How to Help a Victim of Trauma

Recreating the scene of the crime of a victim’s trauma and unconsciously acting out in homage to one’s abuser can reinforce negative behavioral patterns, prevent an otherwise healthy and expansive quality of life experience, and greatly hinder personal growth potential, making true deep and meaningful healing next to impossible.

While victims of trauma may find solace in revisiting similar activities from their traumatic past as an effective coping mechanism, the relief realized is temporary, blocking them from confronting and processing the emotions, slaying the demons, and ultimately overcoming past trauma, emerging from the flames as true masters of their own destiny.

Revisiting, acting out, and recreating traumatic experiences and circumstances, while they may offer some relief, may severely complicate or compromise otherwise potentially healthy relationships, as the individual may struggle with trust and emotional intimacy.

Not only that but there is a tremendous opportunity to make matters worse, re-traumatizing the victim or creating a new generation of victims. Engaging in these unhealthy activities and placing oneself in trauma-related circumstances can lead to serious health risks and may come with moral and legal consequences.

How to Help a Victim of Trauma

If there is any hope for you to help someone struggling with these mind-bending dichotomies, it is vitally important that you do everything you can to first understand how the trauma victim fights for survival in manners which you could not possibly “know,” unless you were also a victim of similar trauma. Even so, everyone’s experience and how they respond to it is highly individualistic, so you can never truly know what someone is going through, but you can do your best to have an idea. And your heart, if it is inclined to truly care about someone suffering in this way, can be a bridge to a victim’s recovery.

Suggesting that someone’s sacred act of providing relief from the pain suffered from one’s traumatic past may be a huge hindrance blocking their potential for a higher quality of life must be considered with the utmost respect and caution. This new idea may threaten their very existence, for their tendency to act out in the manner they do is their key to survival, enabling them to live a somewhat normal life. They may feel as though their very life depends upon it, and they may not be wrong.

Not engaging in the activity could kill them. One such example would be John, whom I asked if he thought he might be an alcoholic. He refused such a label, admitting that he did drink every night, but unlike his father, he could quit at any time. Just to prove it to himself, he decided not to partake in any alcohol over the weekend. By Sunday at noon, he was dropped off at the hospital by the ambulance. Sunday evening, he was sent home with strict orders to drink alcohol until he could be entered into an inpatient rehab program.

Neither you nor I could have explained this to John. For this exercise to be effective, he had to come up with the idea to test his own potential for addiction. He was a strong, independent, successful individual, making his way through life. No one in his circle of life had any idea that he might have an alcohol addiction, yet his very life depended upon it. Today, he is in his sixteenth year of sobriety. But it was a process of facing and defeating his demons from a traumatic past over time. There is no quick and easy fix for this.

While I say there is no quick and easy fix, I am quickened by those words because I have seen miraculous and instant recovery, but only from a magnificent and instantaneous transformative spiritual experience. These born-again-type experiences are far rarer these days than in days gone by. Keep an open mind; you might experience such a feat, but don’t count on it.

Helping a victim of trauma, one who has spent a great deal of time learning to self-medicate or revisit the victim’s root behaviors as a key coping mechanism, will take the love of Jesus mindset.