselves. Maybe we need to be kinder to ourselves. Maybe we need to apologize.

Healing often requires risk and vulnerability.

So I like this image from @heidipriebe.

The top says,

“What we think healing looks like”

There’s a solid, light blue circle filled in full with the response,

— Meditating peacefully

Then below, there’s a pie graph with a deeper and fuller list.

“What healing actually looks like”

— Unpacking Trauma
— Having Difficult Conversations
— Taking Radical Responsibility for Your Actions
— Implementing Healthy Routines
— Setting & Enforcing Boundaries

What does this evoke in each of us?

During a recent Zoom worship service, someone mentioned one of Jesus’ teachings from the Sermon on the Mount that I haven’t thought about in a while — the portion about the speck in your brother’s eye and the log in your own? I think that probably landed in a really humorous way in its original context because it’s so preposterous. I once heard a translation that said, “How can you get the sawdust out of your brother’s eye when you have a telephone pole in your own? First take the telephone pole out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the sawdust out of your brother’s eye.”

It made me laugh. I just imagine someone knocking others over with their telephone pole while they try to analyze and pick at others. Ouch, but also very cartoon-y. It’s a silly image about a very true experience.

We all have our work to do. Let’s choose the deeper healing.

Renee Roederer

The Memorial

Image Description: A brochure reads, “Black Lives Matter Memorial” and “We Must Never Forget…”

Over the weekend, I took a walk through an Ann Arbor neighborhood, and as I was walking down a particular street, I noticed that one yard in the distance was filled with crosses. These crosses — about 50 of them — emerged from the ground. I walked toward the house, curious to see what they were commemorating. As I neared them, I saw many names — about 50 of them — Most were names of Black people who had been killed by police, and some were Black people killed in recent, modern day lynchings.

I recognized most of these names because they had all been in the news over the last few years. Among them, I saw the name Ahmaud Arbury. He had been moving through a neighborhood too, just running, as I was now moving through a neighborhood on foot. I do not face these dangers though, simply for being, as he did. His full humanity went unrecognized in the presence of white people who decided he was a threat.

I learned that these crosses were entitled, “Black Lives Matter Memorial.” Those passing by could also pick up a brochure, and upon opening it, I saw that each name included a couple sentences about their age, what they cared about, how they died, and the date of their unjust death. All of these moments were named in print, though off of the page, they were experienced in ways that were embodied and devastating. These were cascading situations of injustice in which so many lives were abruptly ended, people simply going about their day only to be pulled over, or accused suddenly, or viewed as a threat while moving through a neighborhood.

I learned that the creator of this memorial is named John Thorne. Active in the community and in the Archdiocese of Detroit, he designed these crosses, also with the help of his son and his friends Elesia Green and Albert Strickland. The brochure reads, “Each handmade cross was made with love, to give dignity to each that was denied it while they lived.”

And —
Here we are once more.

Within the timespan of the trial of Derek Chauvin in Minnesota, police have now killed Daunte Wright in Minnesota, just 20 years old, beloved by his family and friends, a fully human person of worth who is particularly loved.

Why? A police officer pulled him over for a traffic stop due to where his car air freshener was placed.

We know that’s not why, and we know that shouldn’t end in death.

We know it.

As I read in an astute and gutting tweet this morning, white mass murderers are often safer than Black people who are pulled over during traffic stops. That is jolting, though not surprising. White mass shooters are taken alive into custody, revealing it is possible to apprehend people without killing them. Meanwhile, there’s a whole memorial of crosses in my town to honor the lives of Black people pulled to the side of the road by police.

Black Lives Matter.

This whole country socializes us to believe the opposite. Racism is a great evil, and the ideology and violence of white supremacy is around us. It’s also within us. It can seem subtle within us — just a sudden thought, or a bias unnoticed — but that isn’t subtle. It all leads to dehumanization, discrimination, or as I noticed within myself yesterday, some detachment from feeling the weight the weight of Daunte Wright’s death because I don’t have to protect myself from a similar outcome.

Black Lives Matter.

Daunte Wright’s Life Matters.

Black Lives Matter.

Renee Roederer

COVID and the Four Fs of Post-Traumatic Experience

4 Fs.jpg
Image Description: This image shares the four primary nervous system responses to trauma — fight, flight, freeze, and fawn — as well as symptoms for each and ways they are commonly mislabeled. I am sharing the image text throughout the blog post below. I found this image on @SELSpace on Facebook.

As we continue to process the time of upheaval we’ve experienced during a pandemic, this is an important time to learn about trauma and the responses that our nervous systems often take in response. When we’re feeling overwhelmed, we can move into states of fight, flight, freeze, or fawn. We might also vacillate between a couple of these.

In addition to these becoming activated due to present circumstances,

— some people have endured past traumas as well, and these can become reactivated in our nervous systems in these ways,

and/or

— some people have lived with dysregulated nervous systems throughout much their lives, not necessarily remembering large, traumatic events in childhood, but rather, growing up in households that felt stressful and overwhelming in a generalized way. In these households, it was difficult to have needs cared for and nurtured, or caregivers may have also had dysregulated nervous systems, making it difficult to co-regulate alongside them.

In both of these instances, people may live with symptoms of PTSD or CPTSD (the C stands for complex and means that the traumatic events or environment was long-lasting).

In a moment, I’m going to list symptoms of the 4F pathways of trauma. You may recognize some of these in yourself or your loved ones. Please know that these don’t have to remain stuck or static in the body, and we don’t have to stay stuck or static in these patterns. There is help. Therapy certainly helps, and it’s good to seek that help. In fact, it can be transformative. There are a variety of somatic therapies that help to heal our bodies and these patterns. (As just one example, I’m a big cheerleader for EMDR. Check it out.)

These are the 4Fs of trauma and PTSD. Which pathways tend to be primary for you? I am typing out the text of the image above.

Fight

  • ‘Self-preservation’ at all costs
  • Explosive temper and outbursts
  • Aggressive, angry behavior
  • Controls others
  • Bully
  • Can’t ‘hear’ other points of view
  • A pronounced sense of entitlement
  • Demands perfection from others
  • Dictatorial tendencies

Typically mis-labelled as
– Narcissist
– Sociopath
– Conduct disorder

Flight

  • Obsessive and/or compulsive behavior
  • Feelings of panic and anxiety
  • Rushing around
  • Over-worrying
  • Workaholic
  • Can’t sit still, can’t relax
  • Tries to micromanage situations and other people
  • Always ‘on the go;’ busy doing things
  • Wants things to be perfect
  • Over-achiever

Typically mis-labelled as
– OCD
– Bipolar
– ADHD
– Panic disorder
– Mood Disorder

Freeze

  • Spacing out
  • Feeling unreal
  • Hibernating
  • Isolating self from the outside world
  • Couch potato
  • Dissociates
  • Brain Fog
  • Difficulties making decisions, acting on decisions
  • Achievement-phobic
  • Wants to hide from the world
  • Feels ‘dead,’ lifeless

Typically mis-labelled as
– Clinical depression
– Schizophrenia
– ADD
– OCD

Fawn

  • People pleasing
  • Scared to say what they really think
  • Talks about ‘the other’ instead of themselves
  • Flatters others (to avoid conflict)
  • ‘Angel of mercy’
  • Over-caring
  • Sucker
  • Can’t stand up for the self, say ‘no’
  • Easily exploited by others
  • Hugely concerned with social standing and acceptance, ‘fitting in’
  • ‘Yes’ man (or woman…)

Typically mis-labelled as
– Codependent
– ‘Victim’

Do you recognize these patterns in yourself or your loved ones? They are natural and do truly discharge traumatic energy. Our bodies have them because we need them as protection at times. But we don’t want to become stuck in them. That causes larger problems for us. These patterns may spin out, causing us pain, and impacting our relationships.

But we can heal these patterns, and we can do the work of healing the systems that cause so much trauma in the first place. I love how the word ‘heal’ is both passive and active at once. We receive healing and cultivate it over time, and we can act as healers for a world with less trauma.

Renee Roederer

Recognition

Two hands holding each other strongly Premium Vector
Two hands holding each other strongly. Public domain.

This poem was commissioned by Northminster Presbyterian Church in Endwell, New York.

When Jesus stood in front of Thomas
to present his wounded hands and side,
I wonder,
Did Thomas quickly move his gaze
from the marks of trauma
to look straight into Jesus’ eyes?

Did he hold the hand of God,
marked,
nailed,
disabled, fully human, alive,
and look straight into the eyes of Love?

How much recognition could one eye-to-eye gaze hold?
How much memory?
How much time?

As they looked at one another,
in only an instant,
I wonder,
Did the whole story flash into recognition?

Did he see Galilee once more?
Did he see Love anew?

Did he glimpse his own suffering? —
stories we’ve never heard before —
Thomas, struggling,
Thomas, wounded,
Thomas, undone,
yet
in this moment,
made whole,
knowing that resurrection holds
pain,
grief,
trauma,
disability,
and even death,

That God holds humanity,
all of it,
Fully Alive,
With Us,
One of Us.

Renee Roederer

Keep the Renewable Resource Callings Going

candles
Image Description: Tea light candles arranged in an S pattern.

Have you felt depleted lately?

I’ve had some moments like that over the last few months. Fortunately, it’s just been a few days here and there rather than a sustained season, but when those days have come, they have really come. Meanwhile, I know that some among us carry a sense of depletion that feels more sustained, and there are deep longings for greater energy. Wherever we find ourselves, I’d say, what is. . . simply is. No judgment, and we can give ourselves a lot of grace.

I especially ponder this when I consider all the movement work that is happening within us and around us. As we know quite well, there’s always more to do than any one of us can do alone. The size of it all can feel pretty daunting. Fortunately, we do actually have each other, and we bring different pieces to the work.

In the midst of that, this is pretty crucial: We need to keep the renewable resource callings going.

What I mean is that we all have callings — tasks, endeavors, activities, visions, and rhythms — that uniquely energize us even as we give them energy. As much as we give them energy, we receive energy back. They’re like renewable resources for us.

With so much need, we might forget to prioritize them. We might sacrifice them because we sacrifice our own self-care. But we need self-care. And. . . at the very same time, we should never underestimate how helpful these renewable resource callings can be to our movements and communities. They come so naturally and fill us so much that they might not seem like work. But they would be taxing work to someone else. It’s helpful to keep these callings precisely at the core of our work because they are uniquely alive in us.

And our movements and communities absolutely need our aliveness.

Sometimes, we have to do what we have to do, and that includes tasks that drain us. Some even add risk to us. But there are renewable resource callings too. They enrich us and our communities.

What are yours?

Renee Roederer

Finding the Intersection of Calling

Image Description: A busy street intersection with crosswalks, street lights, buildings, and pedestrians.

I find Frederick Buechner to be an especially quotable author. He just has so many good things to say, and over the years, I’ve passed on a lot of his words to people. In particular, I’ve shared this quote with a lot of college students who are doing vocational discernment:

The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

Whatever our age, we’re continually discerning these things all the time. Perhaps this framing is particularly important in this moment we’re living — this consideration of where deep gladness and deep need meet.

The needs and injustices around us are enormous, and we may be grappling with seeing them in new ways, or even for the first time. Immigration… Hunger… Police brutality… Voter suppression… Environmental devastation… Late-stage capitalism… Racism… Sexism… Transphobia… And throughout this year, COVID-19…

This is a good time to ask questions like,

What is my best skill, gift, or calling?
How am I using that for a sense of the common good?
How might I do that?

We need everyone using their best skills, gifts, and callings in the direction of these large, systemic challenges.

“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

Where might that intersection be for you?
What could it look like in practice?
Is there anything we need to clear out of the way to actually do it?

Renee Roederer

This quote from Frederick Buechner comes originally from his book Wishful Thinking.

Super Bloom

We are soon (relatively) going to emerge from a very traumatic, collective experience. As we do this, there will likely be new waves of grief for what we’ve experienced, what we’ve lost, or what we’ve missed out on.

All of this is real, and we certainly don’t need to snap our fingers and be back to it.

But as we do this, I also wonder what might surprise us.

Death Valley, a desert in California, gets its name for obvious reasons. It’s rare for much to grow there. Most of the time, it’s just not habitable.

But every once in a while when the conditions shift, seeds sprout all over the place. Often, people didn’t even know these seeds were there… And Death Valley experiences a surprising phenomenon called a Super Bloom.

We certainly place hope in actualities we can count on. Thank goodness we can name and trust some of those. It takes courage, perhaps, to place hope in the possibilities we cannot fully anticipate. Yet often, life is found right there.

Even in the driest of conditions, some of those possibilities can begin to form –

When people discover new visions for their communities,
When voices long-silenced rise into leadership,
When we discover the gift and grace of unanticipated abundance,
When Love becomes the foundation of resilience and liberation . . .

Yes, a Super Bloom.

May it be with us.

 Renee Roederer

St. Fred

Image Description: A black and white photo of Fred Rogers, smiling.

If I could choose a person to be my personal patron saint or even an additional Grandpa, I would likely choose Fred Rogers. I admire him so much – not only for his tremendous work but for his way of being in the world.

A few years ago, I ran across a testimony that demonstrated how crucial and life-saving his work truly was. It involved a continual commitment to remind vulnerable people how special and valuable they were. He changed the lives of children, including children who were abused at home. This testimony said,

“. . . he seemed to look me in the eye when he said, ‘And I like you just for being you’. In that moment, it was like he was reaching across time and space to say these words to me when I needed them most. . .  I was sure I deserved every last moment of abuse, every blow, every bad name. I was sure I earned it, sure I didn’t deserve better. I knew all of these things … until that moment. If this man, who I hadn’t even met, liked me just for being me, then I couldn’t be all bad. Then maybe someone could love me, even if it wasn’t my mom.”

We need a renewed commitment to uplift the intrinsic worth and value in human beings. We need this in the wake of hatred, poverty, racism, exclusion, violence, abuse, and more. . . These forces are intense and entrenched among us. They require us to speak truth to power, so I don’t mean to be reductionistic or say that a simple declaration of worth is all that it takes. But it’s never not about that.

It’s a life-giving, foundational truth, that —

despite the pain we know,
despite the pain we cause,

despite the harsh words we hear,
despite the harsh labels we believe,

despite the forces which declare some to be ‘less than,’
despite the despair which internalizes the same,

we are loved with a Love we cannot lose.

And that Love says that we are worth it.

Renee Roederer