Why do so many people have such a difficult time getting past trauma?
Those of you who read The Third Call will know that a lot of characters in the book are haunted by their pasts, such as Reine and Eva Colbert, and especially Tommy Marshall. As one reviewer put it, “This book is one of those that interweaves several hot button topics and evokes feelings of anger, sympathy and even shock. It’s a book about a scared little girl, and her calls for help are the catalyst to a situation that quickly spirals out of control and ends in tragedy.” Thank you, Rebecca, for a fantastic and very relevant review.
Many of us will have seen someone going through a difficult time and making some really bad choices. How many choices did Tommy and Reine make just to survive because they didn’t see any other way? The Third Call really tackled some difficult subjects and situations where people were barely hanging on. Those are the kinds of situations that could happen to any one of us. No one is immune, but from the outside looking in, our first reaction is often to think that these people should just get over it already. When you’re living in it, though, sometimes you don’t see any other way out.
Deputy Marcus O’Connell is one of my all-time favorite characters. One thing about him that I like, as his sister Karen points out, is that he does his best to treat everyone with the same respect and dignity he would want to be treated with in the same circumstances. We may find it hard to have empathy, but remember that having empathy doesn’t necessarily mean giving someone a pass. It means understanding how someone can spiral into a situation they can’t see any way out of.
How does someone get to that place? Just remember that this is the nature of trauma and life: The more intense your emotional reaction to a situation, the more it affects you. Everyone does it. We pay attention to the cause. Reine lost her husband and was drowning in debt, and she could barely survive and ended up on the streets, having everything taken from her. Stress, grief, and everything had piled up on top of her. Then there was Tommy. What he had done was so heinous, but when we take the time to understand why he did what he did, we see a snapshot of an emotional situation. Maybe his story made you empathize with his situation and understand that not everything is so black and white.
When you live through a traumatic event, your brain takes a snapshot of the experience, which is called a memory. A long-term memory is created from highly emotional experiences. Most people believe that you can’t control your emotional reactions. When you have an emotional reaction to someone or something, and you allow that emotional reaction to continue for days, it becomes a mood. If you keep that same emotional reaction going for weeks or months, it becomes a temperament, and then people see only that side of you. They may ask why you’re so bitter, and at first you might explain what happened, but when your emotional reaction continues for years on end, it becomes a personality trait, just part of who you are.
When you recall the event, your stress hormones surge. They say, “Hey! Pay attention to what happened, because you want to be prepared if it ever happens again.” So you relive it and re-experience it every day. The problem is that 70% of people end up living their lives in stress, anticipating the worst-case scenario because of what happened to them. Maybe you lost everything, or you were the victim of something, or you were taken advantage of, or your rights were violated, or you had no voice and no way to fight back. What happens is you begin to expect the worst-case scenario to happen every day. When you recall that horrible experience, you begin to emotionally embrace it, and you condition your body into fear. When you do it enough times, your body has a panic attack. How are your reasoning skills then? You condition yourself subconsciously.
You may ask people, why are you this way? Why are you such an asshole? Why are you living on the streets? Why are you so angry? They might tell you that it all comes down to a traumatic experience that happened 20 years ago. You heard Reine and Tommy’s stories. The emotions of those experiences allowed you to feel something. In your own life, you may be using similar problems to reaffirm your limitations or explain to yourself why you are the way you are. Every time you recall an event, you produce the same chemistry in your body. The body has no idea if the experience you are recalling is happening now or in the past.
When you make the choice to change, it may seem easy enough until you take a step to actually change. Then you are going to feel uncomfortable. When you decide to step into the change, and you suddenly try to stop feeling what you usually do, you might revert to the blame game, to pointing fingers. Your body will tell you that you’ve been doing this for ten or twenty years, and you think you’re suddenly going to stop feeling shameful, or making excuses, or feeling as if the world is out to get you? When you try to stop complaining or blaming or making excuses for yourself, it becomes too much of an unknown for your body, which has been conditioned for these reactions. That’s when you hear that little voice in your head that says, Start tomorrow, not today. Just go back to bed. Maybe you tell yourself you need to clean your house or yard first, or you have some big project, or you need to do something for the kids. Or maybe your head just reminds you that this is your lot in life, and you’re just like your siblings, or your mother, or your family. You tell yourself this type of change can never work, and you need to be realistic, because this doesn’t feel right.
You might usually start your day with a coffee, reliving something awful that someone did or said to you. Or maybe you think about how something blew up in your face, or maybe you just conjure up the worst-case scenario as the outcome of a situation that hasn’t happened yet. The body is stronger than the mind, and the unknown is a scary place for most people. Taking a step into the unknown is something many do not want to do, yet the best way to create your future is just to create it. You may relive those horrible outcomes and situations, but what would happen if you did the opposite? What if you rehearsed in your mind what a happy outcome or situation would be instead? It doesn’t have to be grand or huge—just something small, a smile, a laugh.
Basically, you tell yourself what you would like an event or your day to actually look like. This is called priming. When you do this, can you imagine that you would suddenly start acting like a happy person? Wouldn’t you rather be defined by a vision of your future, not a past event or trauma? Some people will use their bosses to reaffirm their addiction to judgement, use their enemies to reaffirm their addiction to hatred, use their friends to reaffirm their addiction to suffering. But change means becoming aware of where you are putting your attention. Are you putting your energy into that emotional traumatic past? Maybe at six p.m., you’re used to getting really upset because that’s when you’re stuck in traffic. Or maybe at nine p.m., you’re used to feeling anger and outrage because you usually watch the news—and as journalists put it, if it bleeds, it leads. Or maybe at seven a.m., you’re used to drinking coffee and judging everyone and being angry and rushed, checking your emails and seeing all the fires you have to put out.
Most people spend their lives in lack, not having what they truly want, and this can create a downward spiral. Change is the difference between living like a victim and controlling and creating your reality. You are not your past or your trauma. Ask yourself this: Does your thinking create your environment, or does your environment create your thinking?
Did you miss my newest release?
My latest novel, THE THIRD CALL, was released this past weekend--I really loved writing this story and hope it'll touch something in you as it has in me. Audio and paperback versions will be available soon, but in the meantime, you can pick up the eBook from all retailers everywhere. Enjoy this newest addition to The O'Connells series!
Deputy Marcus O’Connell is blindsided one night after a series of calls comes in from an unknown number, and the caller on the other end is a child. All he knows is she’s six years old, her name is Eva, and there’s someone in her house who wants to hurt her...
There are times when books have an impact on me and get me thinking or stay with me for a while after but hand on my heart I can honestly say I cried so hard at this story.
Gut wrenching & Riveting. This book masterfully interweaves several hot button topics and evokes feelings of anger, sympathy and even shock. A scared little girl and her calls for help are the catalyst to a situation that quickly spirals out of control and ends in tragedy.
The writing is so engrossing that I couldn't help but empathize with the helplessness, the injustice they suffered and the tragic turn their lives took.
THE THIRD CALL (The O'Connells, Book 2) is now sold at your favorite digital stores. Grab your copy today at:
BOOK 3 in The O'Connells series, THE SECRET HUSBAND, will be available March 31st!
Small-town lawyer Karen O’Connell believes that all of her clients who have found themselves recklessly embroiled in scandal and trouble have done so foolishly because of love. She has heard far too many times that the heart wants what it wants.
But one night, Karen receives a call from Jack Curtis, her vengeful ex-husband, whom she’s never told anyone in her family about. He’s found himself in a world of trouble, arrested and in jail, charged with murder.
He says he’s innocent, and he needs her help.
Her first response is to say no, but Karen knows Jack isn’t the kind of guy to ask for help from anyone, especially not from the ex-wife he openly despises and hasn’t seen in years. She knows there must be more to the story—but what she doesn’t know is that the mysterious circumstances surrounding the murder could be the reason their hasty marriage ended so badly.
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