What Is Trauma?
Trauma is universal. It not only affects you in a wide range of ways, but the others around you. But what exactly is it?
Trauma can be described as a terrible event that inhibits an individual’s ability to function without the eruption of event’s impact in their daily lives.
It can range from a sudden death or attack to being physically beaten or manipulated.
The distinction is that the event may bring flashbacks, feelings from that event that may paralyze you, or even crippling thoughts from the event.
This can look like:
- Spacing out because you are replaying the event in your mind.
- Feeling nervous like you are still “on alert”.
- Distancing yourself from friends and family because they cannot relate to that event.
We all have the tendency to think that we’ve never gone through a traumatic experience because—well–trauma can bring on an onslaught of very negative and scary emotions. We naturally tend to push those feelings away.
We don’t want to be victims.
People who suffer from trauma may have difficulty experiencing intimacy, feeling or processing their emotions, or relating to others.
However, a real problem is that we may not even be aware that we are numbing ourselves, pushing people away, or causing even more pain in our lives and others.
We as society tend to only dismiss traumatic events to natural disasters, veterans, or people who have experienced assault as real trauma.
But the violence and betrayal in our own lives, we tend to separate from ourselves, as if they are rare isolated experiences.
We may stuff them as terrible things that has only ever happened to us because of the uniqueness of pain they bring about.
The Commonality of Trauma
We don’t treat trauma as collective human experiences because we feel shame, fear, and internalize the fact that something awful happened to us.
We may even believe that as time passes that we are no longer being affected by the traumatic event.
This stops us from developing the language, tools, and know-how to address, process, and fully heal from our trauma.
I want to take a minute to highlight the complexity of dealing with trauma, as there never is a moment where you feel as if it never happened to you.
That’s called denial.
However, the relationship in which you deal with it does change over time. This is the most empowering part.
If we don’t deal or address our trauma, we have an unconscious ability to keep perpetuating that pain and chaos in our lives and onto other people and might continually damage our own lives.
That damage may reaffirm negative beliefs about yourself and holds you captive to living in pain.
As if life itself, and all its uncontrollable events, aren’t painful enough.
Things You Can Do About Your Trauma
Here are some important things to admit:
- It’s important that we admit that it is possible that we may have unaddressed trauma.
- It’s important to have compassion for the fact that something bad happened to you but you don’t have to feel ashamed it happened.
- It’s important that we become honest with ourselves about what messages we have interpreted from these traumas, which can be very complex, and be brave enough to identify how they trace through our lives and relationships with others.
Finding a good therapist, emphasis on the “good”part, can help trace these behaviors and thought patterns. If therapy is too expensive, and often is, books that delve into this topic is helpful.
Why Trauma Matters
The generational impact trauma can have is monumental. Since, trauma can be passed down, this now raises the stakes of caring for ourselves so that others can have a chance of living life with better tools on how to handle pain.
There is racial trauma, financial trauma, family trauma that all interweaves and spikes up emotions everyone feels but nobody talks about.
We have to have the courage to show that it is not a weakness to address these issues and that addressing these issues is a step to inner freedom.
We may have a tendency to believe that going through rough experiences is what shaped us and that everyone, including our children, should have to go through those same tough experiences.
While tough experiences do shape us, the responsibility we assign on ourselves to become that for other people can be a source of unhealed trauma.
If there is more of a commitment to seeing how we are all human and the ways we can hurt, this may develop a stronger sense of common humanity. That if we can admit to how we suffer, it may even lead to new avenues of suffering less.