Andrew G. Marshall

Author & Marital Therapist

How to Heal From Trauma

Including six key ways to deal with trauma

How to Heal From Trauma

“It happened a long time ago, I’ve put it behind me and I want to move forward.”

I can’t tell you how often I have heard this in my practice. It is nearly always said with passion because my client really wants to believe it – but just because we want to believe it, doesn’t make it true.


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As Professor of Psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine, Bessel Van Der Kolk says in his best-selling book The Body Keeps The Score trauma does not disappear but gets stored in the body.

Trauma surfaces in several key ways

  • Triggers. Seemingly harmless topics or surroundings can bring back the trauma.
  • Flooding. Once triggered, you are unable to think or act rationally. You will either fight (get angry and attack) or go into flight (close down or run away).
  • General anxiety. Often it is so far in the background that – like the refrigerator hum – you don’t really notice it. That’s not to say, it does impact on your life.
  • Heightened sensitivity. It might be noises, closed spaces, conflict or something else but you are often living on your nerves.

Trauma sits on trauma

Many people can trace the original trauma back to their childhood or young adulthood.

It does not have to be something ‘big’ – like death of a parent, childhood sexual abuse or surviving a terrible accident or medical emergency – but some of the regular slings and arrows that fate throws at us: parents going bankrupt, persistent bullying, moving to another country or a toxic divorce.

These original traumas can lead onto further trauma and a series of misfortunes that build on each other.

Old trauma can be reawakened by something new. For example, discovering that your partner is unfaithful (especially if one of your parents was unfaithful) or a boss acting in the same way as your angry father.

The Meaningful Life Podcast with guest Fenella Hansen

A good example of how trauma sits on other trauma is my guest on my podcast The Meaningful Life with Andrew G Marshall.

About Fenella

Fenella Hansen brings her own life experiences of grief, loss, mental health and trauma to her counselling work.

After losing her mother to cancer, she made a dramatic career change from IT into counselling, and has since worked extensively with survivors of various forms of trauma.

Fenella has herself also suffered medical PTSD – when an operation went badly wrong. She believes gives her a unique perspective and level of empathy in her work with her clients.

Fenella worked in mental health for 7 years before moving to work with survivors of childhood sexual abuse.

She has worked with complex trauma clients and is also a trained expert in trauma sensitive yoga and mindfulness.

Six key ways to deal with trauma

  1. Recognise that trauma is real and has impacted on your life. It is the first step to healing.
  2. Read up and understand trauma.
  3. Look out for your triggers, so you will be ready to find another way – rather than going into flight or fight.
  4. Find a breathing exercise that works for you. There is a great one on this podcast.
  5. Tell your nearest and dearest about the trauma and your triggers. When you feel yourself heading towards trauma, you can say: ‘I am feeling anxious (triggered or whatever works for you), can we take a break for five minutes and then continue talking.’
  6. This would be a great time to do some breathing exercises.

Have a question for Andrew?

Andrew has answered many questions over the last decade in the Help & Advice section. Comments on those articles are now closed, but there are other ways you can receive help and join the conversation:

Online Video Counselling Sessions via Skype or Zoom

Working via a secure video call, identify the issues stopping your relationship from flourishing. Find a convenient time for you with an experienced counsellor from the Marshall Method Therapy team.

About Marshall Method Therapy

We believe that relationships run into problems because of poor communication but that good relationship skills can be taught.

We concentrate more on solving current problems than understanding what went wrong. Our approach is solutions-focused.

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