What’s the Big Deal About Trauma?
It stops you from functioning the way you want. A person can function while carrying around unresolved trauma, they often do; and how people function while carrying unresolved trauma is often limiting. Are any of these familiar to you?
- Feeling distant from other people
- Having trouble getting or staying close to people you care about
- Losing yourself in others
- Feeling like you can’t quite connect with the emotional richness of life
- Unsatisfying personal relationships
- Wondering, “When the other shoe is about to drop…”
- Working extra hard just to function
- Surprising emotional outbursts, creating embarrassment for you, hurt in others
- Trouble staying calm
- Unpredictable emotional reactions
- Numbing down your feelings
- Inability to connect deeply
Unresolved Trauma Can Contribute to:
- Substance Abuse
- Substance Use Disorder (Addiction)
- Mood Swings
- Emotional Reactivity
- Complications During a Divorce Process
- Intimacy Challenges
- Establishing and Maintaining Connections With Others
- Every day functioning
- And, a variety of other problems.
Our basic human need for connection, which Dr. Brene Brown says is, “hardwired into human beings” cannot be met when you are detached from your emotions. What causes this detachment? Often it is past, big and little hurts and wounds, we call Trauma. It took place long ago, and you wish it no longer affected you, but it does, and you don’t know how to stop when it takes over.
Trauma often leads to shame, which you carry from childhood into adulthood. Shame impacts your abilities to function as a mature, thoughtful adult.
We Used to Think of Trauma as Big T TRAUMA: war time experiences, rape, famine, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, unexpected death, horrendous car accidents. Those are out of the ordinary major disruptions.
Now We Know There is Something More Commonly Experienced: An Accumulation of Little t Traumas: Little t traumas – neglect, abandonment, emotional withdrawal, emotional abuse, verbal abuse, and some physical abuse. This accumulation of little t trauma experiences can leave a child and later an adult feeling: “Not Good Enough,” “Inadequate,” “Unworthy,” “Unlovable,” “Shameful,” “Alone.”
A person can get stuck in their emotional development, often turning to drugs, alcohol, or some process addictions like co-dependency, dysfunctional relationships, gambling, love and relationship addiction, shopping, pornography to help themselves feel a temporary relief from negative self- messages of, “I’m not enough,” I’m shameful” “I’m inadequate,” “I never measure up,” I’m unlovable,” shame builds over time, low self esteem follows, sometimes covered up by a mask of superiority…
The exciting news is: there are now a variety of mind body therapies in addition to traditional talk therapy which allows a person to heal from these old traumas and deeply rooted feelings and beliefs to be able to live a richer, healthier, fuller life where you can change those old negative messages to new beliefs and messages of: “I am worthy.” I do deserve……” “I am loveable,” “I will be treated well,” “I can be respected,” and “I’m not settling for less than.”
It is exciting to share people’s journey as they embark upon their recovery from trauma to health. They begin by acknowledging and accepting the negative experiences they had, and see their feelings about themselves and their own emotional reactivity as survival reactions – which are really old familiar Fight, Flight, or Freeze reactions when their Survival Terror was first triggered. These (Fight, Flight, or Freeze type) reactions were developed to survive what people experienced in life. As an adult, they begin to understand their reactions and responses were constrained because when they felt stress, they Reacted by going into Fight, Flight or Freeze mode rather than being able to Respond in more thoughtful, rational, mindful ways. People learn they can shed their survival terror and shame…and find more ways of responding, giving themselves a sense of wellbeing they never felt before.
The Process: Sometimes traditional talk therapy focuses on a cerebral level, bringing about an Acknowledgement as to what happened and what you do; it is an important first step. However when you still feel stuck in old ways of being there is a second step of Accepting in your heart, your gut and your soul, what you have acknowledged in your head. With acceptance you often find yourself forgiving yourself for your history of reactivity as you understand why it is there, your shame dissipates. The third step is taking Action when you integrate lasting attitudinal, emotional, and behavioral changes. These changes take place at a deep mind/body level. Some of the newer mind/body therapy techniques can facilitate these deeper levels of change so that it seems as if new neural pathways are formed allowing you to respond more easily in new, healthier ways.
After doing this kind of Trauma Work, a person is free from previous constraints and able to blossom as they would like, with more resources, possibilities, feelings, responses, and options to choose. It is an incredibly worthwhile journey to take.
- Talk Therapy
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
- Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
- Motivational Interviewing (MI)
Joanne Baum, PhD is licensed in Colorado and Indiana and awaiting licensure in Florida. She provides Telehealth sessions to people in both states.