When you’re cut, you bleed.
When you experience cutoff, public ridicule, or rejection by colleagues, peers, or even your own flesh and blood…you bleed, losing copious units of the plasma-packed fluid that runs warm through your veins of socio-emotional wellness and fuels your longevity.
As opposed to bleeding out and suffering, I challenge you to use your ‘trauma tourniquet’. You have the capacity and inherent resilience required to stop the bleeding, save yourself, and reconnect with your sense of safety—as well as the reality that, more often than not, you are okay, and you have survived.
Here’s one thing to remember about trauma: it’s subjective. This basically means that, if you tell me that you’ve directly or indirectly experienced trauma, then I have every reason to believe you and absolutely no right to minimize your anguish.
Let’s say that you were ostracized and bullied during grade school—which can, indeed, be traumatic. As you look back, it’s easy to visualize the blank stares, hyena laughs, and pointing fingers—as if the torment happened just yesterday. These sensory experiences still feel real and are anything but amusing. However, this doesn’t mean that they are real or that you’re actually in immediate danger today.
If you find yourself recalling these memories often or witnessing them reach into present-day scenarios and constantly pull you brain’s fear response alarm even when there’s no fire, then you’re likely dealing with the effects of painful past learning. Think of this as an accumulation of traumatic experiences that lead you to remain on the prowl years later and react impulsively to current situations that closely resemble those past threats—using your fight, flight, or freeze stress responses.
If you’re specifically dealing with a social wound, then it’s also likely that you’re grappling with the aftermath of social pain. Believe it or not, when an individual is marginalized, taunted, or socially isolated, the brain’s dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) activates. It switches on during real-time experiences and recollection. Think of it as a section of the brain’s surveillance system that persistently scans the internal and external environment for real or perceived threats to one’s survival—such as rising water, hunger, or other sensations of physical discomfort. The dACC also plays a significant role in cognitive and motor functioning.
Here are some ways to use that ‘trauma tourniquet’ that I mentioned earlier and prevent your dACC from overheating your nervous system after you’ve experienced or re-experienced social pain:
- Unlearn what you’ve Learned: Your prehistoric brain is often tempted to use a fire hydrant to extinguish a candle flame. Also, your anxious mind runs on painful past learning, becomes accustomed to catastrophizing , and struggles to distinguish real from perceived
Remember this: There’s a difference between being threatened and feeling threatened. If you ever find yourself on high alert, feel free to check-in with yourself about whether or not your life is actually on the line.
- Come to your Senses: Activate your ‘cool’, parasympathetic nervous system. Begin to experience the world in real-time. Take note of what you see, taste, hear, and feel (either with your hands or within your body). Doing so will help you become grounded within your environment and recognize your safety in the present moment.
- Push for Posttraumatic Growth: There isn’t a structured timeline or fixed deadline for the healing process, and no one should feel pressured to breakthrough alone. A trained trauma therapist can help you recognize what been happening to you, as well as provide you with the tools to tap into your inherent resilience so that you can stop the bleeding and finally feel relief.
Feel free to reach out today so that you can begin to embark on your healing journey!