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3 Steps to Calm Emotions in Trauma

Waves of trauma have battered us in recent weeks. Just as we stand back up we get knocked down again. Without help your soul could drown.

Covid-19, quarantine, divisive politics, racist killings, a white policeman murdering African American George Floyd, violent riots.

There are so many emotions we might have. Shock. Outrage. Chaos. Fear. Guilt for not doing more. Sluggish depression. Gut-wrenching grief.

Losing hope and faith. 

“I can’t breathe!” George Floyd wheezed, as the policeman kept burrowing his knee into this gentle father’s neck while three other policemen stood by.

Emotionally, many people are having trouble breathing today — especially African Americans. They and their parents and ancestors have endured racism and abuse for centuries.

Will we ever have justice and peace in our mad world? Where is God in all this?

Underneath the endless stream of opinions and reactions on your newsfeed are trauma emotions that need empathy. Unfortunately, most people post and proclaim without first articulating, owning, and praying through their trauma emotions.

Repressed emotion can blind us as it did to the police officers who killed George Floyd and the subsequent violent protestors that killed police officers. Another example is politicians and leaders verbally attacking each other.

Today there’s even fighting in families and churches over different positions on the issues.

Jesus taught us to love our neighbor, whatever the color of their skin. He taught us to forgive, to bless those that curse us, and to pray for those that persecute us (Luke 6:27-28).

To love others like Jesus, especially during traumatic times, we need grace in palpable ways.

Calming trauma begins with understanding your experience.

A physical or emotional assault is a trauma. Even an intrusive and violating video or post on social media can be traumatic.

Trauma threatens to take away your power. It puts your body into extreme arousal, anxiety, and agitation. One horrible incident can become a barrage of recurring painful images, words, and emotions that suffocate your soul.

Trauma makes you want to fight or hide. If you are dealing with big or little trauma, or know someone who is suffering from the effects of trauma, grief and loss, it might be time to consider meeting with a counselor to help you get unstuck from your trauma.

Here are three steps to calm your traumatized emotions so you can love others well:

1. Seek empathy

Empathy is stepping into another’s skin to feel what they feel and want what they want. It’s tender-hearted listening. It’s doing to others as you would have done to you (Luke 6:31).

To be good at empathy you need to receive it from God and others. Empathy ministers emotional presence. It calms your distress with an embrace of God’s compassion that enables you to open your heart to other people.

2. Appreciate the presence of Jesus

I went back through the video of George Floyd’s last minutes as he cried, “Mama!” I watched it with Jesus and imagined our Shepherd cradling George.

I remembered Jesus’ last breath on the cross was “Abba!” (That’s Aramaic for “Father” in Luke 23:46). Jesus was abused and suffocated so that George could breathe in heaven’s beauty forever.

In the presence of Christ Jesus we all can breathe empathy as oxygen for our soul. That calms distress, pain, and trauma. God can use it to redeem evil and work it for good (Romans 8:28).

3. Learn Jesus’ teachings

When Jesus said, “Bless those that curse you” he meant for us to learn how to be kind to people we have a problem with.

Paul lived this way. His message for us today is that there is neither black nor white, traditional nor progressive, Republican nor Democrat, for Christ is all and is in all (Colossians 3:11).



Listen to today’s SoulTalk: In the midst of trauma, it’s critical to examine and process your own emotions when you encounter the pain and suffering of others and become in touch with your own. In this episode, Bill and Kristi help you pay attention to your underlying emotions so that you can keep a tender heart and extend empathy towards others.

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