Trauma is an individual’s response to a deeply distressing event. It can overwhelm us with crippling anxiety, dictating our thoughts and behaviours. Trauma is relative. One single event could mean absolutely nothing to one individual, while it could totally scar the life of another.
Many of us are dealing with trauma, from our childhoods, past events we have encountered, people we’ve met. It steals our peace and objectivity, replacing the contents of our mind with terrible thoughts and anticipation about our immediate external environment. This is the psychological construct known as ‘catastrophic rumination’.
In a lot of cases, people are not aware that they are still subject to the negative thoughts and habit patterns that they have accumulated through life. How can we fix a problem that we are not even aware of? The simple answer is that we can’t.
How Can Mindfulness Help?
Mindfulness, the maintenance of objective awareness of the present moment, helps us to stop resisting reality. It can be quite accurately conceptualized as the opposite of ‘catastrophic rumination’, which always assumes and prepares for the worst.
Even from this very basic theoretical standpoint, it’s easy to see why mindfulness is a great companion to psychotherapy in healing trauma. It’s easy to see why Oxford University has dedicated an entire masters programme for Mindfulness Behavioural Therapy.
Mindfulness has been proven as an effective treatment for decreasing anxiety, depression and obsessive-compulsive behaviours. It has been shown to be a powerful tool in decreasing death anxiety, something that many of us are subconsciously or consciously traumatized by.
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is the most severe manifestation of trauma. There is sufficient evidence to say that mindfulness combats it, by mitigating the negative thought patterns, or catastrophic thoughts which usually perpetuate the terrible cycle of trauma.
Sometimes the best way to understand what something is, in this case what mindfulness is, is to understand the characteristics of it, rather than simply being told a definition.
In Zen and Tao philosophy, the teachings are never directly explained, instead the students are given the characteristics of it and they begin to understand it in an experiential way rather than by intellectually conquering it.
With mindfulness, you can say what it is all you want, but until you experience the actual balance and equilibrium that is induced by being in a fully mindful state, you don’t really know what it is.
I would like to include some quotes about mindfulness here, by various well renowned mindfulness teachers.
Mindful Quotes by Jon Kabat-Zinn
Mindfulness is a way of befriending ourselves and our experience.
Mindfulness means being awake. It means knowing what you are doing.
Wherever you go, there you are.
To let go means to give up coercing, resisting, or struggling, in exchange for something more powerful and wholesome which comes out of allowing things to be as they are without getting caught up in your attraction to or rejection of them, in the intrinsic stickiness of wanting, of liking and disliking.
When we speak of meditation, it is important for you to know that this is not some weird cryptic activity, as our popular culture might have it. It does not involve becoming some kind of zombie, vegetable, self-absorbed narcissist, navel gazer, “space cadet,” cultist, devotee, mystic, or Eastern philosopher. Meditation is simply about being yourself and knowing something about who that is
Mindfulness Quotes by Thich Nhat Hanh
Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment I know this is the only moment.
Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves — slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future.
The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.
Smile, breathe and go slowly.
Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet
Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.
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Catastrophizing, rumination, and reappraisal prospectively predict adolescent PTSD symptom onset following a terrorist attack
The Emerging Role of Mindfulness Meditation as Effective Self-Management Strategy, Part 1: Clinical Implications for Depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Anxiety
Effects of a Brief Mindfulness Induction on Death-Related Anxiety