I can tell you exactly the first time I experienced vicarious trauma. I was a new social worker and the ripe old age of 23yrs. I listened to my client with compassion as she walked me through her step by step account of her violent sexual assault. I thought about it for weeks. I created the movie in my head of what I thought she must have experienced. I lived it in my mind’s eye, over and over again for weeks.
Here were some of my experience and warning signs:
This can include feeling of worry, grief, anxiety, guilt or sadness. On the opposite end it can show up as anger or irritability. I was experiencing great worry about this client and how she was doing. As I replayed the movie in my head and struggled I also felt guilty for struggling thinking of course she was the one who had had this experience who am I to have the right to think about the impact this had on me? I was also extremely angry. Anger that I admittedly directed at males (even thought I had evidence in my life of some very great men). I had a limiting belief that I was helpless.
Any notable change in behaviour really. It may be isolation, increase in substance use, difficulty sleeping. became hyper vigilant as a result of what I had heard. Always aware of my surroundings and deciding that at any given moment a male could turn into a predator and that every woman at one moment or another was at risk and there was nothing we could do to stop is. At night I listened to every sound the house made wondering if someone was coming in to harm me. I had a limiting belief that I was extremely powerless.
Symptoms can show up like stomach issues, headaches, rashes, etc. Your body’s response to everything it may be hearing and taking in. For me it was weight gain. I came to learn that I wanted to protect myself and the weight provided me with protection from the energetics of those I was working with and protection from harm. I had a limiting belief that I was unsafe.
Symptoms can include difficulty connecting with joy, loss of connectedness with Self, and disillusionment of the good in the universe and disconnection for Source, God, Universe, Creator (or whatever term you call your connection). For me I moved into complete rejection of the concepts. I couldn’t even say the word “God” for the longest time without cringing. I disconnected from myself in order to keep myself safe if that makes sense in any way. I had a limiting belief that I was unworthy.
So What Helped?
I was lucky that I had a system in place to help me process called “Clinical Supervision”. It gave me the opportunity to talk about what was happening for me. I also later learned the tools of The Quantum Change Process™ and Timeline Therapy™ that would ultimately help move me into a place of forgiveness and would allow me to release and let go of all the limiting beliefs that came up for me. If you are working in the “font lines” and you are exposed to trauma on a regular basis it is important to access support.
Let me help you to work through your limiting beliefs and vicarious trauma.
For more information visit Clinical Supervision for Coaches and Counsellors @ www.kelleyoswin.com