As we walk down the street amongst the masses, we have no idea what anyone else is going through. There’s no sign over their head that identifies them as having suffered any type of injury anymore than a simple look would perhaps identify them as left handed or as a gifted pianist.
Trauma is one of those invisible things that clings to a person and can affect every decision in their life.
Does this have to be a life-long thing that defines us or can we change it? Do you want to change it? Maybe the trauma brings out more understanding or empathy in you as you identify with others? What we must realize is the difference for each and every person.
Trauma means something different to everyone but there is a definition and that’s what I’ll use today to jumpstart this conversation.
Let’s look first at the definition of trauma as per the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
Definition of trauma
1a: an injury (such as a wound) to living tissue caused by an extrinsic agent
b: a disordered psychic or behavioral state resulting from severe mental or emotional stress or physical injury
c: an emotional upset
Did You Know?
“Trauma is the Greek word for “wound”. Although the Greeks used the term only for physical injuries, nowadays trauma is just as likely to refer to emotional wounds. We now know that a traumatic event can leave psychological symptoms long after any physical injuries have healed. The psychological reaction to emotional trauma now has an established name: post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. It usually occurs after an extremely stressful event, such as wartime combat, a natural disaster, or sexual or physical abuse; its symptoms include depression, anxiety, flashbacks, and recurring nightmares.” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
As I read this definition I’m led to believe anyone and everyone has trauma. Whether it be from being yelled at as a kid or carrying guilt around for something you’ve done. Somewhere, it’s within us all.
I want to look at the impact that trauma can have on your everyday life. Does it define who you’ve become or are you your own person in spite of having suffered trauma?
The difference between the two is striking in that it speaks to different stages of life, reactions, and the act of letting go. Let’s look at each of these.
Stage Of Life Traumas
First, you need to define your trauma. Write down exactly what it is and when you first remember it being an issue in your life.
It’s important to acknowledge time, place, and reality in order to recognize that trauma and deal with it.
If a trauma happened when you were a child and made you feel worthless, shame-filled, or unloved then it would be a good idea to talk to a professional psychiatrist or therapist about dealing with these powerful emotions.
Sometimes we don’t even realize how much our childhood traumas affect us, but they creep into our personality, our reactions/overreactions, and personal impressions of what is happening around us.
When I was a kid we were told to suck it up or get the hell over it. There was no molly-coddling of feelings or excuses made, but the world is different and we’re more aware of the psyche.
Trauma, whether through accident, injury, or circumstance can happen at any stage of life and should be dealt with at least to a point of allowing you to enjoy life and those around you.
I’m not a therapist. I’m an Auntie.
I’ve heard many traumatic stories in my life. It’s when those nagging traumas take over your entire thought process and spirit that they begin to define you. You’re suddenly the girl who was molested or the guy that got beat up by his dad, or the one who feels sad all the time because her parents didn’t say I love you.
No one wants to become their trauma. Those moments in time need to dealt with as soon as you’re capable.
Look to the stories of Terry Fox who lost his leg to cancer, Rick Hansen who was paralyzed from the waist down but became an inspiration, or Oprah Winfrey who came from poverty, sexual abuse, and disadvantage to rise to having a voice all over the world.
These may seem like extreme example of people who’ve overcome trauma but that’s the whole idea. You can strive to be or do anything you want. Always remember that. You’re the one in control of you.
Trauma Can Show Up at Any Time in Life
Sometimes in our younger years of working and building a life we don’t realize the burdens we bear though they surface at a later stage of life. This is the reality that feelings can bubble up at any time and there’s no closure date.
As we age we don’t care as much about what others think. This can be a door for some to open as they reveal themselves, their feelings, their trauma.
Our understanding and perception of trauma differ widely due to age, culture, religion–so many factors–and that’s okay. We are all given different tools (or none at all) to deal with things in our life but when it comes to feeling and emotions, comparisons are futile.
As we continue through life, buried trauma can show up in different ways–Relationships, marriage, addiction, anger management….the list goes on. Maturity does have an impact on how we make choices but that doesn’t mean any of the demons are lessened.
Seek help. No trauma is too small or too large to fix.
Does The Trauma Define You
Does your past trauma (however you may define that for yourself) define your current life?
Can your decisions be traced back to the trauma? This goes along with the self-medicating, avoidance of intimacy, pushing people away, passive-aggressive behavior, overeating/drinking/exercising…again the list can go forever.
- What trauma happened in my life that affect me today?
2. How are they affecting me today?
3. Can I break free from the negative feelings/thoughts/stigma?
4. Have I ever tried? When and how?
5. Do I want to try now? Am I ready to seek help if required.
If you trace your behavior/attitude back to a reaction from a trauma suffered in life, are you happy continuing as you are, or do you want to change it?
There are times when we need to go back and nurture that child within us. The one who perhaps needed more hugs and kisses or required a voice and physical protection. But, there can also be a sense of leaving well enough alone and realizing that things were perhaps not as bad as you recall, your parents did the best they could, or the control was not yours to begin with.
The mind is a powerful tool to assist in healing. We can grieve for the life that child had but it doesn’t change what happened. We need somehow find a way to move forward.
To Stay Entrenched Within Trauma Doesn’t Do You Any Good.
Know that you are worthy of a life without pain. Without the ongoing trauma that occurred in your life. It may be time to make a change to take back the control of your life…you’re the only one who can make that decision.
Whether it’s childhood trauma, war trauma, or anything else that lingers within your body, soul, and mind it requires attention. A good place to start would be your family doctor. Please also seek help either through private counseling, self-help groups like NA or AA, or through your local mental health unit. Life is way too short to live in constant pain. You have to start somewhere.
Good luck. I’m with you in spirit all the way.