Viewing social issues through a trauma-informed lens
A trauma-informed lens shifts our question from: “What is wrong with you?” to “What has or is happening to you?” This helps us recognizes the impact of trauma on people’s behavior. A trauma-informed lens also moves from simply a focus on an individual's behavior to ask, "How can we be a better support for people?" and addresses the organizational and systems issues that might get in the way of people's efforts at healing and wellness (1). What changes would need to be made in organizations and communities if social issues were viewed through a trauma-informed lens?
- Acing out and acting in behaviors are common ways individuals, organizations, communities, and societies re-enact trauma.
- Often families, organizations, communities, and societies react to these behaviors rather than recognizing trauma as a root cause and providing interventions that support trauma healing.
- For example, it is important to recognize incarceration and substance abuse is strongly related to childhood adversity and trauma.
Carolyn Yoder in the Little Book of Trauma Healing reminds us that the proof of trauma healing is not only in the ability to carry out basic functions, but importantly in the quality of people’s relationships (2).
Providing safety and support is foundational to trauma healing
What helps create an environment of safety and restores one’s sense of personal control?
Establishing safety begins with control of the body and moves outward toward self-protection and self-care and the organization of a safe environment. Survivors often feel unsafe in their bodies and unsafe relative to other people. Emotions and feelings often feel out of control. Strategies must address people’s safety concerns in all of these areas. Along with these elements of safety there is a progression to safety and control of the environment. Establishing a safe environment requires not only a mobilization of caring people but also a plan for future protection (3) - Judith Herman.
Acknowledgement of trauma has been identified as crucial to trauma healing, as it allows the individual (and larger community) to recognize the violence committed. It allows there to be a connection to the reality, and offers a possibility of grieving that is necessary to be able to reconnect to others, re-establish trust and relationships, and reintegrate the trauma into the life and of the individual or community (3).
An important task of trauma healing is “empowerment and reconnection as experiences of recovery” (3). Trauma creates a rupture in relationships that requires reconnection with one’s self and others (4).
Throughout the process of reconnection it is important to remember that the process of healing is a journey that involves work on multiple dimensions (2). The individual going through the healing process can often loose connection with their own self which can lead to feeling “unsafe in their bodies” (3). There are many tools to assist an individual in reconnecting with their bodies including grounding techniques, meditation, and yoga (5).
- Dhaliwal, Kanwarpal (2017) Going beyond asking what happened: building beloved community. Accessed http://www.acesconnection.com/blog/going-beyond-asking-what-happened-building-beloved-community on April 11, 2018.
- Yoder, Carolyn. (2005). The Little Book of Trauma Healing. Intercourse, PA: Good Books.
- Herman, Judith (1997). Trauma and Recovery. The aftermath of violence-from domestic abuse to political terror. New York, NY: Basic Books.
Winslade & Williams (2012). Safe and Peaceful Schools: Addressing Conflict and Eliminating Violence. Sage Publications.
- Sparrowe, Linda (2011). Transcending yoga. Yoga International, Fall 2011, 49-53, 89. https://yogainternational.com/article/view/transcending-trauma-how-yoga-heals