12 Principles of Healing from Trauma and Codependency

Adapted from Healing Trauma through Self-Parenting: the Codependency Connection by Dr. Patricia O’Gorman, Ph.D and Philip Diaz, M.S.W. – HCI 2012.  
1.  Healing Takes Time. 
Let’s face it, it took awhile for you to get where you are.  Likewise your recovery will also take time.  Give yourself the gift of allowing this process of self-parenting to unfold for you.  Know that it can’t be rushed. It’s a process, not an event.  What is important is that it has begun.

2.  Healing Is Not Linear

Healing like the development of trauma and codependency, is not a rational process.  It involves all parts of the body, including the brain, and the spirit.  Therefore you can’t plan to go from point A to B to C.  The healing of trauma and codependency is more like the healing of a bad injury, proceeding more randomly than perhaps hoped for, but certainly proceeding in it’s own pattern.

3.  The Mind and Body Act as One

Our body and mind are connected.  What we do, what we change in one area, changes the other. So even though you may live in your heads, your body knows what is happening.  This has particular implications for trauma survivors because even though memories of trauma may not easily be retrieved verbally, the body may have stored these.  This is why a smell, a touch, light moving in a certain way, can trigger you into not necessarily verbally remembering, but physically reacting.  This needs to be respected, understood, with a plan developed for handling this.

4.  Reparative, Restorative, Self-Soothing Experiences Are Key

In order to heal we need to be active, not just in terms of insight garnered through therapy and meetings, but through actions in which you learn to calm yourself, and through experiences in which your positive sense of self is restored, and negative attributes are repaired.  

5.  Changing Your Actions Changes Your Thinking

That old adage: Fake it till you make it, is key.  Our actions can help to change our thinking. And our actions can keep us safe even if our thinking is still fuzzy.  So carefully go out and make some positive changes.

6.  Allow Rather than Force

Sometimes you can become really excited about recovery, so excited that you’re going to force yourself to do what you need to do.  While making positive changes is what it is all about, it is important that change not occur at the expense of knowing how you feel. It is important to encourage the heeding of the lessons that need to be learned, garner the insights that need to be gained, and take the actions that really need to be taken, driven by an increasing understanding derived from you allowing yourself to know how you are really feeling.  For those with trauma and codependency knowing how they feel can be quite a challenge, but an important one. This is what needs to drive decision-making, and can only occur by you slowing down and owning your feelings.

7.  Own the Power of Our Nonverbal Communications

As important as verbally understanding and communicating are, it is equally important to embrace how our clients non-verbally process trauma and codependency. This involves the healing power of the creative part of our brains to sense, depict, and communicate using images, color, movement, sound.  Can you draw, sing, dance, make music, to describe your feelings?  Your solutions?  It is well worth finding out.

8.  Embrace D.E.F.—Diet, Exercise, & Fun

Yes, fun.  Part of the recovery from trauma and codependency is to move back into your body, yes your body.  Having fun, using your body to move, to exercise, and care about what you put into your body, your diet—from food to a decision as to whether you decide to consume alcohol is key.  For those who have been dissociating, or depersonalizing, this will be more of a challenge, but an important one.  Embracing DEF is an important way to integrate mind and body.

9.  It’s Good to Slow Time

Learning how to be in the present, to self-sooth and to slow one’s responses is vital to recovery.  This is particularly important when you are experiencing triggers.  A key component in learning to self-sooth is to know how to literally slow time. This is a skill that can be taught, and practiced.  Simple strategies such as moving more slowly, speaking more slowly, and driving a little under the speed limit, can provide a powerful boost to your ability to make changes in their life, as can learning to be in the present, in their sensing mind, and move away from the chatter in your head, your narrative mind (Siegal, 2011).

10.  We Can Give Our Trauma Away

Spirituality is an important component to recovery.  In developing a renewed belief in a force greater than ourselves, we can experience transcendence, the ability to be lifted above the present moment, and into that space where we can share our discomforts with another, literally giving them over to be managed.  Whether this is a deity, or the group, is not important.  What is important is that you feel a space between your pain and yourself so that you can process what is occurring, a powerful tool in the recovery arsenal.

11.  Sometimes We Need a Pharmacological Assist

Yes, sometimes in dealing with trauma, medication is needed.  The severe stress associated with trauma can result in the brain requiring prescribed medication to bring it into balance.  Many people intuitively know that they have a biochemical problem and begin to self-medicate by drinking more heavily, or even beginning to self-medicate with drugs. Needing medication is not a failing, even though some will see it this way.  In fact, if prescribed, taking medication is a really smart and courageous thing to do.

12.  Don’t take it Personally

As recovery takes hold and people begin to change others will notice this change and perhaps, not like it.  It is highly recommended that you remember to: Not Take it Personally.  This is very difficult for someone with codependency to do, but essential. We need to understand that most of the time the reactions that we receive from others are more about them, and less about us.  Taking personally how others react to us, reinforces codependency, for this encourages our being responsible for the other.   Programs like Al-Anon address this with their slogan of: Detachment with Love—caring about someone while not being controlled by them.  This is an excellent principle to utilize in recovery from trauma and codependency as well.