"The wound is where the lights enters you." Rumi
What is Trauma? A traumatic event does not have to be a bigger than life event. It can be a single incident or a series of events. It can range from a one–time, minor car accident to the experience of war.
Complex trauma is exposure to chronic, repeated, negative experiences. Examples include children who experience long-term abuse or neglect. Many factors contribute to the way an individual perceives trauma including age, severity, development and temperament.
The Effects Of Trauma: We human beings are extremely resilient and we often rebound from the countless offenses we experience. However, most traumas leave residual effects – large and small.
Trauma can leave traces and emotions in our minds and it is often stored in our bodies. Often we are completely unaware that this has happened. For some people, reactions to trauma are temporary or negligible. Others have prolonged reactions and more severe symptoms, which they may or may not recognize as affecting their lives. For some, it can result in Post Traumatic Stress.
Trauma not only affects those who experience it, but it also seeps into the lives of those around it. An abused child may grow up to be a depressed mother. A returning soldier may frighten his or her family with angry outbursts.
Long-term, complex trauma may affect your ability to regulate or feel emotions, cause trouble concentrating, interfere with your ability to learn, your sense of self and your hope for the future.
With family or friends, you may feel emotionally distant – unable to make meaningful connections. Or you may experience mood swings, irritability, depression and anxiety. At work, it may be difficult for you to concentrate on your tasks and you may be easily distracted. And, at night, it may be extremely difficult for you to fall asleep. Even when you are able to fall asleep, it’s possible that it is difficult to stay asleep and get a full night’s rest.
PTSD may cause you to live in fear that you will have a flashback of the traumatic event, reliving the physical feelings and emotions tied to the experience. It can cause a racing heart, sweaty palms and nightmares. Common solutions include avoidance of reminders of the event.
In looking for solutions to overwhelming trauma, many people turn to substances, such as alcohol or drugs, in an attempt to numb out, forget or control feelings. Many people will repeat their trauma by choosing relationships and situations that reflect their painful past. Often these individuals wonder why they cannot seem to change this pattern even when they know it is not beneficial.
Getting Help: Like many others who have experienced trauma, you may not want to talk about it because memories trigger strong emotional responses including shame and humiliation.
You may have learned the unwritten but understood code to be silent about your past. Or you may feel like you should be able to shoulder your experiences on your own. This is normal and appropriate.
Sharing one’s past is an individual journey traveled according to each person’s comfort level. You are always in charge and you need to feel comfortable and safe when you seek help.
The first and most important step in treating trauma is a sense of feeling safe with oneself and with others. This includes learning to tolerate and regulate emotions, learning to know with whom and how to form close relationships and learning self-care. Fortunately, we understand more about the effects of trauma than ever before and trauma therapy is very effective. No matter the route you take to overcome trauma, the main end goal is for you to build resiliency and confidence as you move forward in your life.