You learn something new every day. Some days can be exhausting. When working with people that have survived traumatic situations, you have to be careful not to take on the weight of their stress. It can be difficult. One particularly challenging day my intern asked me if I practiced “Mindfulness”. I am sure that I replied with a statement about the lack of time in my life. Wise beyond her years, she reminded me that I cannot help others if first I do not help myself. I stopped, ordered some books and began my practice. It has been a great help to me. We started discussing the benefits of Mindfulness for trauma victims. She did some research and together we wrote the information below.
Trafficking Survivors and Mindfulness
It is necessary to be aware of the routines that were formed by trafficking victims during the traumatic events they experienced. During times of trauma, the part of the brain that makes decisions has been put on the back burner. When performing activities that have become habit, the decision-making brain becomes less active. This leaves the trauma victim stuck in the same mind-set of what was enduring during her or his time of being trafficked. Treatment offered to trauma victims should include bringing the victim’s attention back to the present moment. Practicing Mindfulness allows a trauma victim to be present in the moment and make decisions rather than relying on habit. It keeps the victim from falling back into the fight, flight or freeze mode.
Practicing Mindfulness brings clarity and awareness that will help an individual reduce stress and contribute to overall well-being. Being able to focus distinctly on the present moment, at any given time, returns the control of thought to the victim – something that was taken from them in their trafficking past. Being able to focus on “the now” gives a trauma victim better understanding and acceptance of her or his emotions. This allows the trauma victim to feel more “at home” in her or his own body.
Obviously Mindfulness should be practiced together with other medical and psychological treatments. Once one learns to bring their thoughts to the current moment, the awareness brings non-judgmental and purposeful thoughts. This can be a powerful supplement to traditional medicine, creating an easier transition from victim to survivor.
I often become frustrated with society’s inability to help crime victims. The justice system is often difficult to navigate and when first introduced to it, very much overwhelming. The ability to help victims take it moment-by-moment has been beneficial to both the trauma victims and to myself. Mindfulness helps me not to lose myself as I attempt to help them navigate the system. It also reminds the victim that trafficking does not define who they are as a person but is something that happened to them in the past. Mindfulness helps victims learn that they are in control of their own thoughts.
TAKE ACTION: Learn about the power of Mindfulness by exploring the available resources online, including Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams and Danny Pennman. Other sources used for this blog include Mindfulness: Theoretical Foundations and Evidence of Salutary Effects by Kirk Warren Brown and J. David Cresswell and Self-Regulation and Mindfulness by Gernot Hauke. A variety of sources by these and other authors are available on Amazon and can be ordered for you by your local bookseller.
Kelly Castleberry, Pendulum Restoration Project with Andrea Rumler, Senior at Sienna Heights University.