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  • Writer's pictureLeo Lobbestael

The Presence Lab:Tips For Making Big Decisions When Living With Trauma.

Updated: Aug 23, 2022

Making big life decisions can be challenging especially if you have been living with trauma.

The DSM-5 defines PTSD ( Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) in strict terms and what is typically referred to when we think of Big "T" Traumas. These traumas are associated with experiences/events such as physical, mental, or emotional abuse or violence. These are any situations where one's life is threatened. Examples include war, sexual assault, a natural disaster, or a life-threatening physical injury, these situations may themselves not be traumatic for every individual.

Small ‘t’ traumas are all the other events that we may not typically consider, or even overlook, that impact us and our nervous system's ability to function in an open and prosocial manner. These are often distressing events but are not necessarily life-threatening such as family conflict, financial trouble, legal trouble, a challenging move or decision, a job change, and chronic pain or illness.

Whatever you have experienced, when it comes to making a big decision it is much more difficult if you have experienced trauma.

5 things I have learned from my work as a therapist and meditator that may help you make decisions if you are living with some form of trauma are:

  1. Make Space. First and foremost, you have to learn to make space in your own life, for yourself. life has a way of teaching us this naturally but the quicker we can do it, and prioritize it we can avoid some painful education that life brings our way. When you are making a big decision it is really important to set a good amount of time for yourself. I do a week to ten days.

  2. Connect Within. When you have made time in your life for yourself. Use the time productively by connecting inside yourself: yoga, expressive arts, meditation, silence, and nature are some methods I have used. When you begin to connect within yourself I encourage you to learn to trust that relationship you build with yourself and surrender to what is coming up from this connection.

  3. Notice your addiction patterns. As you connect within yourself start to notice what you are craving and what are averse to. This pattern of craving and aversion is what fuels much of how we often make choices; feeding what we want more of ( often pleasure) or want less of ( often physical discomfort). Just noticing the addiction cycle you have without doing anything, just being a witness, will help create space for yourself. Which is what we need more of if we want to make better decisions that are more aligned with what we need and desire. Where there is trauma there is addiction , addiction numbs out the pain we experience. This numbing does not serve us so just just start to bring awareness to your cycle and notice how this alone can free up space.

  4. Take responsibility. This is where we take action on choices that we have come from a place of spaciousness, stillness, and connection within ourselves. Being responsible means responding to our life in a way that shows compassion for ourselves and is not making decisions from a place of addiction but a place of curiosity and awe for a life that we desire to live. It means we do our best to prioritize ourselves.

  5. Get professional help. Making decisions is difficult no matter what, sometimes having professional support in making big life decisions can be helpful, in particular, if you are living with trauma.


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My work is grounded in empathy, compassion, neuroscience and ancient wisdom traditions.

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