MINOR EVENTS CAN RESULT IN TRAUMA.
Many of us are fortunate that we haven’t suffered gross abuse or trauma. We might not have directly experienced poverty, war, rape, violence, alcoholism or extreme addictive behavior.
But other stressful life events or family dynamics can still leave an imprint. We can be traumatized by less obvious events and not realize it. The ongoing effects of hidden trauma or perceived abuse in our lives can be considerable.
OUR TRAUMA IS A CHALLENGE TO OVERCOME!
There is a complex internal stress response that follows any traumatic life event. The psychological or emotional stress lasts far beyond the event itself. The burden of subsequent memories & related emotions can be considerable. This can be a burden that we carry through life. Some of these events can become suppressed, or even deeply repressed in our subconscious mind. It’s often more than we might imagine!
…Do you feel like you are carrying the burden of past trauma?
TRAUMA CAN HAVE LONG-LASTING EFFECTS!
Sometimes the prolonged effects of past trauma are obvious. This includes post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety & phobias. But many post-traumatic effects are much more subtle. These include the loss of self-confidence or self-esteem. Or they might alter our behavior or personality in other subtle ways.
…Do you feel your low confidence and self-esteem is holding you back?
TRAUMA CAN SURFACE AS PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS!
Sometimes physical symptoms will surface long after a traumatic event. This condition is called ‘psycho-somatic’ or ‘functional’ disease. Troubling physical symptoms can exist without evidence of an underlying organic disease. The initiating trauma or cause may never be identified. The memories of this event may be suppressed within the subconscious mind. These can still have a lasting effect and cause both symptoms & behavioral change!
…Could any of your physical or behavioral issues be linked to past trauma?
REPEATED SUPPRESSION LEADS TO REPRESSION.
A deeper form of this memory suppression is called repression. Repression is an attempt to bury the pain away from the conscious mind. This is done in an attempt to avoid facing that experience again. The memories are deeply repressed to avoid the emotional discomfort of recalling them. By burying it deeply down, we aim to avoid the associated shame or guilt.
…Are you burying or repressing past painful memories or feelings?
INTERNALIZED TRAUMA CAUSES CHRONIC ISSUES.
Long term problems start when threatening situations are internalized or repressed! There can be ongoing consequences of not releasing those trapped emotions. We may be reluctant to revisit that event because of the negative context and associated emotions.
This repression of certain memories can result in seemingly illogical consequences. These include psycho-somatic illness, or irrational fears and phobias. Or we become more easily triggered by certain people or situations. Our behavior in certain circumstances may be inappropriate or suboptimal.
YOUNG CHILDREN ARE SENSITIVE TO TRAUMA!
Children feel more helpless and are more easily overwhelmed than adults. Even just the perception of a ‘traumatic event’ in our formative years can have a profound ongoing effect. Any feeling of inadequacy can lead to a change in ongoing behavior. This behavior shift can occur without consciously recalling the event!
We may have no recollection of a traumatic event if it has been deeply repressed. Sometimes hypnotherapy can be used to reveal the triggering event. But great care must be taken not to instill any false memories through suggestion.
WHAT CAN REGISTER IN THE MIND AS TRAUMA?
In childhood, many incidents can easily be perceived as frightening, threatening or demeaning. Even if there was no intent to harm. This means the personal perception of an event is more impactful than the reality. It’s even possible to experience an event as being traumatic, even when an objective outsider might not consider it so.
It all depends on how that initiating event is interpreted and stored by the mind. Over time, this distressing memory can be further distorted or manipulated. A secondary narrative or storyline is often added. It can then become even more traumatic or resistant to release.
PEOPLE INTERPRET THREATS IN DIFFERENT WAYS.
Not every child or person will perceive or label the same event as being traumatic! For example, another sibling or another observer may have a totally different recollection of the same event. Their brains have registered & interpreted the same event in a different way!
…Have you experienced a past event very differently from someone else?
REPEATED TRAUMA CHANGES OUR PERSONALITY.
The behavior changing effects of trauma worsens with repeated abuse. The perceived abuse may be so repetitive or threatening, that the child adopts a whole new personality.
This adaptation becomes the child’s survival strategy for coping with an intolerable situation. As a dependent child, they may not know of any other option. This childhood compensatory behavior can then unknowingly continue on into adulthood.
REPEATED MINOR TRAUMA IS ALSO HARMFUL.
Even a single abusive or traumatic event can initiate a persistent behavioral change. An extreme response would be an aversion or phobia. But lesser trauma, if repeated often, can be damaging too. Less obvious traumatic events repeated regularly can lead to a change in our behavior & personality.
This trauma could easily happen in many family settings. Researchers like John Bradshaw have postulated that distinct personality styles can result from this exposure. In the family setting we term this ‘interpersonal dynamics’.
Our family dynamics determine which role we take on. This includes the ‘little professor’ role or the ‘precious princess’ role. Or we become the ‘clown’ of the family. Sometimes, in defiance, we take on the role of a ‘rebel’!
REPLACE CHILDHOOD COPING STRATEGIES.
By the time we are mature teenagers or adults, we have usually learnt a wider range of coping skills. We don’t then need to respond in the same way as an immature & vulnerable child would. Hopefully we now have a wider repertoire of healthy coping skills! We need mature coping strategies to help us better cope with our adult lives.
Unfortunately, at times of stress or exhaustion we can still revert to our dysfunctional childhood behaviors. For example, we can still ‘sulk’ or have a childhood ‘temper tantrum’, even as an adult!
…Could you be regressing into childlike behavior when stressed?
RELEASE REPRESSED CHILDHOOD EMOTIONS.
As a child, we didn’t have the coping skills to handle difficult experiences. Sometimes we misinterpreted the situation and created more stress! Much of this trauma was then suppressed or even deeply repressed. As adults we can better process what we couldn’t handle as a child.
Releasing & clearing those trapped childhood emotions is very important for our mental and physical wellbeing. But we might be reluctant to revisit those traumatic childhood experiences. Hopefully as adults we have the courage and wisdom to finally process these past traumas.
PAST TRAUMA CAN BE FACED & HEALED.
We’ve discussed how past traumas, family dynamics & social conditioning are important in behavioral development. These all influence our perception of the world. Our past influences our personality and how we feel about ourselves. This can affect our health, wellbeing and our enjoyment of life. It even influences whether we reach our potential.
These hidden influences from past trauma can cause us to resist change. We may need to take this into account as we reconstruct ourselves and our lives. We might even need a big makeover! In self-development terms we call that makeover a ‘personal transformation’. That is what we are learning about.