Decoding Trauma & Discovering Passion

A young lady in her demureness approached a psychology teacher to seek answers for some questions which had been troubling her for a while. The questions would range from, “How do people approach each other?”, “How do you convey to someone - I like you?” She would remain puzzled about topics pertaining to interpersonal-communication.

The teacher used to share case-studies with her to satiate her curiosity and confusion. She gradually started becoming interested in the topic, the universe inside people’s mind piqued her interest and that is how the journey started for Tanusree.

Tanusree has over 11 years of experience in Clinical Psychology where she currently offers Neuroscience based Trauma-informed, queer and neurodiversity affirmed psychotherapy for people of all ages. One of her special offerings is helping people discover their true self.

In this interview we talk about Trauma, Observant Self, Passion, and Seeking True Self.

Tanusree Mustafi

What is Trauma?

Trauma is an emotional response to an extremely stressful event. Traumatic events are sudden and unpredictable posing a serious threat to one’s existence. These events usually feel beyond a person’s control, leaving the individual disconnected, overwhelmed, or numb. Trauma is dependent on perspective and individual interpretation. One person’s casual experience can very well be another person’s trauma.

How does the brain process Trauma?

Neuroscience tells us that Trauma has the capacity of changing the brain structure. Trauma is the impact of an extremely unpleasant event. The impact changes the structures in the brain.

These changes are not merely psychological , but also physiological meaning that the neurological structures of the brain may be impacted.

The parts of the brain affected in the stress response which is mostly seen in the amygdala, hippocampus, and prefrontal cortex. Traumatic stress can be associated with lasting changes in these brain areas.

Can we erase Traumatic memories?

No. Memories are not erased but processed. After the trauma is resolved, the memory does not go away. One may aim through therapy to be able to look at the memory someday without a deep sense of pain.

When Trauma happens the emotions are not fully processed and the procedure to form memory is hampered. When Trauma is healed they will be able to remember the incidence but it won’t generate severe emotional pain or suffering.

Memories are made of sensations and interpretations. The brain does not erase but either suppresses or represses the footprints. Once you see trauma you can’t unsee it.

When should someone approach a Trauma Specialist?

When someone frequently feels emotionally dysregulated. For the ease of understanding, we can say that if one constantly finds it difficult to stay in the present. If one keeps worrying about past or brooding over problems in future without enough reason in current reality that is when one might try trauma focused psychotherapy.

For instance, a case of repeated anger outbursts without any sufficient provocation could be a symptom. Going to a counselor might not be of enough help. One should approach a Trauma Specialist.

Can someone personally deal with Trauma?

Theoretically you could build a house on your own. But, will you be able to actually do all of it on your own? Time, effort, management wise will it be a prudent decision? You need operational expertise and experience.

Healing on your own takes more time and makes one prone to worsening symptoms. Why? Because when one is learning on their own chances of mistakes are more and the outcome is emotional overwhelm. This might cause permanent damage.

Some might be able to handle the overwhelm, some might not be. Just like one can cure flu without medication, trauma also can be healed without therapy albeit it will take more time and one needs to take into account the risk of such a path.

The first step for healing trauma would be to learn to be mindful of your thoughts and emotions.

How can someone be mindful of thoughts and emotions?

Question frequently - What am I feeling? Why am I feeling? Where in the body am I feeling things? Pay attention to the sensation, the emotion. See if you can do something to regulate the emotional outburst. Learn how to do so.

It is important to be aware of the breath, body, emotion, and thoughts. There is no point in sleepwalking through life. Be aware and open about the self for the full experience. Try mini awareness sessions lasting 20 - 30 seconds. Do it multiple times a day, be aware of your breath, your body, your thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

Living a mindful life is a generic advice but not for people with severe problems, only a specialist can be of help.

Why should we bother to be mindful of emotions and thoughts?

You want to be the cog in the wheel or the driver? Instead of wondering why things are happening to you, if you try to understand your environment and your own response mechanism and way of being, you do not let things happen to you, but you are taking charge of the situation.

You are not merely a victim, rather you are a person who is affected by trauma and learning to heal. Half the time we don’t even know what we are feeling. Just observing the emotion reduces its impact. You are not at mercy of your emotions but you own and manage your emotions. You do not just react, but mindfully respond after having analyzed a situation.

How should one go about developing the “observing self”?

This is a matter of being rather than doing. We have all these different selves present within us. Watching yourself. Noticing how you respond and interact. This allows you a pause.

One self engaged in the situation, the other self intently observing you being engaged with the world. It all can begin with asking simple questions : What do you like to do? What’s your favorite color? What is your favorite food? What are the most predominant emotions? And gradually once you start seeking more, you start discovering more.

Passion has become a buzz-word and often loosely used. Tell us, is it important at all to have any passion at all?

Passion translates into engagement. If you talk to someone who is passionate about something, it would be an in-depth and specific topic. If one doesn’t have passion, one’s life will be lacking salt. Life becomes much more meaningful with the presence of passion.

How do you go about figuring out what you are passionate about?

Passion demands full immersion. Having an interest and having a passion is different. One might be good at several things. One can have several interests that can be pursued. Not necessarily all of it will translate into passion.

Give yourself opportunities. If every month your passion changes, it is the sign of a fickle mind. Explore various opportunities and pick those which stick. I could be passionate about 2 - 3 things but they will stay. I also have to give enough opportunities to our interests. What sticks amongst those interests is passion. Persistent interest is your passion.

Should one go about finding his purpose or a mission statement?

One should not go about finding a mission statement. Be passionate. Explore a lot. Try to see lives through different perspectives. Your job is to observe. World is really wide. There are many choices. Discover it for yourself. The answer is not outside. It does not come as an answer in a guide book. If you are ready to go through all experiences both good and bad, the answer will reveal itself.

That’s all for this article!

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