I was watching the presidential debates and had a thought that kept swimming around in my head. Between the divisive presidential election and the ongoing pandemic–we are all going through a lot together.
Did you know that some experts say we are experiencing a chronic trauma right now?
Trauma by definition is an event that creates feelings of helplessness, powerlessness, and threatens our sense of safety. Does any of this feel familiar? Trauma is TOO much, TOO soon. When a person has ongoing trauma the brain stays in a place of vigilance. An “emergency state” of the brain persists. There is no opportunity to catch our breath and build some resilience.
We are facing daily unpredictability, uncertainty, and constant changes.
I am finding myself using two types of cognitions to help me cope with this ongoing trauma. One is “I am big” and another is “I am small.” Let me elaborate….
“I am big”
This is remembering what I have already navigated or overcome. I look through old journals or photos and remember all the intentional or organic strategies I used to move through a difficult season of my life. I recognize that even on the darkest days, I dug deep into my well of determination and resilience. I found support from friends, family, or professionals. In many of those situations, I can now see how rich my growth was as a result of the adversity.
I remember and use those capacities to bring courage to my life today.
I show up for my life. I give the best I have to offer (on that day) in my work.
I spend my resources of time, strengths, my voice and sometimes money supporting causes that are important to me. I take my spot in the world, and I try to add to the beauty in it. I may be one small (literally and figuratively) person in the world, but I can have an impact. I matter. I cannot control the political climate, the pandemic, or natural disasters but I can play my role in reshaping the world I live in.
“I am small”
This is the awe I feel when I look up at stars on a clear night or when I stand with my feet in the sand and experience the crashing of the ocean waves.
Have you stood at the foot of a mountain? Or took in a mighty oak tree? The Earth reminds me that it was here long before I came and it will be here long after I leave. I was listening to a song recently with a line —“When you feel this crazy society adding to the strain, take a stroll to the nearest water’s edge and remember your place” (Follow the Sun – Xavier Rudd).
Biologist Rachel Carson articulates it this way:
“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.”
I am humbled. I feel calmer somehow.
I feel inspired when I look to history. Our world has faced many heavy challenges. And yet, here we are—somehow continuing on. I read about oppressed peoples and gain strength from their character. Millions of people have experienced much graver circumstances than I face. Their courage moves me to be grateful. It motivates me to press on. It prompts me to have a broader perspective.
“I am big” and “ I am small” helps me have a way of regarding the current situation. I take a step back from my anxious thoughts. I see where I have something to offer. I trust that I have a purpose and can have an impact. I trust the world will keep evolving and growing. I stay present in my life and honor those who have gone before me.
Cyndi Benner, MA, LPC is a trauma therapist who loves exploring the world for it’s beauty, including inside the people she loves and supports at Inspire.
Cyndi is a quiet, strong and kindhearted therapist and has the gift of writing. She inspires us all to be our best.