When clients begin to heal from the pain of trauma, safety is often their priority.
But continually seeking safety can limit a client’s opportunities for growth and keep them stuck in survival mode.
So in the video below, Thema Bryant, PhD shares how she helps clients invite more fun and freedom into their lives – without compromising feelings of safety.
Take a look.
Howard Thurman, who’s a great theologian who’s no longer alive, he said, “We need more people who do the things that make them come alive because far too few of us are actually alive.” So that is when we are in survival mode. That is what rigidity is. Rigidity is living in survival mode and not yet fully living or thriving. So, to help clients to get from surviving to thriving requires an openness to new possibility. Because if I just keep doing what I have done to stay safe, then I am safe but unfulfilled. But when I start to think about, “I have been freed from and I have worked, it didn’t just happen, I worked to free myself from that mindset for what?” I work to get myself out of that house or out of that relationship. But what I often say to clients is trauma affects you, but it doesn’t define you. It is not the sum total of who you are.
So now that you are out of those cobwebs, even physically, and we’ve done the work emotionally and spiritually, now it is time for the creating of a life. The creating of the life requires coming out of those bars.
So once we want to shift that, two of the important things to use are play and art. When I say play, I don’t just mean for children, I mean for adults to explore their creativity, to discover new habits. And play can even be creating new relationships and friendships, going to different places. Being out in nature can be a form of play. But how do I do that when I am used to everything being controlled?
The first part of it can be planning my play. That’s a good middle place. For someone who’s used to being very rigid, and we’re trying to help them step out of it, is for them to start creating plans and opportunities to do things that are out of their norm. So, one of my clients who was very isolated, she works with numbers. She’s very good at finding the problem, solving it, and making sure everybody is on their Excel sheet where they’re supposed to be. But then on the weekends, what she would say is, “I like to be in my house reading.” She stays in the house all weekend reading, but a part of her desires more. Even though she loves to read, a part of her is unfulfilled.
We started with her being willing to go to a festival, a food festival. Online they have the map of like which booth is where. So, she could map out her whole Saturday of where she was going to be and where she was going to go. So she’s out of the box, but with a map. So, us being able to help people cultivate those spaces, create those spaces where I can try the new while also having my security blanket in some ways.
She has started building more friendships, being more open in her friendships, being more open with her coworkers. She’s gone on a dating app. She doesn’t have a significant other yet, but she is out there living. She also had a goal of finding a church community because she grew up in one and now has been very isolated. Now she found one. Interestingly enough, they can make use of her skills and gifts around numbers and grants. So, it’s a beautiful fit where they have an appreciation of her and in that environment, she’s coming out of her shell more.
For more expert strategies to help foster post-traumatic growth, check out this course with Steven Hayes, PhD; Stephen Porges, PhD; Shelly Harrell, PhD; Marsha Linehan, PhD; Pat Ogden, PhD; and other leaders in the field.
Now, I’d like to hear from you. What strategies do you have for helping clients find freedom and fun? Leave a comment below.