I recently completed the Trauma Informed TRUST with Lived Experience Insight online course, created and delivered by A Positive Start CIC where I have been a Board member since 2018.

This kind of training appeals to me, I’m an NLP and Lived Experience practitioner, working hard to realise my goal of sustaining self-employment in my field. From an early age, Trauma has been a constant and so I was keen to understand other peoples perceptive.

Since joining the team, Deborah and I regularly chat over several cups of coffee, discussing life,  the impact of traumatic childhood experiences  and how we might turn what we know into a positive to provide a positive start for others. I’m incredibly proud of the knowledge that some of the worst experiences in my life have contributed to a course intended for the welfare and wellbeing of others.

‘Its not what you know, it’s what you do with what you know that counts’! 

What follows here is my understanding of TRUST and the part it plays in healing from trauma.

When a person has suffered a trauma(s) in their life, their perspective of the world around them becomes very different to others. They become prisoners to their own emotions and fear becomes their driver. Because of this, they become very guarded, have generally negative thoughts about themselves and how others see them and their reactions to situations can become what others may see as irrational. When something they see, hear, feel or taste, depending on the trauma, then triggers them – puts them into a state of defensiveness which can show itself in many forms depending on the response category they fall into, Fight, Flight, Fear or Fawn – the onlooker can misread the situation and see the person as simply overreacting, aggressive, being too sensitive, becoming distant, uncaring to name just a few examples.

When we have a better understanding of this, we can learn from their actions and the language they use, to navigate their emotions and triggers effectively and recognise that there is nothing “wrong” with them and that their responses are a normal reaction brought on by an otherwise abnormal situation. Without having the insight to this, we put ourselves in danger of making their situation worse by provoking their responses with our own language and actions which is why it’s becoming ever more important that we learn about the impact of trauma and how it manifests in a person’s adult life to be able to help them recognise and deal with situations in a safer, more manageable and calmer manner.

Being trauma informed gives us the ability to monitor our own thoughts, feelings and behaviors in a way so as not to impact others around us and we then have a good understanding of the circle of trust that trauma victims require to enable them to feel safe, heard and understood.

The circle of TRUST is important, almost life saving to the victim as their internal systems don’t work the same as others because they have become more guarded. They have become hypervigilant, scanning their environment for any perceived dangers and the threat/Fear response is easily activated and ready to kick in at any given time if they sense any kind of threat. They will search for reassurance that they are safe once triggered and although they may not realize they have been triggered, depending on their own self awareness, being trauma informed gives us the ability to recognise that in them and offer the reassurance they are looking for which in turn can prevent them from searching for other reliefs, such as unhealthy coping mechanisms, drugs, alcohol, promiscuity or other self destructive behaviours. We can guide them to more healthy ways of dealing with their triggers through counseling, exercise, mindfulness, walks in nature etc or higher powers even, God, spirituality.

When someone has experienced trauma, understanding is key. They need to feel heard, seen and understood to enable them to feel more comfortable in themselves and their environment and knowing that they are not a hindrance to those around them. Kindness and acceptance is what they are looking for and we can offer that if we recognise and understand the behaviors they are displaying, enabling us to bring them back to a safe place in their mind, thus reducing the stress in their internal systems. Understanding is the most precious gift we can give another human being who is struggling to understand themselves.

While a person is triggered, their internal state is one of confusion and chaos which isn’t always visible to onlookers. They can seem very calm and composed while the brain is in fact searching frantically for safety. They need to find safety, either in a person or a form of relief to comfort them. Like any of us, if we do not feel safe we can become overwhelmed by our surroundings and the natural response is to get out of that situation as quickly as possible. In trauma victims, these situations are so much more stressful to deal with as the sense of rationalizing isn’t such an easy task. Senses are heightened, Fight, Flight, Freeze or Fawn responses are magnified and the person becomes very much incongruent – what’s going on on the inside is very different to what is going on on the outside. When we understand this, we can help the person back to a balanced state through truth.

Truth is paramount to anyone dealing with and overcoming trauma as they can spot a lie from a distance. They have built their defenses to question everything and everyone in order to protect themselves so if a person who claims to want to help them then becomes questionable themselves, this can easily re-trigger the person and enforce the belief that no one can be trusted. Say what you mean and mean what you say.

Understanding the TRUTH acronym is essential if we are to successfully help another person facing and overcoming their trauma as they have already been subjected to deception, false information, manipulation or misguidance, depending on the trauma they have faced. They are now in a heightened state of alert at all times, whether this is on a conscious or unconscious level. So to allow someone into their circle of trust is a huge step forward for them. They need to know you are sincere and honest in your intentions and only by providing a safe, truthful, understanding, non judgmental environment where they can open up and comfortably share their thoughts, feelings and beliefs, without feeling judged, belittled or silly for the way they have learnt to protect themselves.

The Person Centred approach offers this safe space with congruence, unconditional positive regard and empathic understanding. Once they have began opening up and sharing their thoughts, feelings, beliefs, regardless of our own experiences, it is THEIR experience that matters. How THEY perceive what happened to them and how THEY have been affected as a result. That’s what we must focus on to make a difference.