You might have heard before that trauma needs to be processed in order for healing to fully take place.

 But what does that mean, exactly? When you have a rough day at work, processing might look like coming home and venting to a spouse or calling a friend. You talk about what happened in detail, how you felt about it, and maybe what you want to do in the future as a result. Afterwards you might feel some relief, like you got it off your chest.
Processing trauma, however, is very different from that scenario. You might feel the same urge to rip off the Band-Aid, tell the full story, and get it all out as if purging it from your system. The problem, though, is that trauma doesn’t get processed in quite the same way as other issues. The emotions, memories, and symptoms that result from trauma are typically much more intense.
For that reason, you might find yourself telling the full story in detail, only to realize that the whole time you were speaking, you felt numb. The emotions just wouldn’t come. Or you may try to talk about what happened and suddenly find yourself in the middle of a flashback, panic attack, or shut down. That can make you shy away from ever talking about it at all, and for good reason.
In the first instance, the trauma doesn’t actually get processed because you can’t connect to your emotions enough to work through them. In the second, it doesn’t get processed because you’re connected to so many intense emotions at once, it feels like you’re reliving the trauma instead of healing it.
Thankfully, recalling the memories, explaining everything in detail, or recounting your experiences in chronological order aren’t necessary to heal from trauma. To fully process trauma, the most important thing you can do is work through the emotions you felt during and as a result of what happened. The emotions are key. But it’s also just as important to work through those emotions at a slow pace and in a safe environment. If you try to process too much at once, it will make things worse instead of better. If you’re getting panic attacks and flashbacks when trying to work through your trauma, that’s a sign that you’re moving too fast and need to slow down.
A trained professional can help you learn how to better understand your limits and find the balance that works for you. It takes learning to connect to your emotions in a way that feels safe and manageable rather than overwhelming. That means processing the past while remaining mindful of the present moment – no reliving required. Sometimes the work will feel like it’s progressing at a snail’s pace, but a gentle and gradual approach is much more effective in the long run.
If you have any questions about trauma processing, reach out to
Here’s a video on how to widen your window of tolerance for stress: