***Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and does not provide medical, legal, or health advice and is not a substitute for mental health services
Now that we have reviewed 10 Types of Childhood Emotional Trauma in South Asian Families, we can now shift to part 2: focusing on how you can start to heal.
Here are some ideas that you may find helpful:
1. Learn about your trauma
Trauma doesn't affect people in the same way and people also have different responses to their experiences.
Reflect on what you've gone through. Consider how it affected you then and how it affects you now in terms of your relationships, work, spirituality, and your sense of self.
Developing a better understanding of how your traumatic experiences impacted your life will give you clues as to what you need to do to help yourself heal, including what areas of life you feel are important to start with on your healing journey. Receiving professional support from a therapist or counsellor can be helpful as you work your way through this process.
2. Understand your needs
It may be hard for you to know what your needs are, what you are interested in, and how you want to spend your personal time if most of your life was controlled by others or if you were under significant restrictions, rules, or expectations.
Now that you are an adult and have control over your life, try to focus on learning more about yourself and use that as a springboard to start taking action toward improving your life.
What makes you feel happy? Brings you joy? Makes you feel peaceful or serene? Start there and see what you discover as you dive deeper into building your self-knowledge.
3. Take care of yourself
When you have a better understanding of your needs, try your best to address them.
You may have heard of the term re-parenting or supporting your inner child. This is an important part of the healing process where you give yourself all the things you may not have experienced as a child: love, attention, affection, curiosity, play, support, encouragement, autonomy, and more.
think about activities you would like to do that can bring out your creativity (art, music, writing, improv, etc.)
ask for affection from your partner if you have one or for a hug from other people you trust and care about
ask for the type of support that you need from the people in your life (practical, emotional, social, etc.)
go to a playground near you when it isn't too busy and sit on the swing or go on the monkey bars - your inner child will thank you
relish the control you have over your time, your choices, and your daily personal habits
take time to research different topics that you've been meaning to read up on and enjoy the learning process
what other things can you do that can help promote your healing?
4. Improve your communication skills
If you are so used to being of service or sacrificing your needs to keep others calm and happy, it may be hard for you to know and express your own needs. Once you learn what your needs are, try opening up to your loved ones regarding what is important to you.
This could involve asking someone to listen openly to you without judgment or criticism, asking a loved one for a hug or for them to speak to you in a kind, loving, and supportive way, and stating that you would like their support with an important decision you are making in your life.
It can take time to find the words to express what you need – and that’s ok. Go at your own pace.
5. Set healthy boundaries
Communicating with others can also include setting healthy boundaries that respect your limits.
This could be limits regarding:
topics you are willing to discuss
circumstances (e.g. the environment) under which you are comfortable spending time with the other person
minimum standards that need to be met for you to engage with them
physical boundaries regarding personal space
privacy and confidentiality regarding sensitive personal information
any other factors that reflect healthy boundaries from your perspective
Keep exploring what boundaries feel good to you – and put them into action.
6. Focus on what brings you joy, happiness, and fulfillment
Once you build your self-awareness, you will have a better idea what lights you up. Part of healing is doing more of what you love – whatever that may be.
So, go ahead, carve out time for activities, interests, experiences, and hobbies that you find fulfilling. You will feel a sense of deep satisfaction and inner peace the more that you devote time toward things that are meaningful for you.
7. Stay in the present
When you face a traumatic past, it can be hard to leave those experiences and memories behind. What you went through will always be a part of you, but it doesn't have to define you or be the focal point of your life.
If you are able to focus on the present, as hard as that may be, then you may be able to attend more to your future and the type of life you are trying to create for yourself. Staying in the present can help you foster your resilience and growth as you move forward, step by step.
8. Practice self-compassion
Reflect on the fact that you did the best you could with the knowledge, skills, resources, and other factors that you had available to you at that time in your life to cope with the trauma you experienced.
Some of the ways you coped then may not be the way you choose to cope now - and that's ok. You may be on a quest to find new ways of dealing with your past that you feel are healthier or that reflect the person you are trying to become at this point in your life.
Embrace your past self, your present self, and the future self you are working towards as you continue your healing journey.
9. Recognize that healing takes time
Trauma recovery is not something that happens overnight. It can take months, years, or an indefinite amount of time. There is no way of knowing exactly when a person will begin to feel relief as each person's experience of trauma - and healing - is unique. And there may be times where you feel you are going two steps forward and one step back.
Know that your efforts to take care of yourself and move forward with your life are all leading towards greater peace and contentment.
10. Seek help from a mental health professional
Get professional help if you need support processing your past trauma and learning new coping skills.
A mental health therapist can support you in understanding more about the impact that emotional trauma had on your life. They can also assist you in your efforts to heal and move forward with your life.
Your counsellor can support you as you go through the natural ups and downs that come with healing from childhood trauma, learning how to develop self-compassion, and figuring out how to let go of past hurts to re-focus your attention on your future.
Experiencing emotional trauma in your childhood, which can sometimes be exacerbated with certain cultural, social, and gender norms -- such as in the case of South Asian culture -- may make it hard for you to feel that change is possible. Gaining an understanding of what trauma is and how it has impacted you is a first step forward.
With this understanding, you can then begin to heal yourself and learn how to find a sense of peace and joy in your everyday life. Reach out a therapist or counsellor if you need additional support throughout this process.
Wishing you well on your mental health journey.
Davina Tiwari MSW, RSW, CSFT
Registered Social Worker and Certified Solution Focused Therapist
Read more blog posts about South Asian Mental Health.
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