Those who see through a trauma-informed lens in walking alongside others understand trauma's impact on the brain, in our bodies, emotionally, and spiritually. We understand that “Betrayal Trauma” occurs when someone we depend on for survival, or someone to whom we are significantly attached, violates our trust in a critical way. When partners discovers their spouse is betraying her, she/he discovers that the “reality” they believed in and built their lives on is a lie. When such a wound happens, her brain reacts by activating the limbic system, the “survival” part of the brain.
As author (Unwanted: How Sexual Brokenness Reveals Our Way to Healing) therapist, and minister Jay Stringer writes, “Most approaches to addressing unwanted sexual behavior, be that pornography, an affair, or buying sex are singular and formulaic. We now know enough about spirituality, culture, and the neuroscience of trauma, abuse, and addiction to know all of them must be integrated to create lasting freedom from unwanted sexual behavior.” —Unwanted: How Sexual Brokenness Reveals Our Way to Healing
Through trauma-informed training, we learn about the “window of tolerance” and its related trauma responses—fight, flight, freeze, and fawn. We begin to recognize when we (and others) are outside that window of tolerance, and we learn tools to help us live and exist within it—thus reducing trauma’s impact (physically, emotionally, and spiritually), helping us to flourish again.
It’s normal to feel anxious, fearful, or extremely uncomfortable while experiencing challenging circumstances—and that’s equally true when we’re helping others navigate their own challenges! Learning to regulate those emotions is part of healthy emotional development. However, when trauma survivors are triggered, the response starts in our bodies… our emotions feel overwhelming and thus our responses are often amplified OR numbed—and may seem completely unrelated to whatever is happening. In trauma-informed groups, we discover tools and practices to help us understand ‘why’ we’re triggered and what to do when those triggers happen.
In his “A Sanctified Ruckus” Substack post, Matt Tiebe (Co-Pastor at The Table Indy Co-Founder of Gravity Leadership (Co-Host of The Gravity Leadership Podcast, Co-Author, "Having the Mind of Christ") describes his personal experience of becoming trauma-informed as a pastor:
"(I) Was reading “The Fawn Response and CPTSD” this morning on D.L. Mayfield’s Substack this morning and had some thoughts on how trauma shows up in our Christian spirituality. Childhood trauma impacts your spiritual life:
Feelings of toxic shame, guilt, & fear
The need to please people or fawn over them
The inability to speak or stand up for yourself
Self-doubt & self-recrimination
The inability to believe that God could love or care for them.
The inability to voice needs without feeling selfish
Thus the inability to receive from others.
The inability to be vulnerable and trust others, because that was never safe.
The inability to give or receive correction in love. That was never safe either.
The compulsive need to doom scroll future bad scenarios in your mind, because you know something bad is going to happen and if you can predict it you can prepare for it and protect yourself better.**
Much of this gets reinforced in Christian churches, in theology and the way churches are organized. For instance, how many of us grew up believing that we weren’t worthy of love? That the only worth we had was that Jesus died for us? That without Jesus we are worms, scum of the earth? This sort of theological reasoning can emerge out of those who’ve experienced trauma projecting their hurt onto God.
This is why we must learn about trauma, how it works, how to respond and make space for it, how to heal from it in our own lives. I wasn't taught about trauma in seminary; I didn't know of my own trauma until 7 years ago. I had been in full time ministry 15 years. This is why it's important to listen to survivors. This is one reason why people are leaving churches."
Trauma recovery requires identifying, naming, and working through our losses: 10 Losses To Be Mourned After Trauma Brad Hamrick
Biblically-informed, evidence-informed, trauma-informed. Spiritual First Aid is an 8-session certificate course that teaches peer-to-peer spiritual and emotional care and trauma-informed best practices.
Provides comprehensive clinician led trauma training for pastors, faith-based leaders, church administrators and lay leaders.
Based in the UK: Offers a wide range of free content to help increase our understanding about the basics of trauma, types of trauma, and solutions to trauma. Founder Lou Lebentz is a “psychotherapist and trauma clinician by trade but also a trauma thriver myself too.”
Types of Trauma
Trauma: A Biblical perspective
Articles to boost ‘trauma-informed’ awareness from a Christian faith perspective