ABCDEs of Trauma Care for the Soul

December 28, 2009

Learn the ABCDEs of Trauma Care for the Soul 

 Competency # 22  Social Wellness and Friendship 

 ReferenceSonya Lyubomirsky, The How of Happiness;  James Pennebaker, Psychological Science: 8: 162-66

Have you had a stressful year?  Are you looking forward to the year ahead with a bit of dread?  Do you wish you could just get that trauma behind you so that you could move on?  Do you find your brain going back and forth to old hurts and playing that tune all over again?  Do you find a memory that surges up every time you pass the same place, see the same person, do the same task?   Well, then you are just like the rest of us.  Each of us has these events, and we share them with no one.   They hurt too badly to open up.  And so they never go away.  

Our brain cycles through the same pattern of negative thinking again and again.  The neural pathways get reinforced.  We begin to believe it more and more. Did you know there are specific methods you can use that can allow you to face that trauma and intentionally back it down?  You can stand up to it.  

What better start for a New Year!  Emotional Trauma Care: the ABCs, or actually, the ABCDEs.   ABCs in medicine refers to Airway, Breathing, Circulation.  Those are the first three steps of CPR for the body.  Let’s do CPR for your soul. James Pennebaker has done some groundbreaking research about how to cure your self of old hurts and traumas.  Each of us has them, hidden away.  As we face the beginning of New Year and think about what we want to do, the first step might be getting past what held us up last year.  

What Pennebaker found over many years of research is that sitting down, organizing your thoughts enough to write about your personal block, or trauma, or hurt is very helpful in fixing you.  Something strange and wonderful works in the writing down process.  Here are the ABCDEs. 

 A.       Adversity.  What got to you this last year?  What hurt?  What really bothered you?  Your friends don’t respond to your invitations?  Your boss forget to include you in… 

 B.       Belief.  Some personal negative belief got triggered.  What was uncovered by that hurt?  Who dislikes you?  What part of you makes you feel unloved?  What insecurity got unwrapped?  You weigh too much?  You crack jokes that are in poor taste?  You are boring? 

C.         Consequence:  What happened as a result of the event and your feelings? 

 D.        Dispute It!  Think of other reasons for the problem.  Make a list.  Look at it through your friend’s eyes.  Come up with some  good reasons, but not including yourself as part of the reason. 

 E.          Energize yourself. Think of the most optimistic reasons that leave you in a good light. 

 The miracle happens in the “dispute.”  You break your own cycle of negative thoughts.  Your brain starts making new channels of thinking.  You give yourself new talking points you had never thought of before. No kidding.  This really works.  Try it.  Research shows that folks who spend 15 minutes for 5 days in a row in the exercise have some amazing things happen to them.  Over the next months, people who do the exercise visit doctors less, report less depression, obtain higher grades, are more likely to find new and better jobs.   They even show improved immune function.  

This is almost as good as the unconditional love of a mother who loves you regardless of what you did in kindergarten when you spilled the paints and the teacher yelled at you. 

 WWW:  What will work for me?  This works.  I’ve done it several times now.  It’s kind of spooky to feel yourself looking at yourself from the outside and arguing on your behalf.  My own experience is that I’ve accepted me for being fallible and found myself admitting that I need to work on something.  But that was progress for me in and of myself.  I had a plan.  Not an easy one, but a plan.  And for that, I felt huge relief and optimism.  This is part of the path to happiness.  Thank you authors, Sonya and Jim.

Column Written by Dr. John E Whitcomb, MD, Brookfield Longevity, Brookfield, WI 53045. (262-784-5300)