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Emotional Trauma

haystack along the Oregon coast
Emotional trauma is like a big black shadow blocking the view of an otherwise beautiful scene.

We All Have Traumas

A breakup, a death, an insult, an exclusion, a rape, an abuse of any kind, a loss, a failure, an injury; each of these can result in a trauma. It’s interesting though, I say “these can result in a trauma.” It’s also possible for the same events to not result in a trauma, depending on how you process them.

In other words, there are two parts to the word “trauma”: the actual traumatic event, and what the mind does with that event. If the mind escalates it and holds onto it, the trauma becomes bigger and deeper. If the mind balances it and lets it go, it does not continue to retraumatize and cause pain.

It’s the retraumatization that is the biggest cause of stress. The mind plays the event over and over trying to change the past, and feeling totally powerless. Eventually, the mind usually finds some escape: maybe to addiction, or maybe by focusing on other areas of life trying to bury the old emotional trauma and move on.

But It’s Never Really Gone

Like that shadow blocking the view, the mind is now limited. It can’t go to certain places because it could get retriggered. It’s not free. And whenever a retriggering happens, it’s a downward spiral until something pulls it out again.

This is why we’re all scared of emotional trauma. We try like crazy to prevent new traumas, and we try to avoid retriggering old traumas.

The problem is that there is no way deal with traumas. They simply have their way with us. And that is the most disempowering feeling in the world.

But It Doesn’t Have to Be that Way

In my experience, there is a way to deal with emotional traumas that gets to the root of them. I have experienced small and big traumas dissolve once I’ve used the four questions and turnarounds of The Work of Byron Katie.

In my experience, the root of any emotional trauma is the collection of stressful thoughts I am believing about the event that happened. My interpretation of the event is what makes it traumatic for me. And my belief that it shouldn’t have happened, and that it was a terrible thing.

When I start to question these thoughts around any traumatic situation, I often find that my attitude softens, and if I persevere in my inquiry, many times I find that the trauma evaporates completely in my mind. Once I see in this new way, it is no longer possible for me to go back to believing that I was a victim again.

This Is the Power of The Work

But The Work is a very personal process. It depends on how willing you are to look at the stressful thoughts that plague you, and it depends on your willingness to sit, not knowing if any answers will come, when you do the inquiry.

When self-inquiry is done in this way, wisdom from within often comes up to meet the questions. Perspectives change. Emotional traumas disappear. And laughter often takes its place.

It can help to sit with someone experienced in doing The Work to hold the mind when it wants to run away, but it can also be done alone in written form for those who are patient and willing.

The Mind Will Often Avoid This Work

It is sometimes easier to live with a blacked out area of life than to gather the courage it takes to shine the light on the shadow. The solution is simple: light is always the antidote to darkness.

Awareness is always the antidote to confusion and suffering. When The Work is used gently and with care and patience, it can be like shining a floodlight into the darkness.

But It’s Important Not to Push

I’d much rather let myself be pulled to do The Work instead of pushing myself to do it. So I respect my resistance to doing The Work. In fact, resistance is often where I start.

I sometimes begin by making a list of fears and other stressful thoughts related to the idea of doing The Work on an old emotional trauma:

I won’t be able to handle it.
It is too powerful.
I will end up making it worse.
I have to resolve it completely this time.
I have to do it alone.
It’s too shameful to work with someone else.

When I question my stressful thoughts about doing The Work on the emotional trauma, I often find myself drawn to explore it a little deeper.

Step by step, I follow my confidence when it leads me to go in deeper. And I follow my resistance and fear when they show me I need to back off and do The Work on the resistance thoughts instead.

There Is No Push that Way

I may even take a break for months, or years, before feeling drawn to work on a trauma again. I am in control, listening, responding to my experience and getting support when needed to do my work.

I always hold that “I don’t have to do this work.” This gives me the greatest freedom. Life will go along just fine if I don’t do this work. It is a luxury to question traumatic thoughts using The Work, not a necessity.

When I see it this way, I put no pressure on myself at all. And ironically, that’s when I feel most drawn to do The Work.

Gain confidence in doing The Work by taking The Work 101 course with me. The more you develop the muscle of self-inquiry, the better it can serve you.

Have a great week,

“At some point, you may want to go to the deepest pain inside you and clear it up. Do The Work until you see your part in it.” Byron Katie, Loving What Is

Todd Smith has been doing The Work of Byron Katie on an almost daily basis since 2007. He is just as excited about this simple process of self-inquiry today as he was when he first came across it. He also enjoys writing about The Work, and training others in the subtleties of this meditative process. Join Todd for The Work 101 online course, private sessions, virtual retreats, and his ongoing Inquiry Circle group.