Coaching and working with the effects of trauma.
We were all invited to be curious during Coach training with CTI. A question had been asked in group and I chose to answer it, which was a risk as it has never been easy for me to speak up in public. My words were ignored. It was as if I had not spoken. Initially I felt outrage but very quickly that became shame. An attacking hypercritical voice inside my own head started to viciously berate me, “of course it was my fault”, and if in some unstated way I could have “been different this would not have happened.” I felt the barriers of shame and isolation go up. I just wanted to leave and not be seen. Somewhere I also knew that I needed to find a new way to deal with this apart from running away. There was also a dialogue with myself that needed to take place.
I had been doing Parts work for some years using inner family systems, and I had studied the developmental model of addiction and knew something about trauma, triggers and involuntary responses. In that moment I chose to use curiosity instead of judgement. Which was pretty much the essence of what we had been working with during the training.
I invited the part of me that is a loving adult and asked him to take care of the part that is my wounded child, and explain to him that just because the group leader hadn’t heard, it was no reflection on him. I went into self-parenting mode, it was not as if I could call a friend, talking to others in that state would only make things worse. I knew that I had to take charge of my interpretation or remain in painful feelings of shame and isolation associated with abandonment and not being heard as a child.
I also knew from experience that telling myself to get over it did not work. By inviting the loving adult part of me to take care of the wounded child part, I did not have to act out my distress in dysfunctional ways that would not have served me.
Dealing with the effects of trauma – both my own and others has led me to understand that there are some who are able to hold painful feelings and others who are not. I have continued to support dialogue with the traumatised parts of myself and my clients. The simple act of being present emotionally, allowing connection and staying curious, have effectively set the backdrop for deep healing and self-compassion. I have not had to fix, spiritually bypass or minimise the traumatic experience of others, nor have I had to get them to spell it all out. The effects of the trauma are in the moment, in a kind of learned resistance to connection, in the belief that shutting down or other responses to trauma will attenuate suffering.
So often clients respond to their own pain in the way their caregivers responded to them when they needed connection, when they needed to be emotionally held. Our job is foster connection with the client that he or she might learn to connect more easily with him or herself.