Lean in to Daily Trauma

Accountability Empathy Well-being


Key Point: When we think of trauma most of us think about the really BIG stuff that happens in our lives. However there is also something to learn from the fact that daily life is also filled with many little traumas: Hurt feelings, things broken or lost, sickness, etc. Our daily work activity is no exception: A tough meeting, disappointing results, missed commitments, poorly chosen words or text are all good examples.

Mark Epstein is a psychiatrist and author of a forthcoming book The Trauma of Everyday Life. His article in the August 3 New York Times Op-Ed was very insightful. This is his wisely stated conclusion:

“The willingness to face traumas – be they large, small, primitive or fresh – is the key to healing from them. They may never disappear in the way we think they should, but maybe they don’t need to. Trauma is an ineradicable aspect of life. We are human as a result of it, not in spite of it.”

This past Tuesday was a tough day at work for me I thought my output as a facilitator wasn’t up to par, I was struggling to find a good solution to a screwed up process, wasn’t able to follow the line of thinking of someone who I normally align with 100 percent and a bunch of other “crap.” It was a day stacked with a bundle of little work traumas. I wanted to make them disappear, ignore my feelings, rush back to “normal.” Then Epstein’s words came to mind.

Character Moves (With Dr. Epstein’s help):

  1. Lean into those traumas however big or small. They happen to all of us and are part of daily life. They are also part of defining our unique authenticity and humanity.
  2. Leaning in involves accepting and not expecting that trauma, however big or small, fully goes away. Our feelings may soften or change but the traumas are part of us. Leaning in helps heal and define us.
  3. This idea of leaning in to trauma and accepting that what has happened does not limit how we choose to respond. And for me at least, it is also a thought process I find somewhat liberating. I do not have to wish something that happened would somehow go away (it obviously won’t), or feel guilty that the way I feel about it hasn’t. Leaning in is being aware, confronting and accepting trauma as another part of the richness that makes up my life.

Leaning in The Triangle,