Why Trauma Awareness Matters

I was facilitating an open-space style session with no upfront agenda. 
We planned to crowd-source topics from the group.
Many in the room were entirely unfamiliar with this meeting structure.
The group contained a particularly fierce participant. 
As I made my opening, he demanded “why are we doing this?
With that satisfied, he then protested “where’s the structure? I see nothing organised.” 
At that moment I wasn’t dealing with him, I was back at the dinner table with my rage-o-holic father. 
I wasn’t deftly parrying his challenges to keep the session flowing. Instead, I was using the same strategy that kept me safe as a kid: I shut down.
A mute and motionless facilitator isn’t much use, so someone else took over. They saved the session whilst I recovered. 
It was only in retrospect I was able to see that I’d been in a trauma response. Over time, I’ve been able to work on the underlying issues. I am now able to deal with combative individuals much more effectively.
So trauma awareness is vital for our growth as individuals, as well as spotting when others are in a trauma-bound response.

You may be reading this thinking you haven’t been traumatised. In reality, we’re all scarred to some degree. It’s a question of how much time and space we’ve had in our lives to address our inner pain.
Developing this awareness, which often means us learning to tune in both bodily and emotionally at a deeper level is one of the most important investments any leader can make. 
This is especially true of leaders of change, for two reasons.

First off, our subconscious trauma patterns can cause us to either underreact or overreact at important moments in a change journey. They can also undermine our ability to be creative and unattached to outcomes. Having this playful attitude in the face of disruption is vital for us to be effective in those ‘liminal spaces’ we enter as agents of transformation. 

Secondly, trauma awareness helps us to process and comprehend ‘blow ups’ in those we’re working with at the frontiers of change. People emote and behave in often unpredictable ways when faced with change. Often the more extreme reactions are trauma-driven. Whatsmore, the person in front of us is usually not aware that it’s their unresolved grief running the show.
In conclusion, unresolved trauma is the hidden driver of so much of who we are. As change professionals, given the territory we enter, it’s especially important that we develop our awareness of this critical aspect of our humanity.

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