Ten years ago today my husband Gary and I connected for a rare lunch together. As we munched on our sandwiches under a restaurant patio umbrella, we saw police car after police car roaring south on Wadsworth Blvd, sirens wailing . Chills went up and down my spine as we also heard the rumble of helicopters. We saw that they were all heading for Columbine-our new neighborhood, where we had lived for only six weeks. Later that day, we were horrified along with everyone else as we learned about the tragedy at Columbine High School. Today is a day of remembrance, for Columbine, and for many others.
When you’re personally involved in any life-threatening event, you experience direct trauma. Vicarious traumatization can occur when you read about it or see it on TV. If you’re highly sensitive, creative, and/or gifted, you experience both direct and vicarious traumatization more easily and deeply than other people do. So what can you do to minimize the effects of trauma, and to heal from it?
According to quantum physics, chaos theory and string theory, everything in the universe including your body, is energy. In this context, minimizing the effects of trauma and healing from it come at least partially from how you direct or channel the flow of energy within your body. But in this culture, you likely have learned to stop the flow of your feelings, both body sensations and emotions. Maybe you’ve been told, “Don’t be angry. Don’t be sad. Don’t be afraid. Don’t cry. Don’t yell. Don’t, don’t, don’t.” If so, before long, you can’t. And you may not be aware that you’re stifling your normal, healthy responses, and hindering the flow of energy in your body.
Instead, you could benefit from accepting, feeling your feelings, and allowing them to flow through you. Feelings are a lot like ocean waves. Ocean waves come and go without your permission. Feelings come and go-also without your permission. Waves are always there, whether you like them or not. Feelings are also always there, like it or not. Waves respond to the magnetic pull of the moon, the weather, and events around you. Feelings respond to invisible forces of nature, and to events within and outside of you. If there’s an earthquake on the floor of the ocean, it can cause a tsumani on the other side of the earth. If there’s an earthquake in your life, that can release a tsunami size flood of feeling within you. It may help you to know that these ‘abnormal’ feelings are normal in response to your abnormal circumstances.
Here’s three things you can DO that will help you as a creative, sensitive, gifted person facilitate the flow of feelings within you:
- Talk it. Talking about what has happened, what distressed young womanyou saw, what you heard, what you felt and are still feeling is critical. Talk about it with everyone who will listen. This is why support groups are so valuable. People come together who have experienced similar things, and who understand each other. You each help each other to heal as you have an opportunity to tell your stories and to listen to each other. Remembering past traumas can also be important, as it builds hope that you again can heal, grow and recover from hard times, like you have done in the past.
- Walk it. Trauma triggers the flight-or-fight woman runnign with dogresponse in the body, which releases a flood of biochemicals into our blood stream. These need to be used up; exercise is a great way to do this. In addition, it’s important to find natural ways to switch the body into the Relaxation Response, rather than relying completely on things like drugs and alcohol. Progressive relaxation, deep breathing, yoga, tai chi, chi gong, muscle stretching exercises, prayer and medication are some healthy ways to promote the Relaxation Response
- Chalk it. Get creative, Make something with your creative hands hands that represents your traumatic experience. This brings the process out of your head and into your body. Making something that shows what you are feeling, physically and emotionally also pulls the physical and emotional feelings through and out of your body and into the object you are making. This facilitates the flow of energy in your body and in your life.
This is somewhat like opening a floodgate at the side of a dam, releasing water in a controlled manner. This keeps an uncontrolled flood of water from overflowing the dam or demolishing it, which would then destroy everything downstream from it. Releasing small amounts of emotion frequently in a structured, controlled way can also prevent huge uncontrolled floods from occurring.
A key to minimizing trauma and healing from it is to remember this: In abnormal circumstances, abnormal feelings are normal. It’s OK to feel whatever you are feeling. Feel it, and release it. Get moving physically. Express it verbally and creatively. Get professional help if these aren’t enough. You’ll soon be on your way to recovery.
My full article, “Tips for Helping Gifted Kids and Teens Cope With Trauma,” is published in the SENGifted.org Newsletter. To read it, click here.