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This One Technique Can Help You Release Stuck Trauma, Says A Psychotherapist

Image by A.J. Schokora / Stocksy
June 10, 2022

Whether it's a first-time therapy session, a trip to the gym, or a breath of fresh air outside, a variety of incredibly useful tools can support your mental well-being. However, taking advantage of these tools is oftentimes easier said than done; it can be difficult to muster up the energy to take that first step. If you feel stuck, you're not alone. 

In fact, psychotherapist and trauma specialist Britt Frank, MSW, LSCSW, specializes in how to wade through stuck, unprocessed emotions, and she walks us through all her tips on the mindbodygreen podcast. Below, she offers one of her nonnegotiable techniques to initiate the forward motion you may need.

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A technique to release stuck trauma.

It all has to do with your perspective: Change your whys to whats. What does this mean, you ask? Well, whenever someone is experiencing negative emotions (be it trauma, anger, or feelings of overwhelm), the first question they tend to ask is Why am I feeling this way? "That is not the starting question," Frank explains. "You don't walk up to a burning building and ask, Why is this building on fire? The first question is, What do we need to do to get the people out who are in there? Let's get them out; we'll figure out why later."

That state of nonstop analysis just ends up perpetuating your inertia and keeping you in your head rather than actually finding a way through the negative scenario and making any progress. The solution lies in shifting the question: "Change it to a what question," says Frank. "Instead of [asking] Why am I stuck? [ask] What are my actual choices right now? What are my resources? What am I willing to say yes to today, no matter how small? "

That last question is extra important, as saying yes to something—anything!—can propel you a step forward. "Stuck turns into unstuck the second you say yes to anything, of any degree, in any direction," notes Frank.

Finally, Frank emphasizes the importance of self-compassion during this process. "Don't beat yourself up. If today's not your day to run a marathon, take a walk around the block," she says. "Then tomorrow do another thing, and then do another thing…. You'll be able to get rolling." 

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The takeaway.

If you're dealing with unprocessed trauma, consider shifting your whys to whats to help identify how you can get the ball rolling. It may sound simple, but sometimes progress starts with a small baby step. Of course, it's not the only technique that can help process buried emotions; if you're looking for other tips to tackle your trauma, check out Frank's recommendations here.

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