Understanding Trauma Complexities

Why I Think Working With Trauma is Like Baking A Croissant - Understanding Trauma Complexity

Before we begin, let’s understand some baking science.


If you’re a person who loves croissants as much as I do, you may know how complex that little piece is to recreate. When you're baking any sort of bread, it's important to pay close attention to every step of the process. You want to make sure you get the proportions, measurements, folding, freezing, rising, and baking just right. Any fault in the process can make the bread not rise, not have enough layers to the crust, or worse, taste really soggy (i.e. every kind of bread’s worst nightmare). 


Experiencing trauma can be understood in a similar manner. Every time we’re hurt or experience pain, we can look at it as a setback in the process of our development. Just as baking requires us to measure each ingredient, and understand their density and how they play together; similarly, our body and mind also require balance, grounding, and an understanding of ourselves and our emotions. Experiencing pain or going through a traumatic experience isn't just a block to that moment; it seeps through every layer of our croissant: our social circles, trust, relationships, the idea of self, and a sense of safety.


So it's been over a year since I’ve worked at The Thought Co. and over the course of my time here, I've had the chance to work with different clients coming from different backgrounds. I’ve also been able to take a closer look at understanding trauma complexity and how it stays with us. 


A lot of times in sessions, you see that people come to therapy with a different concern, but when they start to dig deeper and discover where that feeling comes from, they often trace it back to their traumatic experiences. Sometimes, it comes out of nowhere, and people don't realise they had that memory to begin with or the fact that it still bothers them. Now, the funny thing about trauma is that it never follows a set pattern. It shows up differently in all of us. Some folks find that it makes them tougher; others feel like they've built a wall around themselves; while some become super alert; and a select few even go in overdrive, trying to escape their inner turmoil. Understanding where trauma stays in our bodies and minds and how to respond — now, that's a journey that takes a lot of time.


That journey - to understand the core and the feelings takes effort to unfold. Most of us never feel ready to visit that incident ever again. We want to push it aside and keep it for something to deal with later (or never), but here’s the thing: it does catch up. It catches up in our everyday life how we respond, the things we’re scared of, or how we think about ourselves. 


One of the biggest feelings is guilt. Many survivors carry this feeling with them because they just want an answer. And often when we can't find the reasoning behind the event, we start finding faults and blame ourselves for the occurrence of the event. Guilt also means that we messed up. We did something wrong and we realise we shouldn't have - but have you ever asked yourself - What did I do wrong? Was it so wrong for me to deserve this? What evidence do I have that this happened because of me? It is important to ask ourselves whether we truly did something wrong or if we are simply blaming ourselves for something that was out of our control.


I think one thing I’ve had to learn along the way is being patient about the pace the client needs at the moment. Many times, the problems that are discussed in therapy revolve around the events of our traumatic experiences, like our self-worth, how much we blame ourselves, and our cycle of toxic relationships, but to actually revisit and process the event takes a lot of effort. Understanding the client's pace becomes necessary at that point because pushing them to face something that they’re not ready for can be very triggering. Whether it's sharing a cup of soup, throwing a clay ball at each other, or just sitting together on the floor and laughing, I've allowed myself to just be present with my clients and appreciated those moments as much, even if it doesn't feel like traditional 'therapy'.


One other thing that I love to incorporate into my practice is also humor. We all have different ways of coping with and facing that experience. I think understanding the client's needs has been my most important learning experience. Many of my clients hate feelings and digging deep but really do want to face them at their best, and at that time, I feel like humor is our best friend for understanding our emotional experience in the most acceptable way. 


As scary as facing our trauma can sound, the one thing I appreciate about therapy is how you get to decide what you want to face, how much of it you want to face, and when you want to face it. It’s wonderful to see how much power and autonomy we’re able to have over our experiences and how starting therapy to begin to address them is already a big win in itself.


So I guess what I want to say is that making bread is hard and you may mess it up at times, but it just keeps getting better with the amount of work we decide to put into it. So yes, experiencing pain and coming out from it can feel impossible but with the right work, there’s a 100% change you’ll change your narrative. In this way, understanding trauma complexity can be broken down and one can feel more empowered. 

And it’ll only be for the better.

Meet the Author 

Shipra's main areas of focus are the connections between the body and mind. She uses a trauma-informed & needs-based approach to counselling. Shipra believes in always trying to create a healthy balance between work and life.She also loves sunsets, beaches, kittens, chai and cooking. Growing plants is her form of grounding, and she’s found to resort to Disney or the Mamma Mia soundtrack when everything else is spiraling.

Shipra Parswani, Psychologist 

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