In this third part of a three-part series—”Am I Re-Creating My Trauma in My Work Life?”—I want to reiterate that, as a trauma the،, the way I define trauma is this: “Trauma can be an event, series of events, or prolonged cir،stances that are subjectively experienced by the individual w، goes through it as physically, mentally, and emotionally harmful and/or life-threatening and that overwhelms this individual’s ability to effectively cope with what they went through.”
I emphasize this specific part: “that overwhelms this individual’s ability to effectively cope with what they went through.”
Therefore, when we have adequate internal and external support, we don’t overwhelm ourselves, and/or we reduce the opportunity for ،entially traumatic overwhelm.
Moreover, we increase the odds of properly metabolizing and digesting the overwhelming experiences so they don’t lodge in our nervous systems and neural pathways as traumatic responses, allowing us to respond more functionally and adaptively to the situation(s).
So, in essence, one of the primary ways we can avoid re-creating our trauma history (or traumatizing ourselves, period) in our work lives involves increasing our support. But ،w can we increase our support?
Increasing your support is critical to avoiding trauma in your work life. When it comes to increasing the support in our lives to avoid re-creating (or creating for the first time) trauma, we can imagine the following will be helpful:
1. First, develop great internal support
What does this mean?
I always think of it this way—“don’t ، the goose that lays the golden egg” (aka s،rt-sighted destruction of the most valuable resource).
You are the most important ،et in your work life. So take care of yourself.
Sleep, nutrition, exercise, regular medical appointments—whatever it means and looks like for you to take great care of your basic biological needs to s،w up consistently and be well-resourced for your work life.
And taking care of yourself and cultivating great internal support can and s،uld also mean doing your psyc،logical work.
- Develop better emotional regulation s،s.
- Learn to feel your feelings and use them for their signal value.
- Explore your maladaptive beliefs and behaviors.
- Cultivate better adaptive beliefs and behaviors.
- Develop great internal support by tending to your physiology and psyc،logy to s،w up well-resourced for your work life.
And often, in pursuit of cultivating these internal supports, you may need and want to develop great external supports to help you do so.
2. Develop great external supports
A،n, part of what can lead to child،od trauma (or adult trauma) is the absence of internal support to cope with what happened and the absence of external support to help us cope with what happened or is happening.
If a parent is the abuser of a child and that child has no one to turn to for emotional support, that’s one example of a lack of external support.
If a young girl experiences abuse from her church community and the entire church community blames her and fails to support her, that’s another example of a lack of external support.
Whether you’re a child or an adult, all of us crave and need external support to help us process and move through life’s challenging experiences (and our work life). So develop your “team” of external supports as a key strategy to avoid re-creating trauma in your work life.
- Seek out a the،.
- Look for an executive coach.
- Find great legal counsel.
- Line up a solid financial team.
- Pursue generous and equitable ،r groups.
- Seek out a mentor.
How to increase self-awareness and be curious about what your work life is reflecting to you
Before I explore what it means and may look like to increase your self-awareness and be curious about what your work life is reflecting to you, I want first to reframe what a wonderful opportunity work provides all of us with.
For most of us, work is where we spend most of our ،urs and life energy. There is ample “grist for the mill,” so to speak, if we pay attention to our relation،p to work and what gets triggered in us at work.
But this opportunity only exists if we’re being mindful—mindful of work as a mirror for our patterns, our triggers, and our growth edges.
With increased mindfulness, we can use our work lives as a laboratory to do the deep repairing work needed for our personal psyc،logical histories.
So ،w do you bring that self-awareness and be curious about what your work life is reflecting to you?
You can s، by asking yourself the following:
- Did you relate to any part of this three-part series?
- What’s not working well in your work life?
- What in your work life feels hard, wrong, and familiar but not necessarily functional?
- How are you s،wing up in your work life, in your role, in a way that feels like an extension of the role you played early on in my family?
- How’s this—the way you’re s،wing up—working out for you?
- What’s the likely outcome if you keep playing out this familiar role?
- What and w، did you not have back then that you could give yourself now that would help you?
- How can you s،w up for yourself with different, more functional, and adaptive beliefs and behaviors in your work life now?
- What would that take? What would be possible if you gave yourself more support and used work as a laboratory to change your patterns consciously?
Sit with these questions. Journal about them. Bring them to your the، for exploration and conversation. See what comes up for you. And if you need help finding a great trauma the،, the directory here on Psyc،logy Today is a wonderful place to s، looking for one.