Today, it is bright and sunny and in the 60s where I live. It has been a few months since we have had weather like this! We are excited!
Welcome to Nate 90! If you normally listen to the audio of this podcast, you might want regularly click the link in the podcast notes to take you to the transcriptions of the episodes. I semi-regularly put footnotes in the transcripts.
If you haven't already listened to my previous two episodes, then you probably should hit pause, and go do that now.
Today we are going to talk about the trauma habit. I consider this to be an odd title, but after we are done today, I hope you can see how valuable this concept is.
Most people who have gone through an experience that has caused psychological trauma, unless they received proper help dealing with it, many of them became trapped in their psychological trauma.(1) This concept of being trapped in psychological trauma is what I am calling the trauma habit.
I want to make something clear here. The trauma habit is not a bad habit. God has designed us to react to traumatic situations in a way that helps us survive them.(2) When we experience something that causes psychological trauma, our natural reactions are healthy and helpful.(3)
Another gift from God is our ability to naturally form habits. Think of how difficult it would be to drive a car if you were not able to naturally get used to it. Every time you went to drive, it would be scary and dangerous. What about the first day of school or work? Without the natural ability to form a habit, every day at school or work would be like a first day.
Forming habits come so naturally that we do not realize that it is happening. And, we do not realize how important that ability is for our daily sanity and safety.
Understanding our natural ability to form habits is essential to understanding how to treat psychological trauma. Actually, I wonder if it might be one of the most important concepts.
When we experience something traumatic and our normal reactions kick in, we immediately begin forming a habit of response.
So two natural things are happening:
This explains why people can become trapped in their trauma. They begin to react to situations without thinking about it because their habit-forming ability began to takeover for them. This means that when a person experiences physical sensations and mental perceptions that tell them there is a possible threat, they, without thinking, will begin to respond with patterns of behavior developed over time because of their habit forming ability.
This explains why the generation that went through the Great Depression had a certain way of living even long after the Depression ended. So it is with so many other big events in our lives. We adopt a certain way of acting, and we do it without thinking.
Here is where a good thing becomes a bad thing. The trauma habit is a very good thing as we live through traumatic times. It helps us cope and survive. However, when the traumatic times are over, the habit of acting a certain way stays with us. We then carry this habit into non-traumatic situations in our life. Then, the habits that helped us before now begin to hurt us and hurt others.
Again, to be extra clear: There is nothing wrong with us. We do not need to feel guilty when this happens. It is a sad reality of the problem of evil and calamity in our world.
To move forward and properly recover from our trauma, we must carefully undo the trauma habit we have developed. This is a slow process - sometimes life-long. And, often we need professional, trauma-informed help.
As I see it, the crux of this help is to carefully understand the damage that has happened to us from the past traumatic situation, and then to gently understand the safety of the present, non-traumatic situation. This is a much simplified overview of a thoroughly complicated process for both body and soul.
However, my hope is that if you can understand the basics of what psychological trauma is (my past two episodes) and then understand this trauma habit, then you can begin to help yourself and others.
(1) There are several factors which contribute to why someone is able to go through a difficult experience and not develop psychological trauma. A few factors that come to mind are resilience, professional help, and past personal development to know how to overcome it.
(2) I look at life from the Christian perspective. If you do not share that perspective with me, I think you will agree with me on the the typical patterns of human behavior.
(3) When we are overwhelmed and cannot cope we kick into survival mode. There are four common survival modes people enter into. These can be categorized with what is called the 4Fs - Fight, Flight, Fawn, and Freeze. Usually a person's response spills over into more than one of these categories. For those who want to study deeper, there are good books to help folks sort through them such as Pete Walker's Complex PTSD