Joining Together to Heal Trauma
From earthquakes to loss and abuse, traumatic events continue to happen to people daily. David Grand explains why you shouldn’t let yourself or anyone else suffer alone.
Trauma tests us. It also provides us with opportunities to deeply explore who we are, where we’ve been, and where we are heading. It shapes us, teaching us what is truly important and what is trivial. It teaches us that we survive and how to survive.
In general, people who carry prior trauma are likely to be more deeply affected by a subsequent trauma. I have seen this time and again working with hundreds of 9/11 survivors throughout the past decade. I’ve been amazed at the resiliency of some people in contrast to the fragility of others. Using Brainspotting, a brain-based treatment model I developed that uses eye position to find, focus, process, and release traumatic experiences, I saw some 9/11 survivors experience significant healing in just a few sessions. Yet, others with trauma in their past have required months or years to recover. Some knew about their prior trauma, others discovered it during the healing process.
During a traumatic experience, the brain is deeply affected. The brain is a complex mechanism, comprised of one quadrillion (a million billion) connections, a number that is essentially infinite. Trauma can overwhelm the flow of energy through these connections and confuse the brain, leaving behind pieces of the experience unprocessed. This is what spawns classic trauma symptoms such as flashbacks, hypervigilance, fear of reoccurrence, and interrupted sleep. Because these manifestations tend to be held in the intuitive, somatic areas of the brain (the right hemisphere and the mammalian and reptilian regions), it is difficult for us to “talk” our way out of trauma. Treatments like Brainspotting, and other similar modalities, use mindfulness and body experience to access and release these deeper regions of the brain.
Among 9/11 survivors, I have witnessed tremendous evidence that healing trauma is a collective process. Those who were isolated healed more slowly, and those connected to others healed more rapidly. I have also observed this in working with Katrina survivors and with soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan. Connection to family, friends, colleagues, community, nation, and globe guides us to heal, learn, grow, and move forward. Since traumatic events continue to happen to people daily—from earthquakes to loss and abuse—this is a lesson we can take home: don’t let yourself or anyone else suffer alone.
In honor of the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, we can join together to remember and honor our experience and heal the lingering effects of trauma. Do you remember the moment you first heard about the attacks? What were you doing? Who were you talking to? Then think about who you were the moment before. Were you happy? Did you already live with the effects of trauma? Take a moment to reflect on where you are now, 10 years later. After a few more moments, imagine how you might want to be 10 years from now. Sit with these questions mindfully. Then, share your answers with someone else, leaving behind suffering alone and joining together for healing.
David Grand, PhD, the discoverer and developer of Brainspotting, has worked with 9/11 and Katrina survivors, as well as veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan.