Trauma: How It Affects Us & How to Heal

Trauma can profoundly impact our lives, affecting our physical, emotional, and mental health. Many people who have experienced trauma may struggle with symptoms such as intrusive thoughts, isolation, flashbacks, and difficulty sleeping. Trauma can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, or background, and healing is a journey that takes patience and compassion.

  • What is trauma and how does it affect us?

Trauma is an event or chronic condition that overwhelms our capacity to cope.  Something categorically changes us when we experience something traumatic, and often there is no going back- only forward. It is critical to not compare people when we talk about pain and trauma; what is overwhelming for one person may not be for another. How an individual processes and stores an event or situation is important, not the event or situation itself.

  • How trauma can affect our physical, emotional, and mental health

I mentioned that what is important is how one processes and stores an event. When animals in the wild experience being chased and hunted – read trauma – they don’t internalize the event like humans do. They don’t think, “this is all my fault” or “I deserve this” or “I am unworthy of healing.” They shake it off- literally shake themselves back into homeostasis.

On the other hand, humans tend to develop negative stories and self-perceptions about who they are and how the world works. When this happens, it creates a groove of sorts whereby the beliefs that are held on to become self-fulfilling prophecies. We store this information into the cells of our bodies, often feeling stuck and trapped in a cycle of trauma.

It’s not hard to see then how sustaining traumatic events has been associated with higher rates of obesity & eating disorders, depression, anxiety, substance use, and poor education and salary outcomes. Untreated, trauma can impact one’s physical health, as well, with effects that can be felt decades after the event(s). PTSD can develop, where individuals struggle with avoiding the people, places, things that remind them of the event.

People can end up having a very narrow existence- always engaged in patterns of avoidance and constantly keeping anything at bay that might conjure difficult emotions. That is why it is so important to seek help: to break out of the cycle of maladaptive beliefs & self-perceptions that keep life feeling small and scary.

  • Therapeutic approaches to healing

Thankfully, there are many ways to address trauma and its effects. I help my patients confront trauma in session and I make various suggestions about how they can build on this work outside of session, too. In session I create a framework whereby we can invite the parts that experienced trauma to speak.

We establish safety, build ego strength and widen the window of tolerance, and find approachable challenges to confront difficult memories. Over time we build a bridge to engage threatening feelings and broaden one’s experience again. Other modalities that can address trauma include EMDR, art psychotherapy, narrative writing exercises, and somatic experiencing.

  • Self-care strategies for coping with trauma triggers and symptoms

It is so important that one move slowly and gently in processing trauma. The process is going to feel uncomfortable, but moving too quickly can become retraumatizing and cause someone to shut down instead. Self-care is the cornerstone of holding the quality of space required to move through aspects of trauma.

The self-care practices I endorse include reflective journaling, mindful movement, meditation, and interpersonal assertiveness. Anything that helps people slow their thoughts down, bring observation to routine patterns of reacting, and widen the space required to make more supportive choices is encouraged. I offer the tools people need to develop a loving relationship with their minds, bodies, and people. Healing is possible, and it starts with you believing it.

Inner child healing process

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