Increase your awareness
Reading this information is the first step! Understand that past experiences can have profound physical, cognitive and emotional impacts, the burden of which can continue throughout life. Be aware that anger, distress or other confronting reactions are often a response to something happening to make a person feel threatened, trapped or fearful.
Avoid assumptions and biases
Communicate clearly with kindness, empathy and sensitivity, with a view to understanding how to minimise distress if a person is reacting to a trigger.
Ask “what do you need from me?”
A person in distress may not always know the answer, but asking shows that you understand and respect them. That, in itself, may help the person feel more at ease and have confidence in you. It may be that you then have a conversation with them about options which will enable them to proceed.
Ask the question
If you interact with a person whose behaviour you suspect might be due to trauma, and it feels appropriate to do so, ask “did you have a difficult childhood” or “have you ever spent time in a foster home or institution as a child?” or “did adoption have an impact on your life?” They can then simply answer yes or no, without having to explain themselves or tell you details about their past, which can be very distressing. Obviously, it is their choice whether or not to answer.
If they answer “yes”, it is really important that you:
Forgotten Australians will often tell about instances when they were suffering the abuse, they told adults they thought they could trust, and they weren’t believed, or they were just ignored. Validating and acknowledging what a person has gone through is very important, especially when this may be the first time they are disclosing their history.
Understand their perspective
Some trauma reactions, responses and behaviours can be difficult and confronting if they are directed at you, but it is important to realise that the distress it can cause in the lives of the trauma sufferers is far greater. Understand that these responses are not a choice. A lot of work goes in to minimising and managing these responses, with the help of services such as Wattle Place, but that is incredibly difficult and takes a great deal of mental and emotional strength, which cannot always be maintained.
Refer people to Wattle Place
If you recognise similar past experiences, or similar reactions, responses or behaviours in a loved one, friend, neighbour, customer or client of yours, you might like to do as suggested above. If they do, in fact, belong to one of the groups we assist, ask them if they know about Wattle Place. If they don’t, please let them know about us.
Contact Wattle Place
If you need advice or assistance about how to support someone you know or think may belong to one of these groups, please contact us.
Please remember…your response matters
It is possible for you to be the difference between someone being triggered and re-traumatised, or feeling respected, heard and supported. We ask that you take this information on board and use your increased understanding to guide your assumptions and responses. Small changes you make can make a big difference in their lives.