Understanding Trauma and Abuse
As Maria walks into the room, she scans it for men like the one who abused her. All clear. She works to relax and enjoy the party until someone comes towards her that looks eerily like him. She freezes! Beth answers the phone. The caller calls her name, and it sounds like her mother who died suddenly weeks early. She begins to weep!
The simplest of situations can find a person back in the situation of abuse and trauma as if it is happening all over again. Understanding trauma and the nature of trauma and abuse can free you from living it over and over. Unless a person has experienced the abuse you have experienced, they will not understand what you are living or have lived through. Whatever the abuse you survived you must know that you did not deserve the hurt that happened to you. You did not cause it. Other options, other than abuse, always exist to respond that do not cause trauma.
Some Depending on the nature of the trauma, recognize that you may need to erect some boundaries with particular people so that you will not be abused again.foundational truths for trauma victims:
Some foundational truths for trauma victims:
~ Express Your Feelings—express your real feelings. If you have anger at the perpetrators or your abuse, express it. If you’re angry at God, express that as well. He can handle it. If you grieve over a loss you experienced due to the trauma, express it. Voicing these feelings is one of the first steps toward healing.
~ Know That You Will Heal—healing from your past abuse will come with God’s help. You must engage in a process through which this will be possible, either in individual or group counseling.
~ Know That You Will Have Victory—beyond just healing, you will have victory over the trauma. Begin to consider some of the positive strengths you will have in your life as a result of healing from this trauma. Know that you will eventually be able to forgive to set yourself free. This is the ultimate spiritual victory. You will also be able to be of great comfort to others who experience similar trauma.
This last point may seem beyond reach. The abuse was too great, the trauma too deep.
Diane Langburg (2001) in her work titled, Hope for Healing, lists five spiritual truths about abuse and trauma. Mixed with her testimony and her research on the subject of abuse and trauma she offers insight for those who need hope for healing.
1. To be abused or traumatized is to be touched by evil. Evil, like good, has an impact.
2. It is important to understand how the abuse or trauma affected you. What has it taught you? Where has it harmed you? Healing is applied knowledgeably only when a wound is understood.
3. No matter the extent of the damage or how badly you have been wounded, there is hope for healing.
4. Abuse and trauma result in damage to the emotions—fear, grief, anger, and guilt often govern the lives of those who have experienced such pain. It will take hard work to learn to deal with these emotions. But it can be done. Nothing is outside of God’s power to heal and control.
5. The person of Christ and the Word of God teaches the truth about who God is. Though those who have been abused or traumatized may struggle to understand why God allowed the pain to occur, as they are able to learn more about God’s power and ability to heal, they can place their past and their future in God’s hands.
Trauma is a certain kind of suffering — the kind that overwhelms one’s ability to cope.
The abuse, whether minor or major, affects us. Woundings from abuse or pain from events bury themselves deep in the conscious. Even though it may be a past event it continues to assert itself over and over in the present. Often both are too heavy for a person to carry.
Trauma shows up in the form of triggers. A trigger activates and affects the body’s five senses of sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste. The past abuse and pain find a place to live in a person’s memory cell inside your body. When a trigger activates one or more of the senses, the abuse and trauma come alive.
Olivia recently lost five family members in an accident. She received so many flowers that she no longer appreciated the blooms for what they were intended, as a form of others joining her in grieving her loss. She began to associate them with the trauma and grew to hate flowers. The grief and loss of the trauma was more than she could bear so she replaced the trauma with the connection to flowers.
Through one-on-one counseling, she realized what she did. In the process, she forgave the driver who caused the accident, through prayer and proper grieving she let go of the wrong object of her trauma, and she grew to love flowers once again.
Memory cells affect our immune system both positively and negatively. Memories that come from a trauma establish negative memory cells thus negatively affecting our immune system. Because triggers operate using the five senses, often some emotion is associated with triggers.
Emotional association, an important concept to understand, helps get to the root of a person’s struggles. Often, when a person becomes angry, feels fear, or struggles with some other daunting emotion, it’s likely not a result of something being experienced in the present time. Rather, something from the present triggered a wound of the past.
The key to finding out the root of this emotional issue is through understanding emotional association.
The relationship between triggers and emotional association mirrors that of the kernel and the corn. You cannot have one without the other. When triggered, the past abuse and pain interrupt the present without an invitation and cause emotions to burst forth without apology. This happens often without warning, catching the abused person and others off guard. Learning how to use triggers to discover the root of the trauma is one of the most powerful everyday keys to finding lasting freedom from those negative emotions!
There are three main types of traumas. These traumas identify the source of abuse or pain, how often it happens, and what it can cause.
- Acute trauma results from a single incident.
- Chronic trauma is repeated and prolonged, such as domestic violence or abuse.
- Complex trauma is exposure to varied and multiple traumatic events (PTSD)
Earlier we identified memory cells, stating that trauma memories are stored in the body. The body remembers everything. Sights, sounds, smells, touches, tastes. But the memory is not held in your mind or locked somewhere in the recesses of your brain. Again, it’s held in your body, all the way down at the cellular level. Caroline Leaf, a Christian Neuroscientist, explains these memory cells store memories, which include information about experiences, habits, sensations, and almost everything that is experienced day-to-day, both good and bad.
Among these three main types of traumas are major traumas that include abuse. They include sexual, spiritual, mental, physical, or emotional abuse, rejection, abortion, dysfunctional family, car accidents, fire, death, divorce, being robbed, or shamed by someone where a person’s character is defiled publicly and the reputation if harmed, habitual sin, performance-driven, fear of abandonment, obsessive-compulsive tendencies, phobia or panic attacks, and distrust of self or others. In addition, there is heaviness, oppression, anger, and rage.
God did not intend for people to experience or live with trauma. He breaks the hold of trauma off and gives us joy instead of sorrow.
The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair (Isaiah 61:1-3)
This passage lives today through the life of believers as Jesus lives through Christians. Life can be filled with joy and the ability to embrace change as you are healed from abuse and trauma. Part of the healing process includes closing the door to any opening the enemy might have entered through your life from fear responses to trauma. When the trauma is identified, released, and healed and the spirits of fear and infirmity are cast out, the physical symptoms often disappear.
Although traumas affect a person’s body, every part of a person is affected. God created mankind as a spirit, soul, and body. It is impossible for one part of our humanity to experience a traumatic event without the other parts being affected. The healing process also touches a person’s spirit, soul, and body. This knowledge encourages a person to know as they go through healing they will come out whole in all of who they are.