Updated: Aug 16
“Trauma-informed” is a big buzzword these days. Everywhere you look, people are using the term.
I am glad this framework is becoming more present in our collective consciousness. And I also suspect that what each of us means by “trauma-informed” may be quite different.
I regularly receive requests from professionals looking for tools that they can use to be more effective in working with clients. Strategies and techniques are helpful and important, but they only go so far.
Sometimes we forget that being trauma-informed is not about applying a checklist of Do’s and Don’ts, nor is it about using a set template or technique for healing.
Truly trauma-informed approaches recognize that trauma is embedded in the human experience. That we are all carrying the impact of trauma within our cellular narratives whether we identify that way or not.
Trauma-informed wisdom also understands that there is no separation between us and them (i.e., practitioners treating trauma and clients with trauma histories). We are all in this together.
And because of this, the most valuable intervention that any of us as service professionals can master is to make the commitment to do our own personal work.
We need to look in the mirror, to get to know our own physiology and our adaptive patterns. To recognize the nuances of how our bodies work.
We need to develop trust and compassion and understanding of the intricate autonomic dance of the nervous system and how that dance drives our thoughts, feelings, behaviors, beliefs.
We need to deepen our mindfulness to include this refined awareness of our autonomic selves.
And we need to cultivate practices that allow us to refine our capacity to flow consciously with this inner dance.
It is such a unique dance for each of us. Nothing about it is prescriptive or formulaic. So a list of tools or strategies only takes us (and our clients) so far.
The deeper work is being able to identify the underlying autonomic narrative in the body and to work directly with that level of experience. The only way we can teach people how to do this for themselves is to learn how to do it first for ourselves. When we have this intimate relationship with our own personal regulation, we can better guide others in developing their own unique relationship with regulation. It is from this place inside that we embody true empathy and a deeply authentic presence of safety in the world.
And that is the greatest gift that we bring to others whom we serve: a reflection of the potential and the capacity that lies within their own bodies. This is how we help guide people home to safety and teach them the art of healing and growing resilience for the long term.