Healing From Cancer-Related Trauma

Healing From Cancer-Related Trauma
August 23, 2015 Alene Nitzky
Carl Nassar, NCC, LCP, CIP, Director, Heart-Centered Counseling

Carl Nassar, NCC, LCP, CIP, Director, Heart-Centered Counseling

Please welcome guest blogger Carl Nassar as he writes about the topic of healing from trauma as a result of cancer diagnosis and treatment. Trauma is extremely common among cancer survivors and can be resolved. You are not alone if you are experiencing difficulty coping with what has happened and help is available. Here is what Carl has to say about trauma:

Trauma is not measured by the size of what happens to you, but rather by the internal impact of what happens to you. Some things that are very traumatic for some are far less traumatic for others.

What defines a trauma? At the heart of it, it’s an experience in which you feel both at-risk and powerless. It’s a frightening experience that happens to you that you feel unable to impact orchange.

During times of trauma, you experience, real or perceived, that something is happening to you, something unwanted, something terrifying, and you feel helpless to make it change.

Many experiences in the course of receiving a cancer diagnosis, and going through the marathon treatments, may be the source of trauma. Whenever you feel something terrifying is happening to you that you’re powerless to impact, you’re experience trauma – sometimes big and other times smaller.

It’s important to know that during those times the trauma, when you feel powerless, you’re not able to express your feelings and your needs. When you’re being traumatized, you’re not able to protest, to say, “no!”, or “stop it!”, or “I don’t like that!”. And, when traumas are happening, you’re not in a safe place to express your tears, and your fears, and there’s no room for your anger to come out.

During the trauma, you’ll likely respond with a survival reaction. The first survival reaction is flight, where you run away from what’s happening to you. Now, that running away can take place through an actual physical running away, but, more often than not, the running away happens internally — dissociating or daydreaming to take you away from what’s happening to you (even as it’s actually happening).  A second survival reaction is to fight; to push against what’s happening to you, but to still feel powerless to actually change the event, despite your fighting and protesting.

You can heal from trauma. The most effective way to heal yourself involves a caring relationship in which you talk about your experience and talk about what happened to you. It’s important you find someone who will really listen to what you say, who you experience as deeply invested in your story. And it’s important that you relax into that interest, relaxing enough to feel safe enough to express how you feel. The key is to find a caring relationship in which the feelings can come out, and you can tell the story of what happened to you not only in terms of describing the events, but more importantly in terms are describing how the events felt.

As you talk about your traumas, it’s like the melting of an iceberg in the ocean. Trauma becomes a part of your life story, instead floating apart from who you are.

Unresolved trauma leads you to react in self protective ways that can be painful to you and those around you. By talking emotionally and vulnerably with someone who cares, you can return to being the natural you, and not get triggered again and again by what once happened to you.

I have no doubt for those of you who are diagnosed with and treated for cancer, both the news of having it and the marathon effort in treating it, can create multiple traumas. And what’s important is that you don’t create a silence around what’s happened to you, but rather you find a way to speak, with your words and also with your heart, so you do not go through this alone. Rather, you get the care you deserve to heal the trauma and reclaim your naturalness.

Carl R Nassar , LPC, NCC, CIP is the director of Heart Centered Counseling, a counseling practice offering immediate availability, taking all insurances (including Medicaid), and offering experienced care. To learn more about Carl, visit his website at www.carlscounseling.com, and to learn more about his practice and the 17 therapists he works alongside, take a moment and peek in at www.heartcenteredcounselsors.com

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