Understanding Trauma – Causes, Effects, And Healing

Understanding Trauma – Causes, Effects, And Healing

Living with trauma can have a significant impact on our emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual health, as well as our daily functioning and overall quality of life.

Trauma robs us of our hope.

Trauma blocks love and connection.

Trauma blocks who you are – it gets in the way of the real you.

Trauma can occur as a result of:

  • An event
  • A set of events
  • Or an enduring situation (long-term, e.g., child abuse, neglect)

Situations that are beyond our sphere of reference or capacity to process can result in a trauma response (heightened emotional response). It is too big for us, we don’t have a reference for this experience, emotion, thoughts, or physical reaction.

Another indication of trauma is when there is a quality that feels above and beyond the situation.

In the event of an overwhelming experience = our body has the capacity to hold a certain amount of it. This capacity varies within each person.

Trauma has a way of making our worlds small because there can be a tendency to avoid the things that activate us.

With my clients, I find it useful to differentiate between the story and the feelings. The story keeps you cognitive and inhibits processing which is why some people who work with therapists that focus on ‘talk therapy’ do not get great results. To be clear, I am not saying the story does not matter but your healing depends on you being present in the moment – with the feelings.

I don’t want my clients to relive traumatic events. The pain must be witnessed, yes – we do need to tell the story, but studies are showing, not over and over. We don’t want it to be encoding in the brain. The repeated story is proven to increase cortisol and this can then become like railway tracks in our minds.

When trauma surfaces and comes up, practice being ‘with it’ rather than ‘in it.’ Sit with it, lean in, and get curious about how you feel, instead of being ‘in it’. This distinction is an important element in the journey toward healing which is why working with a qualified, experienced, and trauma-informed professional is so important.

Healing trauma is totally possible. We can definitely release a lot of what we are carrying. As you do ‘the work’ you learn to do it quicker and move to the healing faster. But it is susceptible to being reactivated, if, and when another big event occurs.

The voices can remain in your head however the volume goes down, and you’re not as reactive or victimised by them. Even though they can still be there. Your level of tolerance increases.

Sometimes with cumulative events, studies show that the number of events a person experiences can affect the individual’s response. When there are lots and lots of events a person can become normalised by the number of them. So, the effect may not be as dramatic as with someone else who has only had a fewer number of events.

Studies also show that if you can provide support through the first days (30ish) it reduces the effects of ongoing trauma. Support does not mean medication because research also indicates that anti-anxiety medication is proven to increase the likelihood of PTSD.

How Trauma Affects and Impacts Us

Before we launch into the effects and impact of trauma, it’s important to note that these effects are not universal. Everyone and every experience are unique, therefore different people will experience trauma in different ways.

Emotional Distress: People who have experienced trauma may struggle with anxiety, depression, grief, anger, shame, guilt, fear, and a host of other intense emotions that can be difficult to manage. These feelings can interfere with their ability to form and maintain relationships, work, and enjoy life.

Physical Health Problems: Trauma can have physical health consequences, such as the increased risk of chronic pain, heart disease, digestive problems, chronic fatigue, and other health issues. Trauma survivors may also be more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviours, such as substance abuse or self-harm.

Relationship Difficulties: Trauma can impact our ability to trust others, form healthy relationships, and communicate effectively. Leading to misunderstandings, conflicts, and breakdowns in relationships. Trauma survivors may struggle to express themselves clearly, listen actively, make decisions, and engage in constructive dialogue with others.

Hypervigilance: Trauma can lead to a state of hyperarousal or hypervigilance, where individuals feel constantly on edge and vigilant for signs of danger. When a person is constantly on high alert for potential threats this can lead to difficulty sleeping, irritability, being easily startled, fatigue, and experiencing irritability or anger.

Flashbacks, Triggers & Nightmares: Trauma survivors may experience flashbacks which are vivid and intrusive memories of the traumatic event, or be activated by certain sights, sounds, or situations that remind them of their trauma. They may also have nightmares or recurring dreams about the trauma or something related. This can cause them to feel as if they are reliving the traumatic experience, leading to increased anxiety and distress. These experiences can be distressing and disruptive to daily functioning. These are all signals from your system. Cues that things need to be worked through.

Sense of Self: Trauma can damage a person’s sense of self, leading to feelings of worthlessness, not belonging, abandonment, and low self-esteem. Trauma survivors may struggle to develop a positive and stable sense of self, leading to difficulty in establishing a clear identity, making decisions, understanding and expressing their own needs and feelings, and pursuing meaningful goals.

Emotional Instability & Regulation: Trauma can disrupt a person’s ability to regulate their emotions, leading to intense emotional reactions, mood swings, and difficulty managing stress. This can impact their relationships with others, as they may struggle to communicate effectively, manage conflict, or show empathy towards others.

Trust and Intimacy: Trauma survivors may struggle to form trusting and intimate relationships with others, as they may have experienced a betrayal of trust or a loss of safety in the past. It can affect our capacity to give and receive love. This can lead to difficulties with intimacy, commitment, and vulnerability in intimate relationships.

Boundaries: Trauma can cause a person to feel a loss of control over their body, thoughts, and emotions, which can make them more vulnerable to having their boundaries violated. Trauma can impact a person’s ability to set and maintain healthy boundaries in relationships. Trauma survivors may struggle to assert their needs and preferences, leading to difficulty in their relationships with others.

Avoidance Behaviours: Trauma survivors may avoid certain people, places, or activities that remind them of their traumatic experiences. For example, a person who was in a car accident may avoid driving or riding in cars. Someone who has experienced a traumatic loss may avoid shopping centres for fear of being triggered or running into someone they know. This can lead to difficulty completing everyday tasks and limit opportunities for connection, personal growth, and enjoyment.

Memory and Concentration Difficulties: Trauma can cause difficulties with memory and concentration, making it challenging to remember details or stay focused on tasks. This can lead to decreased productivity and difficulty completing work or school assignments. It is not unusual for adults who have experienced abuse or neglect as a child to have trouble recalling childhood memories.

Substance Use: Trauma survivors may turn to drugs, alcohol, and addictive behaviours as a way of coping with their traumatic experiences by attempting to numb or avoid the pain. This can lead to substance abuse and addiction, which then impacts daily functioning and quality of life.

Dissociation: Trauma survivors may experience dissociation, which is a disconnection from one’s thoughts, feelings, memories, and surroundings. Dissociation can cause a person to feel numb or disconnected from reality, making it difficult to engage in daily activities and form quality relationships with yourself and others.

Self-Destructive Behaviours: Trauma can lead to self-destructive behaviours, such as self-harm, suicidal thoughts, and suicide attempts. These behaviours may be an attempt to cope with intense emotional distress and can lead to further physical and emotional harm.

Guilt and Shame: Trauma survivors may experience intense feelings of guilt and shame, even if they are not responsible for the traumatic event. These feelings can lead to low self-esteem, social isolation, and difficulty trusting themselves and others.

Negative Beliefs and Attitudes: Trauma can lead to negative beliefs and attitudes, such as a belief that the world is unsafe, life is too hard, life hurts, it’s not safe to love, or that other people are not trustworthy. There are many more examples. These beliefs can impact how a person interacts with others and life and can lead to further social isolation.

Healing from Trauma

Healing from trauma can be a complex and ongoing process. The work is ongoing, it is not a few days, a week, or a few sessions. It can keep coming up which is why we need tools and why knowing the tools helps.

It is totally possible to work towards greater well-being and healing over time. Seeking support from a qualified professional or trauma-informed and experienced coach can be an important step in this process.

Through therapy and doing the work, individuals can learn strategies for managing the effects of trauma, building resilience, and forming healthy relationships.

Oftentimes as a coping mechanism, trauma is suppressed or avoided, sometimes for decades. This means that a person has not fully processed or dealt with their traumatic experiences. Rather than addressing the trauma directly, they may try to push the memories, emotions, and physical sensations associated with the trauma out of their conscious awareness. This can occur consciously and unconsciously.

It’s like putting a band aid on a festering wound, you may get some temporary relief, but you are literally trapping the pain inside and it is not healing. This energy remains in your body, sometimes for decades, often leading to physical and mental health issues.

Sometimes seemingly out of nowhere, it can suddenly start resurfacing. This can take many forms including panic attacks, relationship dysfunction, anxiety, depression, overwhelm, anger, addictions, fatigue, and more. It’s like your body, your internal compass is saying – something isn’t right and it’s time to deal with it.

For many people there comes a time in their life when they simply know they need to address this internal conflict and can’t put it off any longer.

Working with a trauma-informed coach and self-directed healing (SDH) practitioner who processes deep emotional pain energetically through the physical body is an effective approach to healing trauma.

How working with a Professional can help

Release of Stored Emotions: Trauma can become stuck in the body and manifest as physical pain, tension, disease, and other symptoms. Experienced SDH practitioners can help individuals to identify and release stored emotions, allowing them to process the trauma faster and achieve a greater sense of emotional freedom, and well-being.

Energetic Balancing: Trauma can disrupt the natural flow of energy in the body, leading to imbalances and blockages. Working with a professional can help individuals to restore balance and flow to the body’s energetic system, promoting physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual healing.

Mind-Body Connection: Trauma can create a disconnection between the mind, heart, and body, making it difficult to connect with and understand one’s own physical and emotional experiences. Working with an SDH practitioner who integrates emotional, somatic, and energetic approaches to healing can help people to re-establish a strong mind-body connection, promoting greater self-awareness and healing.

Safety and Trust: Building safety and trust is paramount in enabling healing to occur. Creating a supportive and non-judgmental environment for individuals to process their trauma is a key element. This can help to restore a sense of safety and trust in oneself and others, which is often disrupted by trauma. Choosing your coach and self-directed healing practitioner needs consideration. Are they able to demonstrate experience and expertise in working with trauma? Are they suitably qualified? Do you trust they can hold space to enable you to be vulnerable and facilitate healing?

Holistic Healing: Trauma affects every aspect of a person’s being, including physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. An experienced and trauma-informed SDH practitioner who processes deep emotional pain energetically through the physical body can provide a holistic approach to healing that addresses all aspects of a person’s well-being, resulting in a deeper sense of calmness and balance.

Tips for dealing with and healing past trauma:

  1. Practice Self-Care: Practicing self-care, such as getting enough sleep, eating well, drinking water, exercising, and engaging in activities that bring you joy and relaxation, can help to support your overall health and well-being.
  2. Develop Coping Strategies: Coping strategies, such as self-directed healing, deep breathing exercises, mindfulness, meditation, or journaling, can help you manage the intense emotions and physical sensations that may arise when triggered by past trauma.
  3. Build a Support System: Having a supportive network of friends, family, or a trauma support group can be a valuable resource for healing. Talking with others who have experienced similar trauma can help you feel less alone and provide a safe space to share your experiences and feelings with people who understand.
  4. Seek Professional Help: Trauma can be complex and difficult to navigate on your own. Seeking professional help from a mental health professional, such as a therapist, coach, or SDH practitioner, who specializes in trauma can be an important first step toward healing.
  5. Practice feeling your emotions: Learn to listen to your body, with practice it will speak to you. When it feels overwhelming, practice being in the moment, get out of the story, and notice what you’re actually feeling. What do you feel? Where is it in your body? Name it, feel it, let it be. This involves paying attention to the present moment without judgment. Becoming more aware of your thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations, learning to manage & process them in a more self-directed, positive, and healthy way.
  6. Use Creative Expression: Engaging in creative expressions, such as art, music, movement, or writing, can help you process and express your emotions in a safe and healthy way. Listen to your body and allow yourself to feel whatever is coming up.

Remember that healing from trauma is a process, and it can take time and effort. Be patient and gentle with yourself. It can be a challenging and emotional process, but it is also a courageous step towards a healthier and more fulfilling life.

Tips for being brave enough to dive in and heal past trauma:

  1. Practice self-compassion and self-care, and be kind to yourself throughout the healing journey.
  2. Create a safe and supportive environment, whether it’s through therapy, support groups, or trusted friends and family members.
  3. Acknowledge and accept that healing from trauma takes time and effort, and that it may not be an easy process. But… it is worth it, for both yourself and those around you.
  4. Be willing to explore and process difficult emotions and memories, and allow yourself to feel them fully without judgment or self-criticism.
  5. Understand that talk therapy is cognitive and does not heal your heart. Talk therapy is a mental (cognitive) process and trauma is often stored in the body, heart, and gut.
  6. Stay committed to the healing process, even when you feel resistance, it feels difficult or uncomfortable. Keep your eye on the end game – how you ultimately want to feel and show up in life.

Overall, dealing with trauma can lead to a greater sense of well-being and personal growth and can help us to live a more fulfilling and meaningful life.

Always remember healing from past trauma is a personal and unique journey, and it is important to find the approach that works best for you. Be patient and gentle with yourself, and know that healing is totally possible with time, effort, and support.

If you are curious or ready to start your healing journey, I encourage you to book a free discovery call.