The 5 Stages of Healing Your Trauma
Embarking on a journey of healing your childhood trauma can feel like a daunting task! It can feel like you are stumbling along with no clear direction. When we find ourselves trapped in endless loops of suffering, repeating the same patterns of trauma over and over again, we can feel like giving up completely!
In fact, trauma is so prevalent in our society right now (regardless of your geographic location). And we can unknowingly inject ourselves with lies and delusions (masquerading as truth) when seeking out answers to our questions about HOW to break free from our trauma. Consider also that trauma is a leading cause of substance abuse and addiction (1), and it becomes clear why so many get lost in adulthood after surviving horrific childhoods. I myself experienced years of abuse as a child, like almost everyone else did to some varying degree or another. It led me down very dark paths until I learned how to heal myself and break free from my suffering.
It takes great courage and determination to face the difficult emotions and challenges that healing trauma brings. The good news is that if you are dedicated to your desire to heal, then liberation is not only possible – it’s guaranteed! On the other side of your trauma, is a whole person – ready to live their best life!
Since healing trauma is messy and chaotic, I have outlined the 5 different stages you will move through as you continue down your healing path. But before getting into those, here are some tips to remember when you embark on this journey.
Practice Self-Care: It’s important to practice self-care as you move through your healing journey. You can try activities like exercise, healthy eating, and getting enough sleep as well as stress-reducing activities like meditation, yoga, and journaling. Self-care means that you honor when you need to take a step back and take better care of yourself.
Set Realistic Goals: Healing your trauma is a lifelong process! Set realistic goals for yourself and be patient with your progress. Take your healing journey one day at a time, or even one breath at a time if you are in an active state of trauma. A realistic goal could be to learn how to better regulate one of your triggers or to uncover the root cause of one of your automatic reactions.
Be Kind: It is so important to practice self-compassion and non-judgment as you work through the healing process. This can be hard for a lot of people that are just starting their healing journey. It is easy to fall into feelings like shame and guilt, but do your best to remind yourself that you are healing and growing and that it’s okay to progress slowly, and even make mistakes along the way.
The 5 Stages
Healing from trauma is a journey that takes time, dedication, and resilience, but there IS a roadmap that you can follow to help you gauge where you are at in your healing journey. I have broken this journey down into 5 distinct stages. Please be aware that you can be moving through different stages for different areas of your trauma at any given moment. So for example, you may be on stage 3 of healing your father wound, but in stage 1 of healing your wound of perfectionism. Also, there is no right or wrong way to move through these stages, whatever way YOU move through them – is the right way. Finally, these stages are my interpretation from my own healing journey and could look different for yours. Use this as a guide and roadmap, not a sacred teaching or set-in-stone ideology.
The first stage of healing from trauma is recognizing that you need to heal! This may seem obvious, but it is a crucial step that is often overlooked. Many people who have experienced trauma may try to ignore or suppress their feelings and emotions, or may not even realize that they are struggling with the effects of their childhood trauma.
However, ignoring the need to heal can have serious consequences. Trauma will manifest in a variety of ways, including physical symptoms such as chronic pain or fatigue, emotional symptoms such as depression, anxiety, and difficulty with relationships, and spiritual symptoms like feeling disconnected from the Divine or being too rigid and dogmatic in your belief system. If trauma is left unaddressed, it can significantly impact your overall well-being and quality of life, not only affecting you personally but also spilling over onto everyone in your life.
How do you recognize the need to heal? Here are some signs to look out for:
Persistent negative emotions: If you are struggling with negative emotions such as anger, sadness, anxiety, depression, or fear regularly, it may be a sign that you are dealing with unresolved trauma.
Physical symptoms: Trauma can manifest in physical symptoms such as chronic pain, headaches, inflammation, or fatigue. When the body is ill, it is because we are out of alignment and unresolved trauma will manifest in a variety of ways, masquerading as many types of diseases until we have learned how to heal.
Difficulty with relationships: Trauma can impact your ability to trust and connect with others in a healthy way. It can present itself in one of two ways. First, it can display itself as being a perpetual victim, where you are always upset and offended at everything and everyone around you. Or secondly, it can manifest with you being the aggressor and displaying unhealthy qualities like manipulation, coercion, narcissism, angry outbursts, and even violence against another. For a lot of people with unresolved trauma, they will bounce back between these two in a perpetual cycle of being the abuser, and being the victim.
Difficulty managing daily life: Trauma can interfere with your ability to function in daily life. If you are struggling to meet your responsibilities at work or at home, or if you are having trouble taking care of yourself, it may be a sign that you need to heal.
If you are experiencing any of these signs, it is important to seek healing and reach out for help if needed. Healing from trauma is not easy, however, taking the first step towards healing is a powerful and courageous act that can lead to significant improvements in your overall well-being and quality of life.
The second stage of healing your trauma is seeking outside help for perspective. This may involve seeking the support of a therapist, coach, or other mental health professionals like we already talked about, or joining a support group or online community with others who have experienced similar trauma.
Why is it important to seek outside help?
Trauma can distort your perspective: Trauma can affect your ability to see things objectively and make it difficult to process your experiences in a healthy way. A coach or support group can provide a fresh perspective and help you to see things in a more balanced way.
Healing from trauma requires self-exploration: Healing from trauma often involves exploring difficult emotions and memories. This can be challenging to do on your own, and it may be helpful to have the support and guidance of a trained professional to keep you motivated to continue down your path of healing when it gets more difficult.
Support is crucial: Healing from trauma is often a lonely and isolating experience. Seeking support from others who have experienced similar trauma can provide a sense of connection and understanding, and can help you to feel less alone on your healing journey.
Professional help can be more effective: While it can be helpful to talk to friends and family about your experiences, a therapist, coach, or support group can provide a deeper level of support and guidance. They can also offer specific tools and techniques to help you cope with your feelings and work through your trauma.
Seeking outside help is a brave and important step toward healing from trauma. It may be scary to reach out for support, but it can lead to significant improvements in your well-being and quality of life. If you are struggling with the effects of trauma, don’t hesitate to seek the help you need. Book a free 30-minute discovery call with me and let’s give you a roadmap to your healing journey!
The third stage of healing trauma is practicing self-compassion and non-judgment with yourself as you explore your trauma at a deeper level. This may seem counterintuitive, as many people who have experienced trauma feel guilty or responsible for what happened to them. However, self-blame and self-judgment will completely hinder your healing process and keep you bound to suffering.
As you discover ways to explore your inner world through different modalities and therapies, it is crucial to remember that you deserve love and compassion throughout your healing journey. Be kind to yourself and remind yourself often, that even though this healing process is hard, it will be worth it on the other side of your healing.
Even if you have done terrible things in the past to yourself or others due to your unresolved trauma, it is important to suspend your critical judgment and give yourself grace. We are all messed up, flawed, and fractured beings until we have healed. Remember that you are now on your healing journey, and that is what matters most.
Here are some ways to practice self-compassion and non-judgment:
You’re not alone: Many people who have experienced trauma feel isolated and alone. It can be helpful to remember that you are not alone and that others have gone through similar experiences. if you have found a good support group, then you will know for sure that you are definitely not alone.
You’re doing the best you can: Trauma can have a profound impact on your ability to cope with daily life. Remember that you’re doing the best you can under difficult circumstances, and try to be kind to yourself when things don’t go as planned.
Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness is the practice of bringing your attention to the present moment without judgment. This can help you to let go of self-blame and self-judgment and to be more accepting of your experiences as you heal.
Have fun: Engaging in activities that bring you joy and a sense of happiness and fulfillment, no matter how small, can help to boost your mood and improve your overall well-being. Working through trauma is challenging, so taking breaks to just have fun is super important!
Reframing: If you are working through something incredibly challenging it can be helpful to reframe your experience. You can move away from viewing it as your adult self and instead look at it through the lens of your wounded inner child. This can immediately bring up self-compassion for the child that was mistreated, and cultivate feelings of love and non-judgment towards yourself.
Practicing self-compassion and non-judgment can be challenging, but it is an important step toward healing. You cannot heal what you don’t face, so learning how to face your trauma, fears, & phobias, through compassion and non-judgment is the only way you can break free from your bondage.
The fourth stage of healing from trauma is shadow work, which involves exploring and integrating the “shadow” aspects of the self. The shadow refers to the unconscious aspects of the self that we tend to repress or deny, such as negative emotions, unresolved traumas, and unhealed wounds.
Why is shadow work important in the healing process?
Break free from suffering: When we repress or deny our shadow aspects, they will manifest in unhealthy ways, often through self-destructive behaviors or repeated cycles of toxic relationships. But when we learn how to explore and integrate the shadow, we learn healthy ways of coping with difficult emotions and experiences and set ourselves free from suffering.
Greater self-awareness: Exploring the shadow can help us to become more self-aware and understand ourselves better. This can lead to greater self-acceptance and self-compassion, which are essential for personal growth and well-being.
Heal unresolved wounds: Many people who have experienced trauma have unresolved wounds that may be contributing to their suffering. By exploring and addressing these wounds through shadow work, we can begin the healing process. Common wounds that people need healing from are the mother/father wound, the wound of unworthiness, the wound of abandonment, and the wound of suppression.
Break patterns of negative behavior: Our shadow aspects can influence our behavior in negative ways, such as through self-sabotage or unhealthy relationships. By exploring and integrating the shadow, we can break these patterns of negative behavior and create healthier ways of being in the world.
Shadow work can be challenging, as it involves facing difficult emotions and experiences. However, it can be a powerful tool for healing and personal growth. If you are interested in exploring shadow work, it may be helpful to seek the support of a therapist or other trained professional.
The fifth and final stage of healing from trauma is understanding that we heal in layers and that we will continue to heal as we work through the other stages repeatedly, deepening our level of healing each time. This can be a difficult concept to grasp, as we often want to believe that we can “fix” our problems and move on. However, the reality is that healing from trauma is a lifelong process.
Why is it important to understand that we heal in layers? Here are some reasons:
Healing from trauma is not a one-time event: Trauma can have a profound impact on our lives and can affect us in many different ways. As such, healing from trauma is not a one-time event, but rather a process that unfolds over time.
Healing happens in stages: It is common to go through different stages as we heal from trauma, such as recognizing the need to heal, seeking outside help, practicing self-compassion, and doing shadow work. Understanding that we heal in stages can help us to be more patient and compassionate with ourselves as we work through the healing process.
We will continue to heal as we work through the stages repeatedly: As we work through the stages of healing, we may find that certain issues or emotions come up again and again. This is a normal part of the process, and it is an opportunity to continue to heal and grow.
Healing deepens over time: As we work through the stages of healing repeatedly, we can deepen our level of healing. This can lead to greater self-awareness, self-acceptance, and a sense of peace and contentment.
Understanding that we heal in layers can be a helpful perspective to have as we work through the healing process. It can help us to be more patient and compassionate with ourselves, and to recognize that healing is a lifelong journey.