The greatest tool that can be wielded when working with a trauma victim is the “love of Jesus mindset.” This means that you defend the rights of the victim to be and do anything and everything they can to have some peace of mind. You and I might not agree with how they do so, but we will defend their right to do so, possibly with one qualification: as long as it doesn’t encroach on another’s rights to live their life as best they can.
In doing so, we create a sacred field of energy in which we can do the work necessary to assist the victim in their desire for true recovery. Note that I said “their desire,” as it cannot be your desire or the desire of a relative, loved one, boss, or judge. If we have learned anything, we know by experience that change cannot occur unless the victim seeks transformative change over all else, including but not limited to coping mechanisms.
You may be able to threaten a victim into feigning recovery to keep from losing the family, risking incarceration, or worse, but the victim will not be likely to conduct the deepest work necessary to get free from the trauma unless it is their idea. Allow them to come to this conclusion of his or her own volition. You cannot make this decision for them. If they choose to never do so, love him or her anyway. If they do, know that it is a process, a lengthy, long, and winding road of discovery, reinvention, and adaptation along the way to authentic recovery and new life.
The love of Jesus mindset provides a safe and sacred space where there is no judgment. Only empathy, reflective listening, compassion, openness, and a true sense of caring. Use phrases like “I’m here to listen” and “I care about your well-being.”
Practice active listening by reflecting back on what the person is expressing. This helps them feel heard and understood. For example, you might say, “It sounds like engaging in these activities is important to you, but I’m also hearing that it has some negative impacts on your life.”
Carefully and gently explore the patterns in their behavior and help them connect the dots between their coping mechanisms and their overall well-being. Ask open-ended questions about their experiences and feelings. Let them fill in the blanks and elaborate. If they offer resistance, change the subject. This is not an intervention.
Making the necessary adjustments in a victim’s life will be difficult for them, and it may take several attempts to make the changes in utilizing their coping mechanisms stick. You can help by encouraging them to celebrate their victories, no matter how small and no matter how short the duration. You understand that this is a process, and further attempts at change will yield better, more long-lasting results.
Over time, they feel supported and can build the self-confidence to move forward and dig deeper into finding the root cause(s) of their life struggles. Little by little, they are becoming the master of their own destiny, no longer just a victim struggling against wounds from trauma from the past.
You can offer them ideas about more positive coping mechanisms that they can use as alternatives to the negative behaviors they are expressing now, but the choice of what to try is theirs. Never suggest that they do a particular thing. You will lose them if you try to tell them what to do. Give them three choices and let them pick one to attempt, or let them devise another option. Alternatively, continue to listen to them and see if they are willing to dig deeper.
Help them examine that the negative coping strategies come at a price, and allow them to discover and relate the potential risk factors to you. At their request, you could help them in the examination process and ask their thoughts on your research results. Allow them to be wherever they are in their process.
Basic healthy suggestions you could make might include embarking on a path of personal growth and change, mindfulness practices, physical exercise, relaxation techniques, building supportive relationships, self-care practices, setting healthy boundaries, and seeking out a specialist to work with.
Remember, the process of change is often gradual, and individuals may need ongoing support. Professional guidance can play a crucial role in helping them navigate this journey towards healthier coping mechanisms and improved well-being.