SOS BOOK - Chapter 2.8 Bearing the burden of past trauma!
Many of us are relatively fortunate. We probably haven’t had our lives affected by gross trauma. We might not have been subjected to gross poverty, war, violence, alcoholism or drugs, etc. But could we somehow still have been traumatized and not even realize this?
PAST TRAUMA IS AN ADDITIONAL CHALLENGE TO OVERCOME!
There is an ongoing stress that follows a traumatic life-event. It’s not just the event itself. The resultant subconscious memories can be considerable. These are an additional burden to carry through life. It’s more than we might imagine!
LIFE TRAUMA CAN HAVE LONG-LASTING BEHAVIOURAL EFFECTS!
These lasting effects can be clinically apparent & even obvious. They include post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety states & phobias. But many post-traumatic effects are subtler, such as the loss of self-confidence or self-esteem. This may even alter our personality, as we will discuss shortly.
PAST TRAUMA OR ABUSE CAN ALSO RESURFACE AS PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS!
This condition is called ‘psycho-somatic’ disease and ‘functional’ disorder. Here, troubling physical symptoms exist without an underlying organic cause. The initiating trauma that’s postulated here may also not easily be identified. It may have been repressed long ago within the subconscious mind. From there, it can still have a life-long effect and cause both symptoms & behavioral change!
JUST THE PERCEPTION OF ABUSE CAN TRIGGER THIS PROCESS.
What then registers in the mind as abuse or trauma? A brief childhood encounter, can be perceived as frightening, threatening or compromising. This distressing memory can then be suppressed, distorted or disguised in some way. That’s all it takes! This repression is done in attempt to hide it away from the conscious mind. It’s done in order to avoid the current stress of the acute situation. The memories are then repeatedly repressed to avoid the ‘pain’ or discomfort or of further recalling them. What's most avoided is the shame or guilt associated with the experience.
INFANTS OR YOUNG CHILDREN ARE MUCH MORE SENSITIVE & VULNERABLE IN THIS REGARD!
Children feel more helpless and are more easily overwhelmed than adults. A momentary perception of a ‘traumatic event’ in our formative years can have a profound ongoing effect. Even without our fully recalling the event! We may even have no recollection of it at all, if it has been totally repressed. Sometimes hypnotherapy is used to reveal the triggering event, but this great care must be taken not to instill any false suggestions.
THE PERCEPTION OF THE THREAT IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE EVENT ITSELF.
Not every child or person will perceive & ‘label’ the same event as being traumatic! For example, another sibling or observer may have a totally different recollection of the same event. Their brains have registered & interpreted the same event in different ways!
INTERNALIZED & REPRESSED TRAUMA CAUSES LONG TERM PROBLEMS.
When frightening or threatening situations are internalized & repressed… then the long-term problems start! There can be ongoing consequences as we subconsciously re-visit the event in a negative context.
REPEATED TRAUMA OR ABUSE CAN CAUSE A CHANGE IN PERSONALITY.
The perceived abuse may be so repetitive or threatening, that the infant can adopt a whole new personality. This becomes the child’s chosen survival strategy for coping with the situation. As a dependent child, they may not have or know another option.
MINOR TRAUMA REPEATED REGULARLY CAN HAVE A SIMILAR EFFECT.
As we have explained, a single traumatic event can initiate a persistent behavioral change, an aversion or phobia. But less obvious or minor traumatic events repeated regularly can have a similar effect. They can even lead to a change in our personality.
This could easily happen in many family settings. Researchers like John Bradshaw have postulated that distinct personality styles can result from the interpersonal dynamics occurring in a family setting . The perceived ‘trauma’ of our family dynamics determines whether we take on, for example, the ‘little professor’ role, the ‘precious princess’ role or become the ‘clown’ of the family.
It’s apparent that past traumas, family & environment are very important in our behavioral development. These influence our perception of the world and determine how we feel about ourselves. They can cause physical symptoms and even define our personality!
We may need to take this into account as we reconstruct ourselves and our lives. We might need quite a make-over! There might even be subconscious influences from past trauma that cause us to resist change.
REPLACE CHILD COPING STRATEGIES WITH ADULT COPING STRATEGIES
As more mature teenagers or adults, we don’t need to respond to a major stress in the same way we did as an immature & vulnerable child. Hopefully we have a wider repertoire of healthy coping skills! We should learn useful strategies & techniques to help us better cope with the stress & complexity of our daily lives.
Unfortunately, at times of severe stress or exhaustion we can still revert to some dysfunctional childhood behavior strategy. For example, we can still ‘sulk’ or have a childhood ‘temper tantrum’ as an adult!
YOU CAN RELEASE THE TRAPPED EMOTIONS YOU EXPERIENCED AS A CHILD
Adult coping strategies are also required for handling suppressed memories or emotions that routinely surface into our consciousness. That clearance mechanism is an integral part of our healing in adult life. As an adult we should more easily be able to cope with the surfacing emotion of some childhood trauma, even though we might be reluctant to revisit that!
Release & clearance of those trapped emotion is very valuable. Then we can then finally say good-bye to our past traumas.
Further information on dealing with these issues, continues in the ‘SOS Book’.