NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Psychotherapy Blog: Finding Moments of Joy While Coping with Trauma

Anyone who has ever dealt with emotional trauma, including posttraumatic stress disorder, knows how challenging it can be.  So, it might seem like I'm trivializing the anxiety and despair that many people feel when they're coping with trauma by suggesting that there can also be moments of joy along the way.  However, as a psychotherapist in NYC who specializes in working with trauma, I also know that finding moments of joy can help with the healing process.

Finding Moments of Joy While Coping with Trauma

What is Joy?
Joy is a state of being.

Joy can include feelings of great happiness, bliss, exhilaration, or pleasure.

What is Joy?
It can be evoked by beauty, feeling good about oneself, feelings of transcendence in art, music, poetry or spiritual practice.  It can also be evoked during play (see my article:  What is Happiness?).

Coping with Trauma:  From Emotional Numbing to Emotional Openness
These moments of joy often come after the person, who has been traumatized, begins to open up in the healing process.

It's not unusual for people coping with emotional trauma to shut down emotionally because the trauma was too overwhelming at the time.

In many cases, shutting down when the trauma occurred helped them to avoid feeling completely overwhelmed.

Coping with Trauma
But, unfortunately, shutting down not only protects them the uncomfortable feelings--it can also block feelings of happiness, joy, and love because they're emotionally "frozen" or numb to all emotions.

So, what was once, possibly, an emotional defense that helped is now a hindrance.

The initial stage of opening up, whether this occurs in therapy, meditation or in a yoga class, can feel unfamiliar and scary.

But most therapy clients that I have worked with also describe a feeling of relief that the emotions that were suppressed for so long can be released so they can start to feel more authentically like themselves (see my article: Reclaiming a Lost Part of Yourself).

When I work with clients who have been traumatized, I'm mindful that the therapy often needs to be titrated so it is emotionally manageable and it feels safe for clients, which is why, in many cases, I use a mind-body oriented therapy approach (see my article: Mind-Body Psychotherapy: The Body Offers a Window Into the Unconscious).

Often, as clients begin to open up to their fear, sadness and anger, they also begin to notice that they're opening up to moments of joy, even very simple things, like noticing a beautiful flower or colorful bird flying overhead (see my article:  Small Wonders All Around Us If We Take the Time to Notice).

Finding Moments of Joy While Coping with Trauma

These sights might have been around them all along, but when they were emotionally numb, they probably didn't notice them.

Once they've started to open up, people coping with trauma often discover that these moments of joy can help to balance their emotional pain.

And, over time, rather than waiting to notice these moments, they seek them out and find ways to create them (see my article:  Recapturing a Sense of Aliveness).

The Way Out of Emotional Pain is Through It
As Mark Epstein mentions in his book, The Trauma of Everyday Life, the way out of emotional pain is through it.

We cannot avoid the emotional pain or trauma that is a part of life, but we can learn to work through it and find a sense of well being.

Getting Help in Therapy
If you're suffering with emotional pain, you're not alone.

Getting Help in Therapy

You can get help with a licensed mental health professional who specializes in working with trauma so you can work through your trauma and experience a sense of emotional well being.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

One of my specialities is helping clients to overcome trauma.

To find out more about me, visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.