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Now Hear This: Trauma and Resilience

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Every once and while, you see, hear, or read something that you just stop and can’t help but nod along with. That happened to me recently while listening to the Fieldcraft Survival podcast. Mike and Kurt put out a lot of great content, but this one definitely stuck with me. 

At about 70 minutes, there is a lot of content in this episode, which focuses on psychological trauma and survival mindsets. The whole episode is definitely worth a listen. I wanted to touch on a few key points, though. Each of these is relevant to our community and the things that we do.

Types of Trauma

The interviewee of the podcast, Jeff Holguin, describes three primary categories of trauma: Primary, Secondary, and Vicarious. 

Primary trauma occurs when an event is happening directly to you. You are the one being shot at, attacked by a wild animal, or something else that affects you.

Secondary trauma happens when you are present and seeing the event happen to someone else. This is seeing your buddy get hit in a firefight, crushed by a falling tree, or some other traumatic event.

Vicarious trauma comes from empathizing with someone else who experienced primary or secondary trauma. This is often felt by therapists and first responders arriving at a scene after an event has already happened. Over 60% of trauma psychologists and therapists experience burnout within three to four years due to this.

Despite the connotation with negativity, not all trauma is bad. In fact, experiencing trauma and stress periodically is part of growing resilient. In about 70% of cases, exposure to trauma results in normal healing and growth.

This is the downside to the type of coddling we sometimes do to our children. By shielding them from ever experiencing levels of reasonable stress and trauma, they never develop coping mechanisms for times when things get bad.

Coping Mechanisms and Training

The word for stress that results in positive growth is eustress. This is something that drives you to positive action. The opposite is distress.

That applies to all types of stress including physical and emotional. When you think about it, it’s not all that different from physical exercise. You make strength and conditioning gains by challenging your body over time.

If you try to do something physical that far exceeds your capacity, you stand a much higher chance of getting injured. You wouldn’t run a marathon if you can’t even run a mile without stopping. Your body would shut down on you. This is why you must build that tolerance over time.

Your mind works the same way. 

To grow as a person, you psychologically need to experience stress. The more experience you have with this, the better you are able to put things into perspective. You become confident that you will survive and come out on the other end okay.

The military is particularly good at introducing stress like this into training. Either through sleep deprivation, hunger, yelling, high stakes on pass/fail events, and other methods, people learn to cope. 

There is a great discussion about severe coping mechanisms as well, such as auditory exclusion and stress reactions described in Rex Grossman’s work

The Importance of Tribe

One of the most important points in the episode was about the impact of a tribe. Whatever you experience, the highest amount of perceived stress will happen if you are alone. The more people there are around you that you trust, the lower the stress becomes.

We are social animals, and we instinctually believe in safety in numbers.

This really speaks to the nature of relationships between people who have gone through traumatic events together and come out the other side. There is a shared bond. When you trust those around you to have your back, you become more resilient in the face of trauma.

Think about that.

Long Gun Therapy

Later in the episode, the speakers start talking about meditation and methods of focus. Interestingly, Jeff mentions that men and women display different behaviors. Avoidance is never the answer, but men tend to work better dealing with the results of stress by talking about in conjunction with another activity.

Think of those moments with a buddy where you talk about “life stuff” while wrenching on a car, playing golf, or chatting at the range. Men aren’t as good at sitting and talking, which is something women are much better at.

That certainly matches my experiences having difficult conversations with my wife, lol. 

One concept they mention is so-called “Long Gun Therapy.” The nature of this is not about exposure to rifle fire as some kind of treatment. Rather, it’s about forcing someone to slow down and focus on the fundamentals. Pay attention and control their breathing, the wind blowing, the reticle, position, and all the little elements that go into a good rifle shot.

Marksmanship is a great form of meditation. I’ll buy that!

Over to You

I do hope you give this episode a listen, and let me know what you think in the comments!

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Matt is the primary author and owner of The Everyday Marksman. He's a former military officer turned professional tech sector trainer. He's a lifelong learner, passionate outdoorsman, and steadfast supporter of firearms culture.

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Hey! Thanks for listening and passing the info on to others!

– Jeff Holguin

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