The Truth About Trauma

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Image credit: photo by Luis Galvez on Unsplash.

Here’s something that you might not know: trauma can be any experience that carries long-term consequences. In addition ...

Unwelcome Trauma Can Come In Many Different Forms 

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration defines trauma as an event, series of events, or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual's functioning and physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being.

And while rapes, assaults, violence, neglect, and abuse immediately spring to mind when we think about trauma, anything from the death of a beloved pet to a lack of care from a parent in childhood might be defined as trauma.

Some other common trauma causes are car accidents, sports injuries, or very humiliating experiences. Bullying and peer judgments can be traumatic, too.

The Effects, Causes, And Repercussions Of Trauma Can Be More Complex Than We May Think

Trauma doesn’t discriminate based on age or gender, either. Anyone could be affected by trauma’s repercussions. If it was unexpected or you were unprepared, if it happened repeatedly or even only once, and if you felt powerless to prevent it, then it might still be causing fear and anxiety in your life now.

The bottom line is, if its effects are still being felt in your life today, then you’ve undergone some form of trauma. And who hasn’t?

And whether it happened once or multiple times, if it was something from which we haven’t recovered, then it is very likely impairing our current relationships and potential for growth, sometimes without our conscious knowledge.

So many things might cause trauma, and the only distinguishing factor is our perception of the precipitating event. What to one person would not be traumatic may have long-lasting consequences for another.  For instance, some refugees still struggle with the psychological repercussions from the flight from their homeland, while others perceive it as an opportunity.

Another factor in our perception of the trauma is our background. Did we perceive an event as morally wrong, because of our background? For instance, if we were raised in a religious household, then an incident involving bodily shame might be felt even stronger.

Our Childhood Links

Also very important in our perception are our childhoods. Childhood experiences seem to exacerbate trauma later in life. If, as a child, you experienced serious illness, the loss of a parent, forms of abuse, or an unstable home life, then it may be harder to cope when a future traumatic event occurs.

Are We Suffering From The Effects Of Trauma?

So how do we know if it’s trauma? Some of the following questions might help, and if they resonate with you, please know that all of these are normal feelings.

[source: http://www.helpguide.org/mental/emotional_psychological_trauma.htm]

  • Shock, denial, or disbelief.

  • Anger, irritability, mood swings.

  • Guilt, shame, self-blame.

  • Feeling sad or hopeless.

  • Confusion, difficulty concentrating.

  • Anxiety and fear.

  • Withdrawing from others.

  • Feeling disconnected or numb.

How The Rivers Of Trauma Can Run Deep

Trauma, like grief, can make its survivors feel a deep loss of safety and security. It can force us to stay distant from friends and family right when we most need them. For many of us, we may not even recognize the connection between the event and what is happening in our current lives. Its effects may be subtle, but pernicious.

The Path To Learning How To Live Again

The good news is: there is help out there, and we can learn how to live without fear again. And this is where an experienced therapist can really help, gently guiding our way to determining what happened in our pasts.

Many different techniques exist to help. I will only speak of two here.

Technique 1: Emotional Release Work

One of these is called emotional release work. It is a method that recognizes the way that emotions sit in our bodies. A therapist can teach you to work with your own body to release the anger, sadness, or grief.

Technique 2: Current Thought Processes

Another effective method is working on our current thought process. What are the things that enter into our mind when we are stressed / anxious / sad?

For instance, for a female victim of a sexual assault, the more obvious effects from the trauma– like feeling frightened at night, possibly being frightened around men, will be apparent.

But less of a connection might be made to the feelings of guilt that still hinder us. For instance, when we make a mistake at work, we might still be caught in an internal loop that tells us that “it’s all your fault, everything is always your fault.”

We could then work towards looking at the precipitating event more objectively – perhaps something like “I generally do good work. Maybe my boss is just in a bad mood today. This doesn’t have to do with me. I like my job, overall. It’s not actually my fault.”

It may not even seem like this has to do with the trauma from our past, but if we can work on our thoughts that are uncomfortable and transmute them, then we can begin to heal fully and recognize the trauma.

This does not mean that we condone or even forget wrong behavior by others – in fact, learning to speak about the experience with appropriate anger may be a part of therapy. What it does mean is that we learn to talk about how we are currently thinking and feeling, and then to put it into language that heals and helps.

Why Professional Help Really Can Help With The Treatment Of Trauma  

With any form of trauma, an experienced trauma specialist or psychotherapist can be a guide for you. He or she will help strengthen you as you work through the trauma.

Without support, it may be very scary to handle the emotions that arise alone and is not generally recommended. As with any form of therapy, you will need to feel comfortable with your therapist. If it doesn’t seem right, then know that you are in charge and can make the choice to find someone that fits your needs.

At Nassau Guidance, we have worked with many different types of trauma. Our trained specialists work on an individual basis, and your thoughts, feelings and concerns are always treated with utmost respect. Our hearts are open to you and we hope that you find the support that you need.

Sources: (not affiliated with Nassau Guidance):

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