The “type” of person trauma tries to turn us into.

There isn’t a “type” of person who gets traumatized. 

There isn’t a “type” of person who is more vulnerable than others to abuse or neglect. 

Trauma is an equal opportunity predator. 

There are factors that put us more at risk— but they rarely have to do with who WE are. 

They often have to do with where we happen to be, economically or culturally— but there’s nothing about YOU, as a person, nothing about YOUR personality or character, that “invites” abuse, neglect, or other trauma. 

Your brain might tell you that having been traumatized is about you, personally, but it’s not. 

You didn’t ask for it, you didn’t want it, you didn’t “make” it happen. 

Trauma doesn’t happen to a particular “type” of person…but we tend to become a certain “type” of person in the aftermath of trauma. 

We often tend to be anxious. 

We often tend to blame ourselves. 

We often tend to be avoidant— not because we’re not tough or brave, but because what we’ve experienced was so overwhelming, we don’t know how to engage with it and remain functional. 

All of those qualities might be expressed differently by different people— but many people who have been through trauma experience their version of them. 

We’re at a point where we know a reasonable amount about how trauma impacts the human nervous system. 

We know that certain patters emerge when humans are subjected to traumatic stress— and we know some things about how different types of stress tend to affect humans, even as diverse as we humans are. 

And still, for as much as we’re learning about trauma and its effects, there are people out there who minimize the impact of traumatic stress on humans. 

There are people out there who hang on to this fantasy that “trauma” is a made up word that people use to try to gain sympathy. 

There are people who think that the increasing awareness of trauma is a BAD thing— that it encourages people to see themselves as “victims.” 

I can assure you, those of us who care about trauma recovery don’t want anyone to view themselves as a “victim,” if that label does not help them understand their experience or move forward. 

I find it’s helpful to remind myself that trauma can happen to anyone. 

It happens to people who don’t deserve it— every single day. 

The hand we were dealt was not our choice. 

We may have made decisions that seemed to make our lives better or worse— but even in those decisions are frequently not as “free” as we assume. 

It’s real easy to slip into self blame. 

Toxic shame tries to push and bully us into self blame a lot. 

Trauma doesn’t happen to a “type” of person, but in its aftermath we frequently become the “type” of person who struggles to NOT blame themselves, who struggle to NOT hold ourselves to impossible standards, who struggles to be fair and compassionate and present with ourselves. 

If we DON’T want to be that “type” of person, it’s on us to NOT be. 

All of which starts with awareness. 

We need to realistically, straightforwardly ask: what is trauma doing to my experience of me? To my beliefs about myself? 

We may not like the answers. 

But even so we have to stand with ourselves in compassion and self-trust. 

ALL of which is easier said than done. 

Just breathe. 

“But is it REALLY trauma, though?”

Many trauma survivors have difficulty extending themselves the benefit of the doubt. 

Or basic compassion. 

Or basic respect. 

Trauma has a way of convincing us we don’t “deserve” these. 

Trauma even has a way of convincing us that it isn’t, you know, trauma. 

We KNOW trauma impacts the human nervous system in some fairly predicable ways— and yet our trauma often tries to convince us we’re suffering because we lack character. 

Our trauma tries to convince us our suffering is due to our lack of toughness or willpower— not the fact that our nervous system has been subjected to a stressor that human beings haven’t evolved to handle. 

Sometimes our trauma tries to get us to compare our experience with other peoples’, and uses THEIR response to similar stressors as examples of why WE’RE not handling our traumatic stress well. 

After all, our trauma tries to tell us, if trauma was the REAL problem here, wouldn’t EVERYONE be equally devastated by similar stressors? So why are THEY handling it so well, and YOU’RE suffering so much? 

It’s a trick. 

The truth is, there are DOZENS of reasons why different people respond differently to traumatic stressors— and why certain stressors seem to cause more pain or dysfunction for some people than others. 

But it has nothing to do with whether a stressor is or is not objectively “traumatic.” 

There will absolutely be people who will TRY to sidetrack you into the debate about whether what you experienced was actually “trauma.” 

The fact is, it doesn’t particularly MATTER whether what you experienced fits their, or anyone’s, definition or “trauma.” 

When we’re suffering, semantics aren’t important. 

What IS important is you accessing the tools, skills, and support you need to get safe, stable, and back on your feet. 

I honestly don’t care if ANYONE calls what I consider to be trauma, trauma. 

You can call it whatever you like. Call it “Gilligan” for all I care. 

What I care about is people getting what they need to recover. 

Very often, the “is it REALLY trauma, though?” debate distracts from us doing what we need to do to recover. 

Very often, that debate serves no purpose than to make survivors feel shame. 

“If it isn’t trauma, why am I struggling with it so much?” 

Many survivors leap to the conclusion that if what happened to them ISN’T “objectively” trauma, than the problem ISN’T what happened to them— it’s THEM. 

This reinforces the fundamental message that many survivors have been on the receiving end of for years: it’s your fault. 

All this pain, all this dysfunction? Your fault. 

For YEARS we ‘re told that. And then, when we FINALLY start developing an understanding of how trauma impacts us, when we FINALLY glimpse a context in which all this pain or dysfunction make sense…the “is it trauma, though?” crowd shows up to mess with our heads. 

Don’t let ‘em. 

Don’t get up in your head with “is it trauma?” discourse. 

What you endured affected you the way it affected you. 

It doesn’t matter what it’s called. It matters how it affected you. It matters what you need to recover. 

Focus on your experience. Focus on your needs. 

Don’t get sidetracked by others’ need to weigh in on the labels you attach to your experience. 

Trauma recovery is about structure and flow.

Sometimes recovery is about putting words to what we’re feeling. 

Wrangling what we’re feeling with language. 

Hypothesizing, in words, what this huge, overwhelming THING we’re feeling MIGHT be, or be about. 

Sometimes the most useful thing we CAN do is put words to what we’re experiencing— even if we have to start with basic, imprecise words. 

We often can’t manage an experience UNTL we can talk about it. 

Until we put words to it, around it, our emotional experience often remains this bright, pulsing, hot, heavy MASS that we can’t imagine truly dealing with. 

Then there are those times when we have PLENTY of words— but they seem empty. 

We know what we “should” be feeling. 

We know what we’re THINKING, anyway. 

But we don’t feel particularly connected to the actual feeling. The actual emotion. 

We might sense the emotion is there…but it’s like it’s behind frosted glass. 

We can kind of make out its shape its contour…but it remains undefined. 

Trauma can bully us to either side of that divide— emotion without language, or language without emotion. 

We either feel EVERYTHING ALL AT ONCE AHHHH…or nothing at all. 

Recovery is about using our words AND feeling our feelings. 

Not having to choose between the two. 

Recovery is about really feeling that we have CHOICES when it comes to describing our emotional experience or attaching emotions to our cognitive experiences— not letting our default settings take over because we’re overwhelmed. 

Sometimes when we’re overwhelmed it can help to be able to say something— anything. 

Sometimes when we’re shut down it can help to feel something— anything. 

Lots of people don’t understand that self-harm is often our attempt to feel or contain ANYTHING when we’re overwhelmed. 

When we go back to relationships we KNOW are hurtful to us, sometimes that’s our attempt to really FEEL something— even if it’s painful. 

Sometimes when we engage with people who we KNOW are bad for us, it’s because we know HOW to talk to them— and we might be in a place where we just don’t have words for any of the OTHER stuff we’re feeling. 

Words, sentences, language, can reconnect us to our humanity when we’re overwhelmed. 

Emotion, feelings, can reconnect us to ourselves when we’re flat and shut down. 

We need both. 

Just like the world needs prose AND poetry; literature AND visual art; music theory AND music. 

There’s a reason why I believe poetry and literature tend to be healing for trauma survivors: they allow us to integrate the structure and support of language and the flow and creativity of art. 

In recovery we absolutely NEED structure— and we absolutely need flow. 

We need the words; and we need the feelings. 

We need the boundaries; and we need that within us that pushes and tests those boundaries. 

When you’re overwhelmed, ask yourself: do I need words right now? 

Or do I need to tap into my feelings? 

If you can think to ask— you’ll likely give yourself a useful answer. 

Trauma responses aren’t “choices.”

Trauma responses aren’t “choices.” They’re conditioned reflexes. 

They’re our nervous system having made a connection between something it’s sensing now, and something that actually happened back then. 

Something I wish more people understood— or acknowledged, anyway— about trauma responses is, they are responses to ACTUAL things that ACTUALLY happened. 

A lot is made about how trauma responses aren’t proportional to what’s “really” going on— and that’s true, in the very limited sense of “what’s going on right here, right now.” 

But trauma responses ARE responses to REALITY. 

We didn’t invent them. 

We didn’t ask for them. 

Most of us would MUCH rather NOT be experiencing them. 

But just like you can’t shut down a reflex, we can’t shut down trauma responses by merely preferring not to experience them. 

We CAN mold our responses to them, though. 

We CAN make ourselves less vulnerable to them. 

We can get to the point where they don’t freak us out or profoundly interrupt our day or our functioning. 

But that doesn’t mean we “control” them. 

We INFLUENCE our trauma responses— but that’s not quite the same thing, isn’t it? 

The temptation is to be hard on ourselves BECAUSE we have these sometimes dramatic fight, flight, freeze, fawn, or flop reactions in response to stress or triggers. 

We get to thinking, what the hell is WRONG with me? Why can’t I just be…normal? 

Thing is— maybe this IS normal for a body and nervous system that went through what you went through. 

Maybe the “weird” thing would be for you to NOT have strong reactions, given what you’ve experienced. 

Maybe what we need, rather than judgment, is compassion. And patience. And an understanding that what you’re experiencing isn’t all that “abnormal” after all. 

I know— trauma responses are frustrating. As are trauma beliefs, as are trauma memories. Frustrating, sometimes scary, often painful. 

Nobody reading this WANTS trauma recovery to be the thing they think about all day. 

But if this is the hand we’ve been dealt— this is the hand we’ve been dealt. 

I’ve never been nuts about acceptance for the sake of acceptance. 

I’m like a lot of people— “acceptance” to me feels like laying down. Letting the situation win. Letting these awful feelings and inconvenient reactions win. 

But it’s not. 

Acceptance just means we acknowledge reality exactly as it is. 

How else are we gonna change it, after all? 

If we don’t accept what is, how can we know what to do, where to go, how to focus, to creat the reality we prefer. 

We gotta start somewhere, and we gotta be realistic about where we’re starting. 

So, yes. The lousy reality is, we have trauma responses, and they’re not choices. 

But it is also the case that they are shapable. Moldable. Changeable. 

Not all at once, and not in their entirety. 

Change starts with acceptance. 

Shedding shame starts with acceptance. 

Actually changing our patterns of trauma response starts— say it with me— with acceptance. 

You are not the exception, as it turns out.

Sometimes we exhaust ourselves— even to the point of hurting ourselves. 

Not because we want to hurt ourselves, exactly— we just burn out. 

We suffer what runners and other endurance athletes call “overuse injuries.” 

We exert ourselves too hard, for too long— and we don’t give ourselves enough time to rest and recover. 

There are people reading this who AREN’T endurance athletes— at least, not physically— who nonetheless know EXACTLY what I’m talking about. 

It’s not that we’re stupid— though sometimes we may CALL ourselves stupid for winding up with an overuse injury. 

The wellness and self-help industries LOVE to blame us for burning out. 

They don’t quite get that the people reading this who burn our candles at both ends aren’t doing it because we don’t understand the risk we’re running. 

Rather, we often think we’re the exception. 

We’re the ONE person who will figure out how to keep going, going, going, with no negative consequences. 

Yes, “normal” people might need rest and recovery…but WE don’t. 

We’re tough. The laws of physics and principles of human anatomy and physiology don’t apply to us. 

Beneath all of that, there’s also the WHY we’re so driven. 

We’ve very often trying to prove ourselves. 

Part of us may believe, very strongly, that in order to be loved or accepted, we have to perform. 

We have to keep going, going going— that if we show any kind of normal human weakness or limitations, we’re going to be mocked or abandoned or ignored. 

After all, who would love us if we were just “normal,” subjected to the rules and limitations of “normal” people? 

Lots of people reading this know what it’s like to keep driving themselves, on and on and on, almost obsessively…all to keep from having to think too much. 

You know what I’m talking about— how, if we dare to stop and rest, the noise in our head will suddenly get…louder. 

Maybe it’s the addiction voice; maybe it’s the trauma voice; maybe it’s the self-harm or self-sabotage voice (and, make no mistake, all of those voices tend to say similar things, albeit in very different ways and in very different tonalities at times). 

We know what happens when those voices get TOO loud. So we try to outrun them. 

We run, and we run, and we run, literally or metaphorically…and while we know we can’t run forever, or else we’ll hurt ourselves, we can’t seem to make ourselves stop. 

We’re afraid. And kind of ashamed. 

Eventually, however, our body or our mind MAKES us stop. 

We sustain that overuse injury. 

It might be a pulled muscle; it might be a stress fracture; it might be a major depressive episode; it might be a dissociative fugue. 

But when your body or mind say “uncle,” we don’t really have any option BUT to stop. 

If we’re lucky, we hit that point BEFORE we’ve lost anything too major, or physically hurt ourselves beyond the point of healing. 

If and when this happens to you, you need to know this isn’t about you being “stupid.” 

This isn’t about you being “weak.” 

This isn’t about you being a “quitter.” 

This is about you being a human, and human bodies and minds needing rest and recovery. 

This is about you NOT being the exception— and that being the GOOD news. 

This is about you being exactly as vulnerable as you are— no more, but no less. 

And this is about you taking the opportunity to really care for yourself. 

In short— this is about you walking the talk of self-love and self-trust. 

This is about you having your own back— and proving it. 

Black and white statements about trauma are never true. (Er, except this one.)

Talking about trauma is almost always talking about nuances, exceptions, and shades of grey. 

A behavior that MIGHT be a trauma response for you, might not be one for me. 

Trauma is often not obvious. It’s often sneaky. It’s often hidden. 

One of the reasons why trauma is so misunderstood and invisible is BECAUSE it’s so sneaky— BECAUSE it crops up in so many ways that are unique to individuals. 

That doesn’t stop some people from trying to talk about trauma as if it’s black and white or easily observable. 

Sometimes those people have good intentions— they want to raise awareness of some of the ways trauma responses can manifest in the real world. 

But often, attempts to talk about trauma in broad, sweeping terms end up creating the illusion that trauma is more straightforward than it is. 

You’ll almost never see serious trauma informed therapists say, categorically, “X is a trauma response.”

What you MIGHT see from real trauma therapists is, “X, which isn’t commonly thought of as a trauma response, CAN BE a manifestation of one— here are some things to think about.” 

Unfortunately, a lot of people out there are VERY interested in using the “t” word to build their brand. 

They’re capitalizing on the fact that trauma has been so invisible, for so long, that large numbers of people are out there aching to have their trauma seen and validated— and in their rush to BE seen and validated, those survivors will be willing to overlook the lack of nuance embodied by some of these messages. 

I really hate this. 

Trauma survivors have often been treated like commodities in their lives for…years. 

Pretending that trauma looks or acts the same, person to person, life to life, story to story, oversimplifies an incredibly complex, still misunderstood, still under-researched phenomenon. 

Even more alarming, to me, is the fact that when people who should know better make flat statements like “X is a trauma response,” it makes it likely that survivors whose experience does NOT match “X” will get up in their head about “wait…was what I endured actually trauma, if I don’t do X?” 

All of this might sound silly or pedantic — but the truth is, many survivors have been conditioned to believe that what they went through wasn’t, couldn’t POSSIBLY be, “traumatic.” 

I am a trauma specialist. Many survivors who end up working with me have tried EVERY other type of behavioral health professional there is. They’ve done mental and emotional BACKFLIPS to avoid the truth that what they went through, affected them. 

When we introduce variables that might make it easy for a survivor to slip back into denial about their trauma, we’re not doing them any favors. 

I don’t so much want you thinking about “trauma.” 

I want you thinking about YOUR trauma. 

I don’t want you thinking about whether “X” is a trauma response. 

I want you thinking about whether the way YOU do “X” MIGHT be informed by trauma. 

I don’t want you comparing notes with anyone else who identifies as a trauma survivor.

Their story and struggles may have limited relevance to your trauma recovery journey— but we often struggle to acknowledge that our journey might have a dramatically different trajectory from theirs when we’re playing the Comparison Game. 

Do not get in your head about internet posts that flatly declare what is and isn’t a trauma responses. 

Remain attentive to and curious about YOUR experience. 

YOUR needs. 

YOUR priorities. 

What’s going to get YOU through THIS day in one piece. 

Let “them” argue about what is or isn’t a trauma response— for whatever good THAT argument does. 

You focus on YOUR real life, real world trauma recovery. 

One day at a time. 

Sometimes humans need to sit in one place…and hurt.

I’ve tried every which way to outrun my trauma. 

I’ll bet you have, too. 

It’s not a bad instinct, in fairness. 

When something feels as painful and dangerous as our memories and feelings seem to us, it’s a very understandable— a very adaptable, even— instinct to run away. 

The problem is, what we’re running away from isn’t “out there.” 

It’s in here. Inside our head, and our heart. 

There’s no running away from what we carry with us. 

Not that that ever stopped me from trying. 

I’ve done more than most to try to stop feeling— a project that’s led me to consume substances, dive headlong into enormously destructive behaviors, harm my physical body, and attempt to end my life. 

Some of those things worked— for a minute. 

Sometimes they changed how I felt, either a little or a lot…but they didn’t last. 

Some people reading this know I run as a hobby. I’ve run twenty marathons and countless races of shorter duration. I’m a pretty good runner. 

But there’s no outrunning our past or our feelings. 

There’s no outrunning the regret and grief that can make me unhappy on a perfectly beautiful autumn day. 

You know what I’m talking about, right? 

How sometimes you’ll step outside, and it’ll be an objectively beautiful day, and you’re tempted to, you know, enjoy it…but then you remember, you’re not “allowed” to enjoy it, for…reasons. 

Sometimes the reasons aren’t even explicitly stated or thought— but you know they’re there. 

So you reel yourself in from something as simple as enjoying a beautiful day for a minute. 

Unfortunately, we end up having to accept the truth: there is no running or hiding from internal experience. 

No matter how fast we run, our head and our heart stay with us. 

So we have to turn our attention toward what’s going on in there. 

What it’s like in there. 

As I turn my attention to the inside of my own head and heart, right here, right now, as I write this, I’m aware of feeling…overwhelmingly sad. 

I’ve been particularly in touch with the feeing of regret lately. 

I’ve been particularly aware of my mistakes. 

My missteps. My misunderstandings— willful and otherwise. 

I’ve been particularly aware of how I’ve failed in certain ways to be who I “should” have been. 

It’s humiliating. And sad. And infuriating. 

Here’s the thing: I carry all that around in my head and heart right now. 

I can try to avoid it. I can try to duck and dodge it, and pretend it doesn’t exist, pretend I can outrun it, that maybe THIS will be the one time in my life that I’m successful at avoiding internal experience. 

But as Jules says in “Pulp Fiction,” “I like that…but that sh*t ain’t the truth.” 

The truth is, to quote “Infinite Jest” by David Foster Wallace, sometimes humans just need to sit in one place…and hurt. 

There’s another line in “Infinite Jest” that has always resonated with me: “Everything I’ve ever let go of has claw marks on it.” 

That’s me letting go of my fantasy that I can get away with not feeling what’s inside my head and heart. 

The recovery win here is this: I will do it. 

I will hate it, I don’t WANT to do it, I resent having to do it. 

But I will do it. 

I will not abandon myself like I was abandoned once upon a time. 

I will not hate myself for the pain I’m experiencing. 

I will be exactly as sad for exactly as long as it takes to convince the kid I once was, and who I still carry around in my head and heart, that he is loved and he is safe. 

I am worth facing what’s inside. 

My life is worth saving and worth living. 

No matter what that voice in the back of my head is trying to whisper right now. 

Why do you take everything so PERSONALLY?!?

You bet complex trauma survivors tend to take things personally— but it’s not out of narcissism. 

We don’t think the world revolve around us. We don’t think we’re “special”— at least not in a positive sense. 

Complex trauma survivors tend to take things personally because we’ve often been told that bad things are our fault. 

I’m not talking about realistic, “we share responsibility for some aspects of our lives.” 

I’m talking about being told, again and again, that everything IS your fault— and everyone IS your responsibility. 

There are a lot of abuse survivors reading this. And for a lot of the abuse survivors reading this, their abuse continued over time— maybe years or decades. 

One of the ways abusers get away with abusing someone over time is, they condition us to not tell. 

One of the ways they condition us to not tell is to make us feel like what’s happening to us is our fault. 

They condition us to believe we “made” them hurt us. 

They condition us to believe that we “asked” for it.

Sometimes, in the case of sexual abuse, our abusers condition us to believe that we must have liked it or wanted it, because our body responded to being stimulated. 

Sometimes, when we grew up in situations where our survival or safety was in danger, we may have had a “fawn” or “freeze” response that made it easier for our abuser to do what they did to us— and we come to believe THAT was our fault, because if we didn’t the abuse, why didn’t we put up a fight? Why did we see to “cooperate?” 

All of which is to say: MANY abuse survivors who struggle with complex trauma symptoms arrive in adulthood VERY primed to believe that things really ARE their fault. 

We may not understand exactly why— but we know that we feel guilty and responsible when bad things happen. 

You can understand, then how confusing and dispiriting it can be when someone comes at us with “You’re so SENSITIVE, why do you take things so PERSONALLY?” 

Yes, we are sensitive, and yes, we do take things personally— because we’ve been indoctrinated in exactly that. 

We’ve been conditioned to take things personally— and to feel guilty about them. 

We’ve been conditioned to assume that we ARE responsible for the events and people round us— and bad things are happening, or if people are unhappy, it may very well be on us to figure out how to change that…or suffer the consequences. 

This is a huge reason why so many survivors seem so hypervigilant in relationships. 

We may not be responding to the situation or person in front of us— but, as very often happens in our post traumatic worlds, we’re responding to programming that was installed and reinforced years, maybe DECADES, ago. 

We CAN overcome post traumatic hyper sensitivity— but it has to start with acknowledging that’s what’s going on. 

It’s NOT that we’re “taking things too personally.” 

It’s NOT that we’re “making everything about us.” 

It’s NOT that we “think the world revolves around us.” 

It’s that when you’ve been made to think that everything is your fault— especially bad things— it’s difficult to shake off that conditioning for the sake of being fair and kind with yourself. 

Easy does it. This conditioning didn’t happen overnight. No one’s expecting it to change overnight. 

And you’re NOT bad, weak, or uncommitted if you happen to struggle with it. 

You are human— and, if you’re reading this, very likely a human that some bad stuff has happened to. 

A little grace here, huh? 

Why “it’s not your fault” actually matters.

The reason why trauma therapy so often emphasizes that abuse and neglect is not the victim’s fault is, so often victims of abuse and neglect show up strongly believing their experience IS their fault. 

Trauma therapists didn’t pull this out of thin air. 

People blame and shame themselves for their own abuse or neglect so often, and it is so destructive to trauma (or addiction) recovery, that we’ve learned that that “I deserved it” belief really does have to be dealt with first— and explicitly. 

Sometimes people assume this means trauma recovery is about “blaming” someone else. 

I can assure you: no one gets into trauma therapy to obsess about blaming anyone else for their pain. 

Trauma recovery doesn’t philosophically hinge on blame. 

The main reason we deal with blame in trauma treatment is to place it where it belongs— and to remove it from where it does not belong, i.e., on conscience of someone who was abused or neglected. 

i cannot express how much it annoys me when people— including some therapists— take shots at trauma-focused treatment to the tune of, “it’s all about blaming (whoever) for your problems.” 

The assumption that trauma-focused therapy doesn’t ask a person to take personal responsibility for how they feel and function is absurdly incorrect. 

In trauma recovery we know, very well, that we are responsible for how we feel and function. 

Recovery generally is about taking responsibility— and giving up the fantasy that we’re going to be rescued. 

I WISH trauma recovery WAS all about blaming those responsible. That would be more fun. 

In trauma recovery we direct blame for abuse and neglect where it belongs for the purpose of freeing ourselves up of a terrible burden that was NEVER ours to carry. 

Abusers and manipulators go to great lengths to make their victims feel responsible for and ashamed of their abuse. 

Often abusers and manipulators have been in positions of authority and influence to do a VERY good job of conditioning victims to believe they really ARE responsible for their own abuse. 

In correcting this, we DON’T swing to the other side of the spectrum, where “nothing is you fault and everything is your responsibility.” 

That’s not realistic— and recovery doesn’t work if it is not brutally, consistently realistic. 

With the hundreds of trauma survivors with whom I’ve worked, “accepting responsibility” has never been the problem. 

The problem has usually been the exact opposite: getting okay with letting go of responsibility that is not ours to take. 

Accepting that NOT everything is our fault or our responsibility— especially things that happened to us when we were in disadvantaged or disempowered positions. 

Don’t buy into anyone’s argument that trauma or addiction recovery will lead you to fail to take responsibility for your life. 

And don’t fall for the argument that trauma recovery tries every problem you had or have back to your trauma, either. 

Trauma recovery is about getting real about how what you went through, affected you. No more; no less. 

It’s about getting real about the fact that, when something is as overwhelming as trauma and post traumatic reactions, that issue HAS to be first on the agenda to manage EVERY day. 

It is not becoming obsessed with or preoccupied by trauma— it is realistically acknowledging the reality of what we’re up against. 

We can’t “make too big a deal” out of something that has effortfully tried to ruin every minute of our life since it happened. 

Taking realistic responsibility is hard. It requires us to step up— and also to let certain things go. 

Humans aren’t great at that. 

Th good news is: you don’t have to be great at it. 

Just take it one day at a time. 

Floods happen.

Sometimes a dam floods. 

It breaks. It fails. 

Every engineer knows that there are absolutely volumes of flood water that can burst a dam. 

No dam is immune to being flooded. 

When a dam does flood, though, we don’t criticize the dam. 

We don’t waste our time blaming the dam for adhering to the laws of physics. 

We acknowledge: that particular dam met its match in terms of how much volume it could handle. 

That’s not good or bad; it just is. Dams flood. 

The same thing happens to us when we experience trauma. 

Just like there are certain volumes of water that dams are not designed to handle, there are certain experiences the human nervous system is not designed to handle. 

Just like dams fail when they’re overwhelmed by flood water, our nervous systems fail when flooded by trauma. 

The difference, though, is that while nobody blames a dam for capitulating to the laws of physics when it floods, we OFTEN blame ourselves when WE are overwhelmed by trauma. 

It doesn’t matter that the human organism just isn’t designed to withstand

certain experiences and continue functioning well. 

We often heap blame and shame upon ourselves for “failing” when we’ve been flooded by trauma…even though, under the circumstances, it makes COMPLETE sense that we would “fail.” 

And here’s the thing about that: even though we don’t function well when we’re flooded by trauma, very often we STILL don’t completely “fail.” 

Once a damn is flooded, it’s flooded. It’s done. By definition a dam that floods is no longer a functioning dam. 

But many of us CONTINUE to function even after we’ve endured trauma. 

We may not function optimally, or even well…but we still “function.” 

LOTS of people know what it’s like to go through the motions of “functioning,” despite the fact that we’ve been flooded by trauma— and we can’t seem to un-flood ourselves. 

Sometimes that’s the worst part— the half assed, haunted “functioning” that we continue on with after we’ve been flattened and flooded by trauma. 

When a dam floods, what do its engineers do? 

They don’t give up on the dam. 

They figure out what happened. 

They figure out what they’ll need to do to rebuild the dam. 

They use the data from the flood to build a new dam that is less vulnerable. 

The truth is, dams are always vulnerable to flooding— and people are always vulnerable to trauma. 

No matter how “resilient” we are. No mater how well we “function,” even under duress. 

But: we don’t have to blame and shame ourselves for succumbing to flood waters. 

Floods come— and floods go. 

We build better dams. Stronger dams. Dams with design modifications that make them less vulnerable. 

We do the same thing with ourselves in trauma recovery. 

Floods happen. Trauma responses happen. No blame. No shame. 

We redesign and rebuild— as many times as we need to.