Every now and then I’m reminded of my experience many years ago, of living with unhealed trauma and trying to hold down a demanding job at the same time.
It’s not uncommon to find people living with trauma who are unaware of what they’re going through.
Unhealed trauma can look like…
- Conflict avoidance
- Difficulty focusing on little details
- Poor boundaries
- Disempowered reactions
Most workplaces to have zero understanding of trauma
Due to a lack of awareness, they might ostracise and penalise staff living with unhealed trauma for poor performance.
Unresolved trauma is just as big of an issue as depression or anxiety, but workplace systems aren’t structured to support traumatised staff.
I had undiagnosed PTSD for three years
I was living in torment and didn’t really recognise what was happening to me. Everything in my life was so much harder, yet I didn’t have the luxury of quitting my job or taking time out to recover.
Many people don’t. And like I said, I didn’t realise I was traumatised. I just thought life was really shitty and I was waiting for it to get less shitty.
Trama doesn’t work that way, however. Trauma simply doesn’t heal without appropriate treatment. In fact, the side-effects can become worse over time without treatment.
My job – which I’d always been good at – I was struggling to do competently.
I’d told a few people at my work what had happened to me, but none of them had the skills, resources or information necessary to assist me.
My performance issues were used against me
Unfortunately that sort of mindset still exists in most workplaces – if you show any kind of vulnerability someone will seek to take advantage of that.
I was put on “performance management”, bullied, overlooked and treated with disrespect.
No one I disclosed my trauma to suggested I get help.
We can do better than this!
Unhealed trauma is common
In any workplace, there will be both managers and staff all trying to cope with their stuff, and trying to get a job done!
Their awareness of what they’re going through will vary. But being unaware of trauma is quite normal.
Everyone reacting to each other can create a toxic workplace culture, rife with power plays. In this dynamic, there will always be stress and unhappiness and those who seek power over others.
So how can this change?
Managers and staff need more training to recognise their own traumas, and also how to respond to a workmate who is demonstrating traumatic behaviours.
This should be as important as First Aid training. In fact, there is now a Mental Health First Aid training that individuals and workplaces can do.
A traumatised person is usually quite disempowered in how they react, so the simplest way to offer support is to treat them in an empowered way instead.
What does it mean to treat someone in an empowered way?
To understand how to offer someone empowerment, we have to feel empowered within ourselves first.
This isn’t a simple fix, but here’s some pointers on actions you might take to stand in your power:
- Being on your own side, and not betraying yourself
- Avoid buying into any internal negative dialouge
- Understanding your own needs, and making sure you meet them without relying on others to do that for you
- Being honest with yourself about what you want and need, and prioritising those things internally and in your friendships and workplace
The stronger you feel in your own base, the easier it is to hold space for others in the same way.
Of course, by investigating how empowered you feel yourself, you might discover there’s work for you to do, too.
Then if you notice someone feeling disempowered (another term for this is “acting like a victim”), you can ask questions that might include:
- Asking them what life is like outside of work
- Is there anything that’s making them feel unhappy at work or at home?
- Do they have someone to talk to? A professional to help them work through things?
Without trying to solve their problems or be their therapist, you can suggest that they get extra support.
Trauma is an everyday experience
All too often when people are acting in ways you might consider unreasonable, they’re probably reacting to their own inner wounding.
Almost every person has some degree of unhealed trauma going on.
Healing can take many forms
Personally, I used a range of therapies to resolve my PTSD. I began with trauma counselling, moved to EMDR when it was indicated, and also used Traditional Chinese Medicine, Kinesiology and Yoga.
Ultimately, we all need more compassion and understanding for the state of being human. Which involves moving through our individual healing journey and interacting with others as they move through theirs, too.
Ambha Amanda Roberts is a Kinesiologist, Intuitive Healer, educator and facilitator based on the Sunshine Coast, Australia. She offers Kinesiology sessions both in-person and via Skype/Zoom all over the world.
Ambha Amanda is the co-creator of Adventures of Staria, which includes a series of Staria cards, and an upcoming book for children (including inner children).