Many people who experience trauma, on any level, struggle to feel safe. On some level, many Americans struggled after 9/11 to feel safe in our country. Trauma changes the way you think, feel and act. As it becomes a part of you, the trauma gets integrated into who you become and you learn to be aware, but you also learn how to feel safe again in the new world that is created. Feeling safe again is possible as long as you are able to evaluate and process trauma. Sometimes, that easier than it sounds, and other times it requires support and assistance. Either way, you can feel safe again.
After 9/11, our country went through a period of adjustment. The event changed the way we traveled, the way we looked at things, and unfortunately the way we looked at people. We were no longer able to be standing at the gate when loved ones got off a plane. We were no longer able to get the airport minutes before the flight left, because it could take an hour to get through security. We looked at planes, and tall buildings differently, but we adjusted to most of the changes and continued to travel. The changes were needed to make sure that we could continue to see the world, and feel safe doing it.
When you go through a trauma, depending on the kind of trauma, you have to evaluate what happened, just like our government did when it made plans to change security measures at our airports, and other modes of transportation. As you evaluate, you make changes that will help you feel safe again. If your home was broken into, you might add a security system. If you were in a car accident, you might look for a car with higher security features to help if another accident occurs. If you are a survivor of a more violent crime, you might evaluate other things, like your neighborhood, city, or job. As you evaluate, you make decisions about things you can change, things you can’t, and adjustments that can help you feel safe again.
If the event was in a relationship, it might change your approach to relationships. You may look for different “red flags” or stay away from places that might remind you of the trauma at first. If the relationship included violence, you might just be single as you learn to trust and feel safe again. As you evaluate your relationships, don’t lump all your relationships in one basket. Sort out the healthy supportive relationships from the relationships that put you at risk, physically, financially, and emotionally. Don’t weed out the relationships that are supportive. Those relationships can help you make it through the hard times to come. Too many times, trying to make it through trauma, people isolate, and cut off the people who love them. That won’t help you feel safe, just alone and scared.
You can feel safe again, but it will take time, thought, and energy. It will mean processing the event and developing a new normal. As we experience things, good and bad, it changes our outlook and view of the world. Sometimes it changes for the better, but it can change for the worst at times. Trauma happens, but with support you become a survivor. You learn to smile again, and you learn to feel safe again. Get support if you need it, but remember that your recovery is a part of being happy for life.