Hi, my name is Ryan Soave. I’m a therapist at The Refuge. We are a residential treatment center outside of Ocala, Florida. We specialize in working with trauma. Today I’m gonna speak with you a little bit about what trauma is and how we can heal from it. I’d like to thank New Directions for Women for having me here and have this opportunity to speak with you.
It’s important to know what trauma is. Trauma can be a really big word. We often look at it in society as something really big and spectacular that happens like wars or car accidents or natural disasters, and that absolutely is trauma, but we suffer the effects of trauma from so much more than that. Trauma is a wound. We see it as a soul wound, but really it’s any type of hurt that can happen; anything less than nurturing in life.
As humans, we have only so much that we can take. Our bodies are a container that hold our physical, spiritual and mental beings and we can only take so much, and if we have enough wounds over time that go untreated, that container gets filled up and it becomes very difficult to deal with life. So sometimes trauma is those really big things that we see and sometimes it’s a lot of little things. It also can be something that if it happens to a little body and it goes untreated we continue to react to situations like that as if we were little bodies.
If it happened to us when we were 3 and we don’t deal with it or it never gets resolved, and similar situations happen when we’re 40, we’re gonna respond to them like we were 3 years old, and that makes it very difficult sometimes to get along just in life. The example I often use is if I were to get a cut on the back of my leg, if I were to get that cut and have some physical pain. First, physical pain is a wonderful thing. It directs me to look where I’m hurt, and I’d look at the back of my leg and see that I was cut and I’d get some attention to it, and I might look at it and go to the med room where I work and they would say it just needs to be cleaned up or maybe I need a couple stitches.
What I wouldn’t do is see that cut on the back of my leg and pick up a bunch of dirt and rub it in it. That would just get infected and over time I could lose my leg or die. That physical pain directed me to that place to get healing. Same thing happens with us emotionally when it comes from trauma. We tend to experience pain from these things that happen in life and without the coping mechanisms or tools to deal with it, these wounds can get infected just like a physical one, and over time, we can experience things that really just overwhelm us as human beings trying to get through life.
We don’t have these coping mechanisms often because our families didn’t, and it becomes a generational issue. At The Refuge what we do is we spend time looking back, unraveling and unpacking these wounds that we’ve gotten over a lifetime. It becomes important for us to spend a lot of time with this. It becomes important for us to increase the capacity of the person who’s afflicted. We do that by spending time in groups, spending time on our property, just spending time with that trauma without all of the parts of life that distract us from that, and some of that becomes pretty scary. It’s not a really easy process.
When we have experienced trauma over a lifetime, just looking back and dealing with that trauma becomes a threat. If I was sexually abused as a kid, I don’t really want, as an adult, to go back and look and talk about that. If I do it becomes really scary and I start to respond to that just as if it was happening again. So we create and expand a container for these folks. In the residential program, we do that in at least 90 days. Sometimes it takes a lot longer than that. They need to be able to increase their capacity and feel safe going back through and experiencing what life handed them.
What we found that is very complementary to this process is an intensive program that we have where people come in and work for five to seven days. This is a wonderful program for people like the families of our clients or people who’ve experienced trauma and are not in a life crisis. They don’t have the nasty addictions and problems that are really stopping them from being able to participate in life, so these folks who have experienced things can come in and spend some time working on it.
A lot of them maybe have been in therapy, but on an outpatient basis for an hour a week when we’re dealing with this type of trauma, with these types of lifetime wounds, it’s just really not successful often, and that’s not through the skill of the therapist or counselor or even a clinical team, but if I’m experiencing something that’s coming up from childhood because say I’ve got children the same age as when I was abused in a certain way, and I go to a therapist on a Wednesday night to talk to them, and I spend the first 20 minutes talking about last week, and I spend the next 20 minutes talking about what’s really going on and getting close to that painful experience, we spend the next ten minutes wrapping up and then I’ve gotta go home and make dinner for those kids that are triggering all of my painful past.
It’s just not effective when we’re dealing with layers and layers of trauma. So, what we do is increase that capacity. We allow people to come in and spend some time with themselves and really get in and feel and experience what they need to, to get the trauma out of their body, to get it out of their container so they can experience what’s coming next because in life there’s always something next.
I do work at The Refuge. We are, I believe, the best place in the world to come and work with trauma, so if you are really experiencing some painful things from your past, please come and see us. Trauma is an experience. The treatment has to be an experience too. We have to spend time with our bodies allowing them to heal. We spend a lot of time with our bodies once this trauma has gotten raveled and raveled over years and years and created these painful adaptations to life that we have.
So if you or a loved one are experiencing the effects of untreated and unresolved trauma, please call us. We have many different levels of care that we can work with you on from an outpatient basis to an intensive week to a long-term stay in residential treatment. Please call us. We have the experience to heal.