Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Surviving Workplace Abuse: The Nuts and Bolts of Trauma

This post is titled "The Nuts and Bolts of Trauma".  It is probably more the bolts, the bigger pieces, than the fiddly nuts - the ins and outs, the peculiarities.

Overviews start with the big pieces, the farther views and then start cranking in nearer and nearer - just like I do with my lenses when taking pictures.  Often I start with the farthest view and then crank in closer and closer until I get as close to the object, photographically speaking, as I possibly can - and then I back out again.

Each view, each angle changes the perspective a wee bit, yet, at the same time, making it more recognizable.

Perhaps something catches my eye as the gold spires located in the middle of this picture taken from Hamilton mountain did.  I was playing with my new camera and zoom lenses.

The thing with far views is that it enables us to recognize the object from a closer-up view.

Continuing on with more of an overview of trauma, Julie Woodley in Surviving the Storms of Life: Finding Hope and Healing When Life Goes Wrong lists 14 themes which she has observed occur in most accounts of traumatic events.

These are:
  1. Trauma can strike anyone.
  2. Trauma is often unpredictable.
  3. Trauma leaves us feeling unsafe.
  4. Trauma involves a loss.
  5. Trauma makes us feel overwhelmed
  6. Trauma is often unspeakable.
  7. Trauma can isolate us from others.
  8. Different people may interpret trauma in different ways
  9. Trauma can change or challenge our view of God.
  10. Trauma produces "hyper-arousal," "hyper-alertness," and "hyper-sensitivity."
  11. Traumatized people often re-experience the trauma
  12. Trauma leads to feelings of helplessness.
  13. Trauma doesn't make sense.
  14. Trauma is not incurable; recovery is possible. (chapter 2; pgs 27-39)
This list is just for starters.  The tip of the iceberg of understanding what trauma is and what it has done to you or your spouse, relative, friend, neighbour, etc..  Looking at this list, I've experienced all of them at one point or another during and because of the two workplace abuse situations.  Some of these I still experience such as feeling overwhelmed easily, feeling isolated from others, trying to make sense out of something that does not and cannot make sense (#13) and, of course, working on recovery.  Believing that recovery is possible.  With help.

After each of these themes, Ms. Woodley goes on to say more about each one.  To get a bit more into the nuts of each theme.  To clarify.  To focus the lens closer up.

For now, though, just look at the list of themes and see if there are any surprises there.  Things that you either never thought about or thought differently about.

To me, one of the biggest misunderstandings about trauma is that those people who are "healthy" i.e. have not experienced disruption in their lives due to trauma, think that there is something intrinsically wrong with the person who is suffering from it - or working through it.

I think one of the biggest hindrances is that "healthy" people think that I'm just weak.  Or, perhaps, just faking it.  Or maybe I'm not working hard enough to "get over it".  Maybe they think I just need to "move one".

They just don't get it. They don't realize that it can happen to them.  That no one is immune from trauma, no matter how "healthy" they are.

In fact, most, if not all, of us who have gone through workplace abuse thought that it could never happen to us.  The guy who had a reputation for bullying would not attack us because we were known for being able to get along with difficult people.

Difficult people.  A person can be difficult but not a bully. There's a difference.

We're not talking about something the survivor can just walk away from or move on from.  We're talking about something that has totally changed not only how the survivor experiences or perceives life but also, if severe enough, may have altered the dynamics of the brain function.

Walking through my own journey, I have encountered these affects.  I've experience the nuts and bolts of trauma.


This shot, which was taken with my most powerful zoom lens cranked out to its fullest, shows the church building with the golden dome and spires more closely.

Last week, hubby and I were driving through this area of Hamilton, Ontario on our way to a scenic point on the Niagara Escarpment.  We were driving slowly along congested streets when suddenly I saw a church with golden spires.  St Anne's Basilica the sign read.  I knew immediately that I'd seen it before.  When?  Where?  And then I remembered.  When I got back home that day I looked into my files on my computer and Voila! there were the two pictures I'd taken more than a year ago.  Same building, different perspective.

Because I had seen what I now know to be this basilica from farther away and had been interested in it, I was able to recognize it when I saw it up close and personal from street view.

Trauma can be that way.  If we learn what it is from a farther view, when we see it more up close and personal in a relative or friend close to us, we will be able to recognize it.

Just like I recognized this building from the outside, I still have no way of knowing from these pictures, from the overview, what the inside of the building is like.  The layout.  The services.  The congregation.  Etc.  Therefore, it stands to reason that we may still need more training, more education, more learning of what trauma entails once we learn to recognize it.  We will need to learn more - eventually - what trauma looks like internally to more fully understand what is happening within us or the person we love.

Until tomorrow ....

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