A client recently told me the story of how cows and buffaloes react differently when in a storm. The author of the original story – Ray Vaden – talked about how storms in Colorado come in from the west and head east. In a storm, cows will try to run from the storm so will go east. However, cows aren’t very fast so the storm catches up to them and the cows will run with the storm, maximizing the time, pain and frustration they are in the storm. Buffaloes, on the other hand, will run west toward the storm and wait for the storm to quickly pass over them, therefore minimizing the amount of time they are in the storm.
My client, who has severe PTSD, said he’s been a cow for way too long and was ready to be a buffalo. You see, this client has not wanted to try therapy as he feared the pain of therapy, especially trauma therapy. However, not wanting to be in therapy hasn’t reduced his pain any. In fact, not working through his trauma has keep his pain in the forefront of his life and every day he suffers. He said being a cow was no longer an option for him.
I am very upfront with my clients when I start trauma therapy, especially when we’re working with complex trauma, that my client and I are starting what will be most likely a difficult journey. Working through traumas isn’t easy and it takes a lot of inner fortitude to face the trauma and eventually to find healing. The trauma storm has been brewing for a long time for these clients. But deciding to be a buffalo is the very first step to healing.
For those of you experiencing heavy trauma in your lives, know that healing is possible. EMDR – Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing – is my primary therapy technique (though calling it a technique is selling short this very effective form of trauma therapy) for trauma healing. While the reprocessing part of EMDR is where the trauma is dealt with directly, I believe that healing starts from the first session I have with a client. In my first session with a client, I’m focused on relationship building and trust. A client has to trust me in order to go through trauma therapy. I’m learning about the client’s history, family background, experiences, thoughts, and beliefs about self. In the first sessions, I never ask the client to tell me about his or her traumas, though if the client wants to tell me, I’ll listen. However, as a trauma informed therapist, I understand that pushing a client to tell his or her trauma story can be harmful to the client, as this is opening up often deep-seated wounds without the ability of the client to handle the aftermath. I need to prepare my clients to talk about their traumas by teaching them coping skills, and educating them on how trauma affects both the mind and body. With these steps, the buffalo is facing into the storm, not trying to run away from it.
If you’re struggling with unresolved trauma in your life, there is not better time than now to work to resolve it. Find a therapist who understands trauma and has the training and resources to help you heal and then face the storm. You will not be alone.