Hi! I’m Harj – a lover of the human experience, a double-lover of the feminine experience, and a genuine believer that there is an insanely beautiful life to be lived on the other side of trauma.
I’m a trained Wellness & Trauma-Informed Counsellor specializing in supporting people process trauma through approaches including somatic experiencing, cognitive behavioural therapy, narrative therapy, and spiritual wellness.
Having experienced my own levels of trauma throughout life, I am a walking testimony that joy and fulfilment are worth working for.
Describe yourself in three words.
Ambitious, curious and passionate.
How would those you love and respect you describe you?
Probably as someone who is outspoken; someone who is very aligned with her purpose; as well as someone they feel they can go to when they are struggling. Others tend to see me as someone they know they can rely or depend on.
What helps you feel safe and grounded?
What helps me feel grounded is practicing meditation. In the moments when I feel ungrounded or lost, slowing down, sitting with myself and reflecting really grounds me. Something else that has also helped me find clarity at times is journaling.
What helps me feel safe? Hmmm… I think whenever I have felt unsafe what I have learned to do is speak to myself. By speaking to myself I can give myself the exact reassurance that is needed in the moments I feel unsafe. Sometimes I put my hand on my chest and literally say to myself, “You are safe in this moment. You are not in harm’s way,” or, “I am safe. I am okay.” It sounds simple but this is really what has helped me in many moments shift from a state of feeling unsafe to one of complete safety.
How would you define trauma?
I see trauma as something that happens to us as well as our subconscious reaction to the event that happened. So – depending on what we have experienced throughout our lives and how we learned as children to respond to triggering situations – trauma is the inability to fluidly move through a specific event. Our bodies can get stuck in past trauma, which prevents the traumatic material from being processed. In these cases we often learn to adapt around the trauma, but we do not often actually heal trauma.
Now, as someone who works with people who have trauma, there’s not only a lot of going back and reinventing the situation which occurred, but also learning what adaptations have happened in our subconscious minds as adults and learning to heal the subconscious mind.
To sum up the answer to the question, “What is trauma?” – I think trauma is the unprocessed events that have occurred in our life.
How has trauma contributed to your suffering?
Experiencing certain levels of trauma from an early age contributed to me growing up with very low self-esteem. It has caused me to be not fully trusting of myself. The trauma experienced resulted in me having a deep lack of self-trust, which led me to openly trusting others over myself. This ended up causing lots of further undue distress. I also think at one point my trauma also contributed to not fully being able to regulate my emotions or be connected with them.
How has suffering contributed to your personal awakening or evolution?
I can think of a specific situation that took place in my life and was like a cornerstone moment for me. It was in 2015, and I had ended a long term relationship. It had been a pretty challenging relationship. The lack of self-trust I was burdened with was a huge factor in that struggle. During this relationship I lost connection with a lot of what made me happy in life, so when I finally found the strength to leave it was a moment of awakening for me.
After this experience I allowed myself to process the associated grief for a few months, after which I saw an opportunity to redesign my life and also to reconnect with the parts of me I had missed.
There was a lot of rediscovering. I hired a life coach and worked with her for a long time. I started to rebuild every aspect of my life. Going through this one very challenging situation in my life, however, I think was the kickstart to my overall healing. To finally address all the other levels of complex trauma I had experienced throughout life – sexual abuse and the bullying I experienced at an early age but had never quite dealt with. I realized that throughout my adulthood I had been jumping into relationships and seeking validation as a means of soothing unhealed trauma. It was not until this particularly challenging relationship came to an end that I finally started to look at every aspect of my life and my true healing journey began.
What words of wisdom would you offer to those who are stuck in suffering that is similar to what you have been through in the past?
Take it one step at a time. Sometimes when we start our healing work there can be a desire to want to heal at a fast pace because we get a taste of what healing feels like. Going too fast, however, doesn’t leave room to recognize the pain and grief that may be present and needs to be let go of. It can also become very overwhelming if someone is, for example, in a depressive episode or experiencing intense anxiety through their healing process; they may be so attached to their suffering that they don’t fully want to move towards healing.
I would just say take it one step at a time. Do just one thing for the betterment of your mental health. One thing that has been really helpful for me, in the depths of struggle, Is to just think of one thought at a time. Sometimes to go from feeling like you’re suffering and then to completely switch it up and think, “okay I’m over” it can be helpful. But I find, what really is supportive and long lasting is moving toward just one better thought or one healthier thought. I have personally found this to be more realistic.
Lastly, I would say open up to someone. Just start expressing, whether it’s to a coach, a therapist or to a friend you really trust. Just start expressing what’s happening internally. It is important to remember there is no finish line for healing. We can become so obsessed with wanting to heal, and that can turn into an addiction. I would say, just learn to love life where you are at. You can’t completely mess it up, because each moment in life presents an opportunity for learning.
~ Harj Michelle Thiara interviewed by Kiran Thiara