Trauma thrusts us into survival mode, where conscious decision-making and choice fall into the realm of disconnection and seems out of reach.
1. Absence of Choice During Trauma
When trauma strikes, it upends our sense of self-determination and self-agency. The intensity and overwhelming nature of traumatic events force us into survival mode, where making conscious choices seems nearly impossible. In such moments, our primary focus automatically shifts to immediate survival, with decisions driven by instinct rather than considered deliberation. The trauma itself overrides our ability to exercise choice, leaving us feeling powerless and at the mercy of circumstances beyond our control.
This is a very natural process and one that we need. The problem is when the trauma has been completed, and we are not able to process the experience, we are then left with living our life through unresolved trauma. For example, the traumatic situation is complete, and we are safe, but we are still not able to consciously make choices. We may deflect to what others are choosing to fit in and feel safe. We may experience the churning in the mind over the decision that needs to be made and are just unable to decide. We may ask people for their opinions on what to do. The outcome for each of these examples is nearly always the same—turmoil in the mind, charge in the body, and no connection with what you need.
2. Nurturing Choice After Trauma
Post-trauma, the residues of the experience continue to affect us, influencing our thoughts, emotions, and behaviours. Although the direct threat might have passed, what's unresolved of the trauma lingers, impacting our ability to trust ourselves and make empowered choices. We find ourselves entangled with the past, living with unresolved pain, and grappling with decisions influenced by unresolved experiences.
The very first thing that will support you in reclaiming your agency around choice is to recognise what is happening to you. Notice what happens in your body and mind when you are confronted with having to make a choice.
Nurturing choice after trauma involves acknowledging the challenges and slowly rebuilding the capacity to make choices aligned with your values. It's a journey of self-compassion and honouring what remains unresolved within.
It's crucial to recognise that while trauma may have affected your past, it doesn't have to dictate your future. Like anything you may want to heal or change, it takes commitment from you to yourself.
3. Mindfulness Practices for Reclaiming Your Agency around Choice
One super important aspect to include as you work with claiming back your agency around choice is to celebrate every time that you consciously make a choice.
Practices such as body scans, journaling, and grounding exercises help reconnect with the present moment, cultivating a greater sense of self-awareness and aiding in acknowledging the unresolved impacts of trauma. They can create a safe space for introspection and self-compassion, enabling a gradual shift towards reclaiming agency and making conscious choices.'Once you see something, you can't not see it.