Trauma can come in many forms. Child abuse, relationship experiences, a conflict in school an incident a twork, driving your car and so much more. Trauma can not be put in a box. It is important to realize that what may traumatize one person may not traumatize another. Perceptions play a very large role in how our brain is affected by our experiences. [Thats how we can have siblings experience the same exact thing, but have totally different opinions on what happened]. Another important thing to mention is it matters how our upbringing and life experience was/is when a possible traumatizing situation occurs. Pending on your age, your family dynamic, what types of life experience you have had and what resources you have learned during your life on whether you will be able to move through and with your trauma or whether you get stuck and never evolve in your trauma.
My family is no stranger to trauma. Physical child abuse, no money to adequately put food on the table. Terminal illnesses, car accidents, house fires, house floods. Being conned and having a business stolen from you, relationship abuse, sexual abuse, neglect the list can go on and on. The sad thing is, those that are reading this most likely have a long list yourself. We live in a world that even though we have evolved so much in things like acceptance, all inclusivity, equal rights, human rights…. In our tribes, whether we are born into them or whether we create them ourselves we for whatever reason tend to inflict massive pain on each other.
I know a few people who have sexual trauma from their childhood. Things started far too young for them even to understand really what was going on, yet we all know that innately children know that it is wrong. In one person, the mind completely blocked it out until they had children, and the children turned the age where the abuse started. Everything started flooding back. The children, where the brains trigger. Up until then the person had dealt with massive depression, anxiety, fear…. Sometimes manic and child like behaviour that would come out in fun times, or times of stress. Yet the reason was unknown and way back when, depression, anxiety, manic, bi-polar…. That was all just so new in the medical and psychology world that it was rarely diagnosed or treated. It was discovered that this persons abuse had started as a toddler, and the mind had created personalities in order to protect itself and in times of uncertainty, or another trauma, sometimes the mind created a new persona and sometimes an already existing one would take over. It was discovered that this person was stuck mentally in their youth, but with time and guidance this person would actually learn and have the growth mentally and emotionally as their kids continued to grow.
Another person I know, never blocked things out. Instead their mind was unable to develop to stressful situations [Fear stops the growth of the amygdala which is our ability to reason, stay calm and it allows greater ability for our frontal cortex. This keeps us much more closer to our fight, flight and freeze primal reactions https://www.thoughtco.com/limbic-system-anatomy-373200 ]. For this person, the go to is almost always anger in a stressful situation and if that does not stop the offence from happening, then they run. They remove themselves from the situation and they at times sever all ties. This is very different from a person who decides after a period of time that boundaries have been crossed enough and they decide to limit the relationship or end the relationship. The response I am talking about is about someone who was never given the knowledge, the tools to think critically in a stressful situations as they were growing up and had to rely on instinct alone. [A really great genomist Dr. Mansoor Mohammed explains this very well in the Genius Network episode 143 during this world change and how the amygdala is affected and will always dictate how we respond even after our crisis is over. https://podcasts.apple.com/ca/podcast/genius-network/id1161195772?i=1000470165440]]
If children are not given the proper support, and taught the tools on how to cope, how to adjust and given a safe environment where they are not constantly in the fight, flight or freeze environment, then they never develop the ability to strongly think critically, to be able to take over their own responses and control the outcomes. This will have a few different results but are not limited:
The adult who never feels like they are equal to others in employment or family settings. They are always putting themselves below others in rank, they feel like a child still, that they don’t know enough and they will want to “earn/prove” their adultness so that they can feel equal… but their mind will constantly tell them they are not good enough, that they are still a child, that they don’t know enough and as a result they will do more and more and more to try and prove themselves not only to others, but to themselves because they believe they are worth less and that their voice does not matter and in fact that they are a burden to others. These adults do not know their own boundaries or what they even need in their own lives to feel valued, loved, or appreciated as they are so focused on proving to the outside world that they are worthy and capable.
The adult that always feels the world is against them. That everyone in their life is out to shame them, to prove that they are wrong and out to ruin them. Often in conflicts this adult will always take the blame onto themselves. They must be doing something wrong otherwise this conflict would not occur. Something must be wrong with them if the other person is feeling something negative. “Nothing ever good happens to me and nothing ever goes right for me.” “I never asked for life to be this way, but I must have done something wrong in order for all of this to happen. “ This keeps this adult in constant fight mode. They have to “fight” for what they want. They have to “fight” for what they deserve. They have to “fight” to be heard/to be right. The world and life is a very hostile environment to this person as they are always looking for a negative undertone that affirms their perception in life. Everyone is against them even at times in their positive relationships.
Then the adult who flees. Who has a lot of love to give, but always keeps their distance as to not get to close. Not get too attached because “something will happen to ruin it.” This person is typically always the first to leave a hard situation. They have a hard time to committing and typically find something wrong with the person/job to justify them leaving or quitting. They do not allow many people into their inner circle and those that are…. Are still kept at arms length where secrets about themselves are still kept. They lie to create a persona of who they think you want them or need them to be. They adapt well to their environment because of this, but when people start getting too close the cracks in the walls begin to show and this scares them. It scares them because if you “knew” who they really are you wouldn’t like them, that you would reject them. It is easier for them to quit a job, leave a friendship/relationship then for them to risk being hurt.
We all in some way have these tendencies in any combination, but those who have experienced trauma, these behaviours are heightened because their mind believes they are fighting for survival. Speaking personally, I had a lot of childhood trauma, but I also had a mom and step dad that knew the benefits of psychology. They provided counselling for me at a very young age. They knew that even though I was young and resilient, that there would be triggers in my life that would hold me back and they wanted me to have the best chance possible. They knew that my experiences had changed how my mind processed the world and things around me. I remember very well…. I don’t think I was yet a teenager and I sat across from my psychologist and I said “ I have been coming here for years, and yet we discuss similar things…. I don’t get why my parents continue to book appointments”. She said to me “Jodi, your memories are with you for life. The way your brain processes things in your life is change by this. At different stages of your life you will develop a new awareness of what your experiences were…. When you start dating, what counselling has taught you will help you to determine if they are a good fit for you, or harmful to you. When you become a mother it will help you know how to parent and discipline without “harming your children”. It will help send the warning bells in your mind so that you can adequately avoid situations that would not be good for you…. Right now, all this knowledge all these coping skills are going into a jar, and when the day comes that you need one or more of these skills, you can open the jar and access them and remember what you learned.”
I am a combination of number 1 and number 3. I am not perfect. Just because I know all of these things does not mean I get it right all the time. In fact those reading this, and even those that know me have no idea how many inner dialogs I have with myself where I say I don’t know enough, I am still a child [I am going to be 41]. Who am I to say I help others. At other times specially over the last 3.5years I am extremely cautious of who I let in my life and yes I have distanced myself and even cut people out of my life for self preservation. I will say, that these “survival” skills do serve a purpose. They are not 100% wrong. They are what has kept people who have had trauma alive and on this earth. However when they are our only tool. When we do not learn other ways to adapt, cope and deal with conflicts and relationships they can and will be harmful to us. They hold us back and prevent us from accessing a better world…. Accessing a better us. Then we become stuck.
I’ve learned that these are called stuck points. When we believe something so hard about a certain person or experience that it defines how we live and act around that person/experience. The story we tell ourselves about that is paramount. One story I tell myself that is a stuck point in my life is around the fact that I do not remember my collision. Innately I know its there…. Just barely out of reach. I’ve described it as “If I could just claw back that curtain I would know what happened. I could see it. Once I saw it I WOULD be able to see what the other driver was doing and I WOULD be able to hold him accountable for killing Marley. Then I would be able to restore my faith and belief in the justice system. I would have a reason for WHY it happened. I wouldn’t feel like the law and system worked to protecting the other driver who crossed the centre lane instead of protecting me and Marley…. I could begin to find that peace I am needing to help heal over this wound”…. I was told, those are very powerful words I chose to describe what I was feeling and thinking…. But the question is…. How true is that? What evidence do I have that will support the story I have in my head? If I am honest with myself…. I don’t know if its true. I have no evidence to support any of that. [Wow did my world stop and the fear and panic rise within me when I was faced with that]. My responsibility to myself, if I am EVER going to learn to move out of this stuck point is to be able to create a new story…. One that I know is true from the evidence I have right now. “ I will probably NEVER remember the collision. The man that hit me will never come forward with what he knows happened and will only have a “not wearing his seatbelt ticket”. He did not see me, I know that to my CORE and I don’t need to have a physical memory of that to know that. I will share mine and Marley’s story so that in the future, the laws can change. So no family has to experience the lack of accountability… the lack of justice for someone else’s actions while behind the wheel.” That is a hard story to accept… but it is also a story that I can be successful in and addresses what actual evidence I have. It is learned and it is practiced… at times successfully and at times rejected…. That is why they call them stuck points.
The same techniques can be used in relation to the people I have chosen to keep at arms length or cut out if I choose. These techniques when it comes to people doesn’t mean I need to drop my boundaries, but it does mean that I can choose. I can choose to expose myself to these people by being in the same room with them even though that everything to my core screams against it. I can choose my responses before they occur because I can get familiar with my hot spots [what triggers my anger]. I can choose to gracefully exit from the environment if one of them touches a hot spot, or I can choose to implement my tactfully prepared response that lets them know that I am choosing to be in this discomfort, but that they crossed a boundary with me that is not acceptable and that they shouldn’t do it again. This also takes practice, and some days avoidance is the way better choice by not putting yourself in those positions for your own mental wellbeing…. But avoidance should not be the go to all the time as that prevents growth, that prevents awareness and that prevents healing.
In closing, trauma is trauma. Whether you experienced it as a child or as an adult. It doesn’t matter if you have all the tools in the world or if you have just the survival skills. Whether your trauma comes from enclosed spaces, a person, an experience, a death, abuse, betrayal or any other type, no one has the right to say to you “Well I experienced xxxx and I am fine so you need to get over it, move on, forget about it.” Your trauma is unique to you and it is a part of you. No matter how young or old you are though, you have a choice. Maybe it does define you now…. But are you allowing it to control and dictate to you what your life is and will be, or are you allowing it to propel you forward in becoming the person you want to be? Are you doing the very HARD work that needs to be done to move through it and with it? You don’t have to have all the answers to start. You don’t have to know the outcome to start. All you have to do is be willing to start and know that there will be some bumps, maybe a mountain and at times even a canyon in your way that will want to derail you from what you actually want… but the willingness to take one step at a time and NEVER stop will help you climb up, descend down and walk around all those obstacles letting them be learning experiences so you can be even better and greater than you believe you can be. You can have your hope back.
If you are ready to start and know you need help click here. https://www.elementsofwellness.org/bookings-checkout/start-getting-your-hope-back?referral=service_list_widget
This call is about giving you support. Finding the right path for you to start on. Whether that is with me, other professionals that I know of or both. This is about you. Finding your little needle movers so that you can start experiencing success. When you know what to do and implement it correctly…. Imagine your hope coming back…. Imagine your dreams coming back… Imagine your confidence coming back….. Imagine….