Understanding the steps for recognizing and healing war trauma and psychological pain, is essential for helping people coming from violent conflict and other kinds of trauma and abuse. The multi-faceted coping strategies and defenses that vary with the individual, can make healing a complex process.
First, recognize the signs depending on individual personality:
The path of healing focuses on putting thoughts and emotions into words in order to be supported and validated or normalized. With the help of a counsellor, self-awareness leads to self-acceptance which leads to power and mastery over the trauma.
Here are the steps for connecting a current emotional reaction to the past source of pain and trauma:
1. Identify the emotion in the current reaction by saying, “What emotion came up in the recent situation? Fear, anger, guilt, sadness, some other feeling?”
2. Explore the recent reaction by saying, “Describe what was happening when you had that feeling? What words would you use to describe what pushed your buttons?”
3. Using the person’s own words describing what triggered his reaction, say, “If you were to review your life from early days to the present, what’s another time you experienced something similar?” (Use the person’s descriptive phrase or word instead of ‘something similar’.)
The last step above will take the person to the earlier source of pain or trauma. Then follow the steps given below for processing and healing the source and effects of trauma. These healing steps need to be repeated as long as it takes for the person to report feeling better.
1. Invite the person to talk about what happened, by saying, “Talk about what happened back then.”
2. Invite the person to identify and verbalize the range of painful emotions associated with the event, by saying: “What emotions come up inside as you talk about that? Is it a little fear, anger, guilt, sadness, or some other feeling?”
3. Help the person process the process, by saying, “What’s it like talking about this so far?” or “Is it OK to talk about this?”
4. Validate the emotions, by saying, “It makes sense, it’s normal that you feel that. It fits what you have been through. Anyone would feel the same who went through that.”
5. Help the person understand the affects of the event on his life now, by saying, “What are some ways that experience and the emotions have affected your life and relationships now?”
6. Validate how the person has coped with the traumatic event and the affects on his life, by saying, “It makes sense you would have done that because you are trying your best to survive the pain of what happened.”
7. Help the person visualize how their life can be better, by saying, “How do you want your life to be different if you had power to make it better? Describe the life you want.”
8. Reinforce the feeling of hope, by saying, “What are the possibilities of what you can do?”
9. Validate steps the person has already taken, by saying, “You have already taken forward steps in your healing. It’s not easy to let go. It takes courage to face the pain and move through it to a new life.”
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