When we experience a trauma and are not able to process it, we often adopt a negative belief about ourselves in relation to the trauma. We then take this belief with us into other life events, and it can become the lens through which we see the world.
What Is Trauma?
For example, let’s say someone was in a bad car accident. In those moments of the accident, they felt and were unsafe. The belief they had about themselves might have been “I am not safe”.
This person was not able to process that traumatic accident, and brought that belief of “I am not safe” into other parts of their life so that when something triggers their trauma, they truly believe they are not safe, and make choices as such. This is, in itself, not a bad thing. It’s a basic human survival mechanism.
So maybe every time this person gets in a car, their heart starts pounding and they feel like they can’t breathe. They feel anxious and unsafe. They believe they are not safe, so they decide not to ride in that car. Or they do ride in the car but suffer from intense anxiety for the whole ride. Maybe this fear grows into something bigger. This is debilitating to their life.
Or, the trauma response might happen in a less obvious way. Maybe this same person has a relationship in their life in which they don’t feel safe, emotionally. Maybe their partner continuously minimizes their emotions. Maybe this person tries to tell their partner that they are feeling upset about something, and their partner tells them to just get over it. This doesn’t give the person a sense of safety from an emotional standpoint, and this can trigger the same sort of physiological, emotional, mental, and behavioral responses as riding in the car.
The person will find some way to cope with all of this. Often with unresolved trauma, coping skills can come in the form of substance abuse, self-harm, violence, betrayal to self or others, etc. This is debilitating to their life.
This is trauma.
This cycle could go on forever. This cycle is even passed down through generations.
But it doesn’t have to.
If trauma is allowed to be felt and heard in a supportive and nonjudgmental way, it can be healed.
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