What might surprise you about trauma

Founding Mother, Chard & Stripes

I’d been bingeing Finding Mastery, a podcast by Dr. Michael Gervais, and was thinking I’d skip the episode on trauma with Dr. Bessel van der Kolk. But I read the promo anyway and three sentences changed my mind:

You might be thinking, “Well I don’t have PTSD, how does this conversation apply to me?”

What you might be surprised to learn is how many of us are affected by trauma but just don’t realize it.

According to Dr. van der Kolk’s research, 75% of Americans suffer from some type of past traumatic experience.

The conversation drew me in, and I tweeted Gervais my review: “Whoa. I’ll be listening again.”

Though newly interested in trauma, I still wasn’t thinking I’d experienced trauma.

That changed, however, when I read the intro to The Transformation: Discovering Wholeness and Healing After Trauma*, a book by Dr. James S. Gordon.

Gordon is Founder of The Center for Mind-Body Medicine, the world’s largest and most effective program for healing population-wide trauma. He says that sooner or later, trauma comes to all of us. Trauma is a Greek word meaning “injury.” To Gordon…

Poverty is traumatizing.

Life-threatening illness, long-term disability and chronic pain are all traumatizing.

And caring for someone with those conditions is traumatizing.

As a 24/7 caregiver for my father, for years, I’d fantasized more than once about taking his morphine to zone out or jumping from our balcony to make it end.

That wasn’t just exhaustion. That was injury to some part of me. That, I discovered, was trauma.

Trauma indicated by the rapid onset of bad aches and pains in my body. But I don’t think of myself as a traumatized person, but rather someone who’s experienced trauma and is healing.

And how do I know this?

Because “The Body Keeps the Score,” as van der Kolk named his bestselling book, and my body is feeling better and better as I remake my life after my father’s passing. And my spirits are running high.

With expertise in addiction, childhood development and stress, Dr. Gabor Maté has said, “Trauma is not what happens to you. Trauma is what happens inside you, as a result of what happens to you.” He’s also said, “Every human has a true authentic self. Trauma is the disconnection from it and healing is the reconnection to it.”

What that all says, to me, anyway, is that…

Trauma is inner injury. (Dr. Gordon defines trauma as injury to mind, body, spirit.)


Not being your true self is traumatizing.

Full-time caregiving was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But it was also the most freeing:

Helping my dad pass helped me fear less about breaking ranks and care more about being myself.

My true self.

Myself whose personality aligns with my soul. My inner Christ. My full potential.

Myself who wouldn’t hide or bite her tongue to her detriment.

There’s power in understanding what Dr. Gordon does: Sooner or later, we’re all touched by trauma.

Injury doesn’t make you damaged, but human.

Injury, in fact, can spur growth and help you be your true self.

And it can be healed with tools available to us ALL, so long as we know to use them.

Visit The Center for Mind-Body Medicine at CMBM.org:

Learn self-care practices, like soft belly breathing and shaking and dancing. You can also watch a webinar series to promote healing from coronavirus trauma and stress, as well as learn about the center’s training programs and more.

Discover The Wisdom of Trauma, a film featuring Dr. Maté:

Watch the trailer below or click here to sign up for the full movie premiere, June 8-14, 2021.

*Transforming Trauma: The Path to Hope and Healing is the paperback version of The Transformation, but with a post-2020 introduction.

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Dr. Mary-Elizabeth Harmon is a scientist turned storyteller and Founding Mother of Chard & Stripes, a “school” of prosperity making and word-of-mouth marketing platform for businesses in food, fashion and more. Subscribe to her weekly newsletter here.