How To Help Someone Stuck In Silence and Trauma

Auntie Anne Beiler
March 30, 2020

Auntie Anne Beiler

Founder of Auntie Anne's Pretzels

The issue of trauma and silence is not my expertise, but it is my experience. I have relied heavily on the experts to help and guide me through my challenges with this complex issue.

With the help of learning through reading books on this topic, I continue to be inspired.

Trauma is an ongoing epidemic in our world. Being traumatized is not only an issue of being stuck in the past, but it’s also about not living fully in the present.

My sincere desire is to help encourage women (and men) through their trauma to find a place of freedom and discover the life they long to live, which is difficult to reach.

Because of my own experience, one of the first things I recommend in a healing journey is finding a safe friend and sharing your story. Use your voice to talk openly and honestly.

If you’re not ready to talk about the situations that have happened to you, find a book about trauma, silence, or abuse.

One of the most recent books I picked up is called The Body Keeps The Score by Vessel Van Der Kolk, M.D.

I’m reading it slowly and thoughtfully to gain more understanding. It has taken me deeper into my own experience of trauma and given me hope for anyone who is stuck. I recommend it highly. One passage states:

“The talking cure has lived on. Psychologists have generally assumed that telling the trauma story in great detail will help people leave it behind. This is a basic premise of cognitive-behavioral therapy which today is taught in graduate psychology courses around the world.” (Page 184, The Body Keeps The Score)

My message of confession is about this concept in its simplest form -- tell your story.

I know telling your story is not an instant cure, but it can be the beginning of your journey towards trauma healing.

It’s so important to start healing because the body literally keeps score.

“Keeping trauma by staying silent, upsets us physically with upset stomachs, our hearts racing, and feeling overwhelmed by trauma.” (Page 188, The Body Keeps The Score)

Trauma is an unbearable heaviness that keeps our body in the clutches of pain.

So what are some of the first steps to prompt or encourage someone we know has been traumatized?

  1. Be attuned to those around you -- the hearts of those who long to be heard open up when you’re open and transparent.
  2. Make sure people are safe in your presence. This is important because trauma people very often feel unsafe.
  3. Be a receivable person.
  4. Be open and inviting.
  5. Be someone with a soft center and firm edges. Be a person with a heart of compassion (soft center) and, at the same time, give the feeling of comfort and confidence. (Firm edges)

We have two ears and two eyes, but one mouth for a reason.
It’s more important to hear and see than it is to speak without first hearing the heart of the person in trauma.

We need ears to hear the silent cries of their heart.

Listening carefully with silence in this setting is essential. Healthy silence is important in allowing people to tell their stories.

Silence can feel uncomfortable and awkward until you realize people need uninterrupted time to empty. Interruptions can shut them down.

Being aware means having the eyes to see the need, then notice and respond carefully, compassionately, and lovingly.

Touch is also an essential part of healing.
(As of the time of writing this, our world is in the middle of the COVID-19 Pandemic. I know we’re asked to isolate and avoid touch. This situation will pass. So keep that in mind as you continue reading.)

Touch is a very simple practice and can be a first step to connect with a trauma person.

In my experience, I felt frozen emotionally, but I could not verbalize this. The touches and hugs of close friends and family were acceptable, and a common form of expressing love. But other than my family, touch was uncomfortable.

We long to be loved but are not sure what that looks or feels like. A gentle, healthy, appropriate touch is a way to connect.

Just like we thirst for water, we thirst for touch.

I love the stories of Jesus.
He saw the need.
He heard the cries.
He touched the body.
He spoke words.

He saw the man by the pool of Bethesda. He heard the cries of Mary and Martha. He touched the blind man. He spoke to the woman caught in adultery.

Very few of us are therapists, but I believe all of us can be aware of the people around us. We can do seemingly small things to care for and comfort without ever saying a word.

One of the lines I hear as I connect with women is, “I don’t want to talk about it.”

That line is a signal to me that this person is just waiting for someone who will listen, rather than interrupt as they test the waters by sharing.

When I hear that line, I instinctively ask, “What is it you don’t want to talk about?”

During my silent years, I was traveling quite a bit, and as I made my way through crowded airports, I had this deep longing to talk about my issues. I thought a total stranger would be a safe person to spill my guts to. I guess you would call that desperate!

I was desperate, and I was too scared to talk to anyone I knew.

Out of that desperation, and after years of hoping to talk and counseling, I finally found a safe place to share my story.

Because I’ve been on this journey, I now can do four things anytime I’m tuned in to the needs around me.

  1. I see.
  2. I hear.
  3. I touch.
  4. I speak.

You may have heard me talk about the small group experience I created called STORIESx8. This was my way of addressing the needs I saw around me. It allows eight women to gather and tell their stories, one at a time, while everyone else sits in silence.

It has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve done in my lifetime.

The joy and satisfaction of hearing the stories of women who have not been able to use their voices to tell their story confirms the truth that:

We ALL have a story.
We ALL want to be heard.
We ALL want to be connected.
We ALL want to be well.

I want to challenge those of us who have walked the path of silence and trauma but are now on the other side and feeling whole -- body, soul, and spirit.

My challenge to you is to join a multitude of women who are willing and able to see, hear, touch, and speak.

One of the last words Jesus spoke to his followers was, “The Kingdom of God is within you. Go and heal the sick.”

Freely we have received, and freely we give. Let’s help others in their healing journey.

The post How To Help Someone Stuck In Silence and Trauma appeared first on Auntie Anne Beiler.

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