Understanding Trauma

Advocate for Your Needs

NOTE: This was originally a post on my personal Facebook profile. It fits what I’m discussing in this month’s blog posts, so I chose to share it here.

Trauma rewires the brain. This has been shown scientifically. When you experience trauma, especially long-term trauma, the basic functioning of your brain is altered. This leads to things like constantly feeling like you’re “on red alert,” because your brain has become wired to read danger signals where there is no danger. It leads to stress hormones being constantly released. It also can lead to autoimmune disorders due to the wonked-up functioning of the brain and the resulting physiological effects.

Trauma survivors don’t choose or control how they react to certain things. We can learn to manage those reactions, but we no more choose to be triggered than we chose to experience trauma in the first place.

Being triggered is a result of the altered brain functioning, and we can’t just “positive thinking” our way back to our pre-trauma physiology any more than someone who has an accident that leaves them paralyzed can “positive thinking” the paralysis away. It takes work, it takes effort, and it isn’t always successful.

Needing to have things presented in certain ways, or to be given options, or to keep our eyes open during meditation, or anything like that, is a result of how our brains work, and we have the right to ask for accommodations and modifications just as someone who’s paralyzed has the right to ask for a wheelchair and to have the furniture in a room arranged so they can get through the room in that chair. It isn’t being “whiny” or expecting others to do the work for us; it’s asking for an accommodation for something that has altered how we function in the world.

Trauma survivors can’t expect the entire world to change for us. But we do have the right to advocate for our needs, especially in relationships, friendships, and in working with coaches and practitioners.

Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of “Sovereign beings are responsible for themselves.” Sovereignty, according to my guides, means having ownership of your life–including how your actions impact other people, regardless of your intention. It means advocating for yourself and knowing you have the right to do so. It means knowing what you *can* control and what you can’t, and accepting responsibility for the things you can while finding ways to manage the things you can’t.

As a trauma survivor, being responsible for myself includes asking for the accommodations and modifications I need to access certain things like coaching or healing practices, just like as someone with an auditory processing deficit, being responsible for myself includes asking to have video chats instead of phone calls or receive a transcript of an audio-only coaching call.

Even when your very functioning is altered, asking everyone around you to change everything for you is unreasonable. But asking people who work with/for you, or people who profess to care about you, to do some things differently or offer you options is not asking them to change everything. It’s asking them to respect how trauma has changed *you*, and to help you navigate things. It is you managing your trauma and taking responsibility for yourself by recognizing and advocating for your own needs, and that is not something to be ashamed of or avoid doing.