Things I’m Learning About Trauma

This summer—for the next 6 weeks—I’m earning a certification in Trauma-Informed Pedagogy for Higher Education. Technically, the title is this: Certificate in Building Resilience through Trauma-Informed Practices for Higher Education. It’s a lot of work! I have quizzes and essays and so much reading. I’m glad I know what my students feel like now. At the end of my training, I can present to others on how to best serve college students who come from trauma backgrounds (especially since they are on the rise from COVID-19, abuse, gun violence, and media exposure).

So far, the most important things I’ve learned include how trauma impacts brain development and why it’s so difficult for students with a trauma history to pay attention, turn in work, achieve goals, and make social connections. I’m learning about brain regions, cortisol, and fight or flight or freeze responses. I’m learning about emotional regulation, executive function, and working memory.

Trauma, in simple terms, refers to any experience that a person finds overwhelming, distressing, or emotionally painful that leads to long-term mental and physical effects. Many researchers are looking at the COVID-19 lockdown experiences as traumatic for students now entering college. Students who have experienced trauma also have more illnesses, more mental health issues, and more substance abuse. It’s time for college professors to learn about how to set up classrooms and syllabi to support students coming from this unique time in history.

The first week of learning these things felt hopeless to me (it’s awful and seems irreparable!), but then I read the material on how the brain can heal from trauma and what we can do in our classrooms to help. For example, I’m learning about “protective factors” against the impact of trauma. The strongest protective factor is warm, nurturing, stable relationships. This resonates with all the social science research I read on loneliness and belonging.

When I read the definition of nurturing, stable, and warm relationships, I immediately thought of the attributes of God and how our spiritual connection matters so much for well-being. People need predictable, consistent relationships to feel safe and heal. I kept thanking God for being my constant, consistent, warm relationship no matter where I am or what’s happening. Think about it: When we focus on God as unchanging, it helps soothe us when we feel out-of-control. When we focus on God’s goodness, love and faithfulness, it helps soothe our fear. When we focus on God’s sovereign, providential care for us, we know we are OK even when difficult things happen. I like looking at the research through a Christian lens. It fills me with awe.

I want to reflect the character of God when I relate to others in the very ways He designed our brains to thrive. There’s a person in your life who might need a nurturing, stable, consistent, and warm presence. It could be you! And you can direct a hurting person to the ultimate source of nurturing, stability, and care—God Himself.

Share the Post: