Healing Everyday Traumas: Free Yourself from the Scars of Bullying, Criticism and Other Old Wounds
Lynn Mary Karjala, Ph.D.
Have you ever asked yourself, "Why am I making such a big deal out of this?" The answer is that the event you're remembering is probably a form of everyday trauma, and many seemingly small events can cause ripples that are felt far down the stream of time. These events can have profound effects on our thoughts, feelings and behaviors even many years later. One of the major consequences of everyday trauma is the formation of the critical voice, that nagging, negative "voice" that we all have in our heads. This book will help you learn to apply creative, easy-to-use techniques to heal the everyday trauma, take your power back from your critical voice, and live a more joyous and productive life.
HAVE YOU EVER FOUND YOURSELF exclaiming, “Why am I making such a big deal out of this?!” I’d be surprised if you haven’t asked yourself that question, or some variation of it, at one time or another. You’ve probably asked it many times. Most of us in mainstream North American culture learn to say it to ourselves very early in our lives. “So what if the sales clerk was rude—I shouldn’t let it bother me.” And we don’t just do this to ourselves, of course. We also learn quite early to do it to each other. "Your brother-in-law is a jerk. You shouldn’t let it upset you like that.” Or if you’re one of the few people not plagued by this kind of thinking, perhaps what you’ve asked is, “Why is he (or she) making such a big deal out of this?”
If you can relate to what I’m talking about, this book is for you. Even if you haven’t quite put it into words before, what you’ve noticed is that seemingly small events—events that you believe shouldn’t still bother you—sometimes have the power to make you feel profoundly hurt or blazingly angry. What’s more, many kinds of “small” events that happen early in our lives cause ripples that are still felt far down the stream of time.
My goal in this book is to help you understand why we “make such a big deal” out of events and circumstances that seem, at face value, to be trivial, inconsequential, unimportant. And the value of reaching a new understanding of people’s reactions—yours and others’—is that it can lead to profound, positive changes. It can make enormous differences in how you think, how you feel and, perhaps most important, how you treat yourself and other people.
In order to understand how this works, there are three essential concepts we’ll need to talk about. The first is the concept of trauma. You might be surprised to learn that there’s no single, agreed-upon definition of just what trauma is. The second is what I call “everyday trauma.” This con-cept includes all those kinds of events I mentioned a moment ago—the unpleasant events of daily life that may seem small at the time but that turn out to have effects lasting years and even decades. The third concept is the critical voice. Virtually every-one has this negativistic, nagging aspect of himself or herself. For some, it’s a disparaging running commentary, a litany of failure that never lets up. Even for those who don’t feel its presence con-stantly, it lurks in the background, ready to pounce on any perceived mistake.
Chapter 2 explores various definitions of trauma to help us understand why some events are traumatic while others are not. In that context, it also explains the concept of everyday trauma, so that we can see why common, everyday events—even quite normal developmental events, such as the first day of school—may be experienced as traumatic under some circumstances. Chapter 3 describes the aftereffects of trauma. As we look at the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, we’ll be able to see how the same pattern of symptoms resulting from major trauma also occurs after everyday trauma, just scaled down in pro-portion.
Chapter 4 introduces the critical voice. Many self-help writers have suggested similar concepts, of course, but this book does something more: we’ll discuss in detail a conceptualization of how the critical voice is born and how it develops over time. That will allow us to understand better why it takes on the particular characteristics that it does.
The critical voice is capable of influencing us in profound ways. But it’s also sneaky and is often able to hide its machinations from our conscious awareness, so that we have no idea we’re acting under its influence. Knowing its characteristics will allow us to recognize it much more readily. Chapter 5 presents a picture of what we experience when we allow it to take over and control us. Chapter 6 goes into somewhat more detail in applying these concepts to a number of specific issues, such as parenting, procrastination, and grief.
Of course, simply knowing about the critical voice is not enough—far more important is know-ing what to do about it. The remainder of the book is about how to help yourself heal the effects of everyday trauma and take your power back from the critical voice. The first step in this process, described in Chapter 7, is to learn to recognize when and how the critical voice is exerting its ef-fects. It’s difficult to treat something that you can’t see. Chapter 8 offers a blend of traditional techniques drawn from cognitive behavioral therapy, guided imagery and mindfulness.
For some readers, this approach may be as far as they want to go. My experience over many years, however, has convinced me that, while traditional techniques certainly have value, their effectiveness can be significantly enhanced by combining them with mind-body techniques. If you’re willing to think a bit outside the box—especially if you’ve tried traditional therapy techniques and gotten stuck before—you may find this new approach refreshing and exciting. Chapter 9 introduces you to a relatively new field called energy psychology, which is closely allied to the concepts of mind-body medicine. Chapter 10 teaches you how to use one of the best-known energy psychology methods called Emotional Freedom Techniques, or EFT, as well as a technique from Thought Field Therapy (TFT). If you aren’t familiar with those names, you may have heard about them (and similar methods) as “tapping.” Chapter 11 presents a different kind of energy psychology technique that uses the chakras, the major energy centers running down the midline of the body. Finally, Chapter 12 describes further refinements that you can add to the basic techniques to help make them even more effective.
“When reading this well-written book, I felt as if I was peeking into a room where a gifted and caring psychotherapist was gently leading her clients to understand how they can care for themselves with simple but powerful tools."
Gloria Arenson, LMFT, author of Five Simple Steps to Emotional Healing
"This is an important book, written so compassionately with poignant stories that we can all relate to. Dr. Karjala's book has the power to help us heal old traumas and set us free."
Donna Eden, author of Energy Medicine
“Absorbing the wisdom of this immensely helpful book will help you to triumph over the tyranny of everyday trauma and reclaim emotional freedom."
Fred P. Gallo, PhD, author of Energy Psychology and Energy Tapping for Trauma
About the Author
Lynn Mary Karjala, Ph.D.
Dr. Lynn Karjala is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Roswell, Georgia. In addition to her general practice, she specializes in the treatment of trauma in all its forms. She also trains other clinicians in the use of conventional and innovative approaches to therapy and has given many presentations on these topics in the U.S., the U.K., and Canada. Before going into clinical practice, she was a university professor, teaching graduate and undergraduate courses on child, adolescent, and life-span development and the psychology of death and dying. Her other books include Understanding Trauma and Dissociation and Taming Trauma Beasties.