THE POWER OF WORDS - written by Phil Bradfield
Greetings to all in WinShape Homes! This month I want to continue our focus on trauma informed care by focusing on the power of words with traumatized children.
Let’s define trauma overall. The root of the word trauma is derived from Greek and means “rupture or tear”. When understood from the standpoint of psychological trauma, this means that the trauma survivor has experienced a rupture in their inner being, producing unwanted thoughts. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) define trauma by stating that, “trauma results from an event, series of events, or set of circumstance that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and physical, social, emotional, or spiritual wellbeing.” I think an even broader definition comes from Dr. Denise Colson, of Eagles Landing Christian Counseling Center, who developed Strategic Trauma and Abuse Recovery System (STARS). Dr. Colson defines trauma as, “any event from outside of your power/control/conscious choice which contradicts your identity to the point that it raises your stress to toxic levels and creates unacceptable losses.” I am partial to Dr. Colson’s definition because it makes the trauma more about the individual and how they experienced it rather than a pre-determined set of clinical criteria to decide what constitutes trauma.
Based on that definition of trauma, I think it is safe to say that trauma is not the traumatizing event(s), but what is left inside the person that they struggle to manage. How can we tell if one of our children is struggling to manage their inner trauma, emotions, or stress level? The telltale sign is bad behavior, acting out, etc. Their brains are not even fully developed until they are in their early twenties! So behavior becomes the language of choice to express their inner pain.
As we continue growth with internalizing our clinical counseling program, it is my hope that we all come to realize that there is great benefit to therapy approaches that deal with both behaviors and healing inner trauma. Let’s face it, when they are misbehaving and acting out, we just want the bad behavior to stop. There are therapeutic behavioral approaches that help with those on the front end, but I also believe God is calling us to more than behavior modification.
Behavior modification does not deal with the roots of trauma, and I firmly believe Jesus wants to heal emotional traumatization. One area that can till the soil of these kid’s hearts is our words. Words have great power, and are not spoken into a vacuum. Solomon tells us in Proverbs 18:21 that, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” You might think that you do not know what to say that will contribute to healing their emotional trauma. If so, let me be the one to give you some good news. You do not have to figure it out. All we have to do is follow Holy Spirit and He will show you what to say and when to say it. Again, this is evidenced by Solomon in Proverbs 16:1, “The preparations of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.” In the context of this same Proverb, he tells us “Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the bones” (Proverbs 16:24).
Watch the following Ted Talk on YouTube and listen for ques about words and how they are integrated with trauma informed care.