Everyone at one point in their life, experiences trauma. There is no escaping trauma; sadly, it’s like a phase of life we all have to pass through. As humans living in a world where trauma is seen as some defect or something dark and ugly to be kept hidden, it’s best we build the proper individual awareness of this psychological wound and strive to ensure that we get control of it, so that it doesn’t eventually get the better of us.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), based on research carried out in 26 different countries, at least a third of more than the 125,000 people surveyed in those countries had at one point in their lives experienced trauma.
If WHO was to broaden their survey and consider other countries, I’m sure that they would discover an overwhelming number of individuals who have been traumatized.
Because of the stigma placed on psychological ailments such as depression and trauma, you tend to discover that most traumatized Individuals fail to open up to their ordeal for fear of being shamed. Social media is one of the prominent mediums used in carrying out this act.
Trauma can plunge its roots deep in various areas of our lives; be it our relationships, marital life, academics, career, you name it — trauma does not discriminate.
“Trauma manifests itself everywhere”, was a statement made by my long-time friend, Keith Fiveson, Founder of The Work Mindfulness Project who joined me on my Rant & Grow podcast which you’ll find at the end of this blog.
Looking at that short quote in a scrutinizing way, you’ll have a very difficult time disputing that statement; it’s a known fact!
To be more specific, let’s take a look at various ways in which trauma impacts our lives, specifically our relationships and careers.
When a traumatic incident occurs, the outcome can lead to the development of several symptoms that weakens a person’s ability to function. These obnoxious symptoms go beyond the traumatized individual. They can easily affect relationships, intimate or otherwise.
Trauma can affect close relationships in several ways, and this could start from just one experience. For instance, visualize the scenario of a particular kid who was called up for an audition. Imagine how happy and energetic this kid would be getting on the podium.
Now think of how disgruntled he/she feels when the front seat (where mom is supposed to be seated) is empty, and she can’t be found even after she promised to be in attendance. That very scene can kick start a traumatic cycle in the life of such a kid.
The manifestation of such trauma can eventually be based on finding it hard to trust people who claim to love you, which would affect relationships with friends, family, work peers, and love interests because an attachment was severed. The child may have created a belief in that moment that if mom could disappoint, then people who claim to love me will eventually hurt me too.
Presenting myself as an example, a traumatic moment of my life as a toddler impacted me as an adult. This traumatic experience affected my relationship with women. How did it happen? It happened when I was just two years old.
My mom and dad got into a quarrel which had nothing to do with me. While the dispute was on, my mom got angry and broke my favorite sippy cup. The incident was devastating to me and therefore I created this belief that people who love me will eventually harm me.
Especially when it came to women. The event, unknown to me, affected my relationships with women and my ability to be intimate with people. It was not until my wife Colleen, to my surprise, told me that I had an anger issue; this prompted me to take responsibility for manifesting a repetitive pattern in my life and I decided to do something about it.
I went on a journey with a shaman where the secret was unraveled. Reminiscing what happen when I was a toddler, now as a grown and mature man, I understood that a minute of anger wasn’t enough to conclude that my mom didn’t love me. She is human; she is very liable to anger. And as humans, we tend to react impulsively when angry. I forgave her and let the incident pass and most importantly, I healed.
Childhood experience plays a huge role in our emotional development. Our parents, who are regarded as our main attachment figures, are quite important to how we see the world because they determine what the world would look like for us.
Is it a safe environment to thrive in and take emotional risks? Is everyone out to hurt us and thus untrustworthy? Can we depend on significant individuals in our lives to help us in periods of emotional needs?
Trauma can also be viewed as long-term exposure to a particular stressful happening. This would encompass children brought up in certain abusive households. Lacking the secured net of a safe attachment relationship, these children mature to be adults who contend with feelings of low self-esteem and struggles with emotions. These children are also prone to developing anxiety and depression.
Trauma can also thrust its roots in our careers. Individuals who find it hard to accept certain career setbacks tend to get traumatized easily. For such individuals, a simple disappointment at work like missing a much-desired promotion or being treated unfairly could reanimate early trauma, causing such an individual with traumatic feelings to eventually ruin their career by running from one job to the next, to the next, if they don’t snap out of it.
Employees with such characteristics often try as much as possible to prevent intimate relationships at work simply because such relationships stir up strong feelings which result in certain traumatic memories. As a result, they don’t trust others, and can’t be trusted themselves because they are guarded with fear.
As humans we all respond to trauma in diverse ways, experiencing an extensive array of emotional and physical reactions. There exists no appropriate or wrong way to feel, think, or react, so you shouldn’t judge your reactions or those of other individuals. Your response is normal reactions to weird happenings.
You can identify trauma through these symptoms, which are: emotional and psychological, and the physical symptoms.
Emotional and Psychological Symptoms of Trauma
· Acrid fear and anxiety
· The feeling of sadness and hopelessness
· Feeling insensible and disconnected
· Low self-worth, shame, and guilt
· Bipolar disorders, anger, irritability
· Agitation and nervousness
· Difficulty focusing
· Nightmares and insomnia
· Pains and aches
· Muscle strain
· Racing heartbeat
Healing from Trauma
The symptoms of trauma usually last from some days to a few months, slowly disintegrating as you come to terms with the traumatic event. But even when you feel you have conquered the trauma, you may be agitated frequently by painful emotions or even memories, especially in reaction to events that remind you of the trauma.
If you observe that your trauma symptoms aren’t showing any indication of reducing, and you find out that it gets hard to forget the traumatic event, then you may have PTSD ( post-traumatic stress disorder).
While emotional trauma is a typical reaction to certain unpleasant phenomenon, it becomes PTSD when you observe that you are stuck in a traumatic limbo.
Irrespective of the type of trauma you are experiencing, you can eventually heal from it and continue with your normal life.
First, you have to acknowledge that you are traumatized after which you seek for ways to end the trauma. You can do this by:
· Self-regulating your nervous system
· Asking for advice and support when required
· Performing exercises
· Not dwelling too much on the traumatic experience
· Ensuring you take care of your health
· Seek professional assistance if out of control
· Forget the past and focus on what lies ahead
Talking through trauma is a significant part of healing. As humans, most of us hate the idea of opening up to our traumatic experience. Discussing a painful experience can feel shameful; it could also expose our vulnerabilities and leave us prone to emotional blackmailers.
We think by having a dialogue about our trauma, we’ll break down more and never find our bearings. We feel we are the only ones to go through anything like it, and there’ll be no one who’d understand how we think. But we are wrong.
Sincerely, there is nothing weird or bad about experiencing trauma. Like I stated at the beginning of this post, as humans, we are all bound to experience trauma at a certain phase in our lives.
It’s how you deal with it that matters. And opening up to your trauma is the first step to finding your bearings. The fear of being vulnerable shouldn’t deter you from taking that important step to getting your life back on track. Nothing in this world is worth sacrificing your well-being. You should continuously tell yourself that. If possible, make it a mantra.
Don’t be ashamed of approaching a trusted person and discussing your ordeal with them. A problem shared is half solved. By talking to someone about your trauma, you’ll feel relieved and light-hearted.
Remember, you aren’t the only traumatized individual roaming the earth, and you certainly wouldn’t be the last. Whatever has a beginning must have an end.
Trauma isn’t everlasting. The first step to defeating trauma is by talking to someone about it. To do so, you have to ignore the thoughts of being shamed or vulnerable; and strive towards healing.
Growing evidence suggests mindfulness as another important strategy for individuals bidding to recover from trauma. And it only makes sense since mindful thinking allows us to visualize our thoughts and understand that what we feel or think about a particular situation, may not necessarily be true. At its core, mindfulness helps us to take control of our thoughts and not be drowned by the negative experiences we might have been through in the past.
Depending on the scale of traumatic stress and individual ability to manage the condition, the recovery process can take anywhere from a few weeks to months.
Yet it can take some years to fully reclaim their inner calm and become psychologically whole, following a traumatic past. This is especially true for individuals who have experienced complex trauma.
Don’t worry how long the duration will be to recover. Taking the first bold step is what matters. In addition to seeking professional help, certain self-driven practices can help, meditation is one of those. Establishing a healthy sleep routine is also recommended.
According to research, auricular acupuncture is another trusty way to expedite healing from trauma, especially for individuals who have turned to drugs and alcohol in their bid to temporarily ward off negative thoughts and emotions. The procedure also enhances sleep and promotes clearer thought patterns among individuals who consistently receive it.
By accepting the need to tackle trauma, seeking professional help as soon as possible and surrounding yourself with a reliable support network as well as driving recovery with healthy lifestyle choices, your road to complete recovery from trauma may well and truly be underway.
In my season finale of Rant & Grow, I invited my friend Keith Fiveson, Founder of The Work Mindfulness Project, an expert in mindfulness, to discuss the topic of trauma. We also discussed how as a society the USA has suffered from trauma. We haven’t fully healed from the wrongs we did to an entire race for example. As a body of people, as a society we need to heal and openly talk about these things.
Admirable work in this direction, include Chelsea Handler in her recent Netflix documentary “Hello Privilege. It’s Me, Chelsea.” She is bringing awareness to a traumatic situation in the fabric of our culture, the body of our nation, that needs to be healed.
We have to have the courage to open up about our personal traumas and seek to heal as individuals, and also as a society. The quality of our future depends on it.
Check out the Rant & Grow season finale with Keith. Maybe you’ll discover some wisdom for your own life. You can listen to the podcast right here.