Mentorship for Trauma

Trauma occurs when stress exceeds an individual’s containment capacity. Physiological (i.e. emotional) energy breaks through the emotional containment of the self and splits off to create what is known as the trauma vortex. Incomplete responses to the traumatic situation (fight, flee, freeze, orient) are locked in the trauma vortex and contribute to the continued erosion of containment. Subsequent traumas are evoked by and contribute to these frozen response patterns.

In the work of trauma healing, energy is slowly reclaimed from the trauma vortex and reintroduced to a newly-stabilized container (by way of careful titration). This requires the completion of locked response patterns and the development of new adaptations for dealing with similarly stressful situations. This sequence follows the evolutionary imperative toward healing.

Healthy containment involves the development of core relational, consciousness, and body awareness skills. These include grounding, centering, and boundaries. When combined in the spirit of authentic inquiry and relationship, these skills deliver presence, emotional management, safety of feelings, and overall psychological health.

Here are some guidelines for mentorship within the context of trauma:

  • Practice grounding, centering, and boundaries in yourself.

  • Be contained, and prevent your own activation.

  • Work to build containment in the present moment.

  • Work on safety and developing safe space.

  • Work on grounding, centering, and boundaries.

  • Work on developing body sensation skills.

  • Help contain dissociation, overwhelm, and fear.

  • Work on incomplete nervous system responses (for example, many fighters need to learn how to freeze or flee, many freezers need to fight or flee, and many fleers need to freeze or fight).

  • Encourage physical activities (such as sports) to learn a wider range of response choices.

  • Help to develop a support system.

  • Avoid revisiting or reactivating the trauma (i.e. by telling the story).

  • Do not focus discussions on the past (build containment in the present).

  • Do not use unstructured or spontaneous expressive techniques (get training).

  • Do not validate or discount recovered memories (treat them as in process).

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