Changing our views on trauma

November 23, 2020

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You had a happy childhood, nothing bad happened, you were taken care of, your parents love you. Yet, you may be:

  • Stuck in unhealthy patterns of behavior
  • Attracted to toxic relationships or unable to attract the relationship you genuinely want
  • Finding it hard to regulate your emotions
  • Experiencing anxiety, depression, low self-worth, or some form of addiction?

Misunderstanding trauma

You cannot understand why you struggle, especially when there are people with REAL problems.

This was how I felt. I could not understand why I was struggling especially when I had a relatively good life. My dad worked hard to provide for me, my mum always kept me well fed (even at her own expense), she gave up her job when she my sister was born to care for us full time. They made sure I had the best education etc. How did I end up completely dependent on alcohol for 20+ years as a coping mechanism for life? Why did I need alcohol to numb myself and check out of life?  

In my healing journey, I have learnt that trauma is not what I understood it to be. My understanding of trauma was something major – physical or sexual abuse, extreme poverty, the BIG stuff. But I have come to understand that trauma is more than that.

Today’s Great Epidemic

I learnt that trauma also includes not having your emotional needs met as a child. The first time I heard about this was from Teal Swan speaking on ‘Today’s Great Epidemic’, about the “emotional dark age – the age of ignorance relative to emotions”. Where we may have heard of Emotional abuse like shaming, threatening, manipulating…

“there is another form of emotional abuse that goes on between people, which is harder to recognize. And it leaves even deeper scars. It is this form of abuse that is today’s epidemic, and it is called ‘Emotional Neglect’. The best way to understand emotional neglect is this: Instead of trauma caused by what IS done, it is trauma caused by what IS NOT done.” – Teal Swan

Trauma is not what happens to you

One of my favorites, Dr. Gabor Mate speaks about this too in his work. Dr. Mate says…

Trauma is a psychic would that hardens you psychologically that then interferes with your ability to grow and develop. It pains you and now you’re acting out of pain. It induces fear and now you’re acting out of fear. Trauma is not what happens to you, it’s what happens inside you as a result of what happened to you. Trauma is the scarring that makes you less flexible, more rigid, less feeling and more defended.

Nothing overtly dramatic needs to happen to a young human being to induce trauma; it is sufficient that she/he is wounded without an immediate capacity to heal the wound. A parent’s emotional distance, is enough.”

Trauma is not just a singular big event

Dr. Nicole LePera, better known as @theholisticpsychologist is a great resource online. Her posts are full of nuggets of wisdom. Her own personal experience brought her to a new understanding of trauma.

As a psychologist, I was trained to believe that trauma was a singular “big” event. Something that involved severe abuse or neglect. When I started my practice, I noticed a pattern with people who had ‘normal’ or ‘supportive’ families yet struggled with severe anxiety or depression, low self worth, chronic fear of what others think. Many were in toxic relationship patterns and had so much confusion around why they felt stuck. I noticed the same patterns in myself. Yet nothing ‘big’ happened to me. The next few years, I spent studying the patterns I saw, and realized trauma is so much more than what we’ve been told.”

She defines trauma as “an event where we are chronically denied our authentic nature as children and are left to cope with our emotions without guidance in how to process them” and emotional neglect as the lack of “meaningful deep connection where mutual feelings can be freely shared”. This results in a need for external approval because we have lost our connection to self. Unknowingly, “we seek relationships that mirror our earliest childhood experiences”.

Understanding trauma

It is so important for us to understand trauma because when we begin to change our views on trauma, we become aware of how these wounds are controlling our patterns of behavior and we appreciate the importance and need to heal.

References:
Childhood Trauma is also…, The Holistic Psychologist
Dr. Gabor Mate on Childhood Trauma, The Real Cause of Anxiety and Our ‘Insane’ Culture, Human Window
The Relationship with your Parents…, The Holistic Psychologist
Today’s Great Epidemic, Teal Swan

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About Celeste

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Battling alcoholism for 20 years, Celeste was stuck in a vicious cycle, unable to see a way out. She likens addiction to being on a hamster wheel, feeling exhausted but unable and too afraid to stop; where the safer option is to continue running.
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