‘Are you on a mission? And how come that trauma – such a heavy word, such a serious matter – is your passion?’
That is what people ask me when they hear about my tour, about me and my bus traveling through Europe to talk and teach about trauma and to try to soften the pain of trauma. ‘No, I am not on a mission (that is a far too religious word for me to befriend with) – and yes, trauma is my passion, and I do have a message.
I really believe that pain should come in the open.
That it should be de-tabooed: we should know more about it, understand better what traumatic pain is, how it functions, how it takes possession of us, we should be able to look at it more closely, to be with it (for a while). Trauma, pain, fear … we’d rather not experience it or watch it happen in someone else’s life. It is like with ‘death’: we know it is part of our lives, we all have to deal with it, and yet we don’t – because it’s (too) uncomfortable. How to talk about human mistreatment, heavy physical pain, profound disrespect of your person, or situations where you felt like if your life was in danger? How to share the feelings of loneliness and hopelessness that go with such pain? We often do not know how to do that, and try to ban painful events and feelings from our minds, we want to forget about it.
It is something in pain itself too. We’re hardwired to avoid and suppress pain. It helps us survive, it helps us to go on.
Avoiding, minimizing and denying pain is our most natural, short term solution to deal with pain. It is a survival mechanism. It often takes a while, from seconds to minutes, to physically feel the pain caused by an accident, a car crash or a broken leg. Not feeling the pain gives us more time to save ourselves, to get away from danger. Out of the car, walk away and call the ambulance f.ex. On the long term, however, not feeling isn’t very effective. Because it is impossible to heal from something we don’t acknowledge. On the long term, suppressed pain comes back to us, like a boomerang. That is what trauma and traumatic pain is about: it is pain that doesn’t seems to go away, pain that stays with us far too long, as a residue of what happened to us.
I believe that this residual pain needs to be addressed more openly.
Traumatic pain can be softened – and it should be. Because unresolved trauma makes us sick, depressed and heavy-hearted. It deregulates us, deeply and on many levels: mind, heart and body. We know that traumatic pain lies at the heart of most contemporary diseases, be they mental or physical, we know that trauma adds to almost every sickness as a major contributing factor. And yet … the knowledge about trauma and how to address it to lower its dramatic impact on our lives is far from common.
That is what my tour is about: I want the world to be trauma-informed.
I want people to come and look at the pictures on the bus and ask questions. I want them to learn about trauma and realize that healing is possible. We can all learn best practices regarding talking and coping. We can all learn to calm down and regulate a body in fight, flight or freeze modus. We can all learn techniques to stop nightmares and flashbacks. We can all learn to help traumatized persons recover. It often takes not more than 15 minutes to help people sleep better: help them release tension before they go to bed, by offering a relaxing breathing exercise, or teach them to intervene in their dreams by using their imagination, by rehearsing a different ending for their nightmare f.ex.
We are all on a mission: to a certain degree we all need to become trauma specialists.
First, we need to deal with our own trauma’s and those of the people around us. We need to dare to feel and face our pain instead of running away from it. Second, there’s too much suffering in the world as to leave its resolution to the clinical field or therapeutic setting. Therapeutic knowledge should be accessible to all of us, it should not be protected and copyrighted. Therapeutic knowledge should be alive in the world, not only in shrinks’ offices. That is why I do what I do: share my knowledge about trauma with you, share insights, methods and techniques from the field of trauma healing … so that we can all, together, ease and soften the pain in our world.
I don’t know of any other projects sharing therapeutic knowledge in the way Trauma Tour does. But the idea of a trauma-informed world is related to a growing field of ‘self care’: taking responsibility for one’s own (mental) health by reading self help books, attending self help groups, becoming experience experts, … It is long known that helping on this ‘equal’ level, is often more effective than any method or technique. It is also known that the relationship between ‘therapist’ and ‘patient’ is a major factor when it comes to healing. If we combine both, ‘helping expertise’ and ‘being equal’, it seems a very natural thing to come out of our offices and share therapeutic knowledge with those who suffer. It makes ‘us’ helpers and ‘them’ traumatized people equal human beings, fellow human beings. It restores humanity.
I’m now in the middle of planning my first big tour: driving down the Balkan route and visit Greece in December 2016 / January 2017. If you’re reading this and you want to support Trauma Tour, here’s a list of things you can do to help me : call me in for a training, be my local host on my way down to Greece, put me in contact with people who might need me … An easy and very effective way to support Trauma Tour is to make a financial contribution – I thank you for that!
The production of this article was supported by Op3n Fellowships – an ongoing program for community contributors during May – November 2016.