True or False. What one believes is the filter through which they view the world.

As a school social worker, I have attended my share of Trauma workshops. My experience of the workshops specific to trauma have felt ‘traumatizing’ (word use not intended to make light of the nature of trauma and its effect on brain and body). 

My interpreted definition of trauma based on my learning, exposure, and experience: 

Trauma: a situation, circumstance, or event, as interpreted by the individual, that disrupts one’s sense of safety and security at individual levels of impact. Trauma can be ongoing exposure, or single in its happening: varying in levels of duration, intensity, frequency. 

True or False. If one’s sense of safety and security is disrupted, one’s stress response is activated at a level of intensity relevant to the individual’s interpretation. One’s relationship to external conditions and perceived level of potential danger/threat is specific to the individual. One’s cellular intelligence is prepared to fight, flight, freeze, or faint in response to its messaging, or the individual’s response/interpretation of an anticipated danger, threat, or unexpected challenge. 

The workshops I intended included a lot of storytelling about traumatic events, situations, circumstances. 

In my opinion, what needs to be known is that unexpected or undesirable circumstances, situations, events happen at varying levels of frequency, intensity, and duration. Maladaptive behavior choices are often the result of one’s trauma experience and its influence on one’s nervous system and how it responds to external conditions. External conditions can include sensory input: loud noises, tone of voice, social distance, tastes, touch, etc. 

The nervous system and its intelligent stress response is highly reactive. 

True or False. The intelligent nervous system’s stress response is activated in response to one’s thinking and the feelings the thoughts provoke/evoke. The feeling of a lagging sense of safety and security (varying levels of fear) send a message and activate one’s sense of survival mentality.

You tell a story. You color your world. 

One useful thing I learned at a Trauma workshop was a visual of how an individual perceives the world through a trauma lens. The presenter showed two photos taken from a Berenstein Bears children’s book. One photo was left as it was with facial expressions and colors that indicated an integrated sense of goodness and wellbeing. Then the same picture was filtered to create a sense of danger, using color and facial expressions to indicate a threat to a sense of safety and security. 

Another analogy the presenter used to help the audience understand how those impacted by trauma may feel in everyday settings, was to consider an announcement prior to the presentation, that a large container of spiders had accidentally been let out in the room, and to go about business-as-usual.

The workshop presentation about trauma and its effects on the brain and body is highly beneficial. What may not be necessary, is spotlighting the storytelling about the many causes of trauma in detail. All school staff benefit from understanding how trauma impacts the brain and body. One cannot learn and grow in a sustainable way when one’s sense of safety and security is threatened. Maladaptive behavior in a school setting is often reacted to in a way that perpetuates a worldview that, on some level, validates a self perception that the world is not safe, I do not belong here, I need to think/feel/act a particular way to survive – a way contrary to a natural sense of self. Depending on when the trauma happens or is happening, one may not have connected to what that natural sense of self even feels like – a heightened stress response becomes one’s normal way to live and be in the world.

True or False. Setting events (environmental conditions that can be controlled) that consider sensory input (sight, sound, taste, touch, smell) that soothe and support a regulated nervous system are helpful in school classrooms, and individual spaces.

All answers are true.

The story I tell has a theme.

The theme is either rooted in fear or possibility.

My thoughts tell the story.

If I notice my thoughts, I can be curious about what story they tell.

When possible, I can practice incrementally shifting my thinking to support my own sense of safety and security in a way that soothes, regulates, and validates my most authentic expression.

If I am capable of soothing how I react to environmental stimuli, I can contribute to lessening a collective reaction to events, circumstances, situations. I can contribute to the whole by allowing space for those who suffer, by being curious about maladaptive behaviors rather than fear, compartmentalize, judge, and condemn maladaptive behaviors and perpetuate a fear based society.

The lens I filter my content through is specific to growing children in school, while having compassion for the adults who never got the skills.

I believe the children are our future.

Teach them well and let them lead the way.

Show them all the beauty they possess inside.

Give them a sense of pride to make it easier.

Lyrics from Whitney Houston song – Greatest Love of All

If you are the noticer, you are the choicemaker. You can make the choice to be curious about how you respond to environmental conditions. You can notice and be curious about interpreting stimuli in a way that activates your stress response. You can do the next thing.

🎶 I found the greatest love of all inside of me…