6 Subtle Ways Trauma Shows Up in Your Life

Photo by Ian Espinosa on Unsplash

I remembered a research paper I did back in the day about post-traumatic stress and if certain traumatic events were predictors of certain symptoms.

The result was that there was a link but not a very strong one. But it got me thinking about the less obvious ways that trauma rears its ugly head in our lives.

Trauma won’t always show up as panic attacks, nightmares, distressing flashbacks and feeling emotionally numb, so it is good to note the other ways trauma can manifest in our lives because if they go unchecked, they can slowly eat away at our quality of life.

Perhaps the most common and understated way for trauma to show up is in our inner resistance and resentment to certain things and events in our lives.

An unwanted difficulty, a minor annoyance or something reminiscent of the past elicits a reaction that observers would deem a bit strong.

But deep down, a wound was touched and our subconscious recognized it.

Pay attention to what you are feeling and examine what occurred before the resistance came up. Remember that this is a subtle symptom of trauma so you might not be awesome at it initially. But with practice, you will be able to feel that shift as it happens. So if you are triggered in the future, you can respond instead of react.

Why do today what you can put off until tomorrow — especially when that very thing caused you pain and suffering in the past?

It would be perfectly natural for you to avoid it because that event or activity is associated with suffering. Your mind drums up the past, you think what happened last time will happen again, and so you will definitely avoid it for as long as you can.

The mind is often wrong about its predictions. Chances are, the experience you are fearing isn’t going to happen. If you can embrace how you feel, it will help to power you through what you need to do. But if you continue to run from the fear, the situation can get more complicated and cause new problems.

Pain, trauma and suffering have a very interesting effect: they cause one to believe that they are alone and isolated. And it makes sense because if they had someone to help or rescue them, they wouldn’t have had to suffer. That’s why group therapy is a godsend for so many.

However, the ironic truth is that after the traumatic event occurred, people tend to shirk away from help! But that’s human nature for you. The very thing you need is the very thing your spur. Because we have been suffering on our own, we continue to solve our problems on our own.

I’ll admit that there will be times where asking for help will needlessly complicate matters. But if you can sit with your reluctance to ask for help, you will know if it is something you truly want to do on your own or if you are about to compound your pain by not getting help.

As much as motivational speakers and successful people cite failure as their greatest asset because it taught them what they needed to know in order to succeed, people still hate failure.

Our first introductions to failure as infants were probably fine. Learning to walk and learning how to use the potty definitely came with failure, but in time we got the hang of it.

But then we would fail later in life and the backlash that came with it was such that we dared to never try anything new ever again. We then catastrophized and imagined that failure in this will lead to failure in other important areas of life.

As was said earlier, the mind is terrible at predicting the future. So while you will probably fail at some point, what the mind is making that failure mean is not true. However, if you buy into what the mind says, then the fear becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. My suggestion is what Susan Jeffers famously said, “Feel the fear and do it anyway.”

Gay Hendricks refers to this as the “Upper Limit Problem” where life gets too good to be true, and as such, life introduces something to knock us down to a place that is familiar and comfortable, even if it is not where we want to be.

In the past when life was particularly amazing, something happened that caused us shame or trauma. Because of this, we didn’t want to get too big for our own good so we would minimize ourselves, and we continued this belief and self-sabotage as we got older.

Dr. Hendricks’ solution is two-fold. Firstly, recognize that you are locked into this upper limit problem where you cannot see yourself moving into a higher station of life.

Secondly, meditate on a mantra of incremental success. For example, “I receive more and more abundance every day.” It isn’t enough to just say it. You must attach strong positive emotion to the mantra in order to weed out the strong negative subconscious thoughts.

Whenever we’ve suffered a shocking situation, we sometimes don’t know what to do. We’re confused and we aren’t able to focus on a specific thought. This is a typical post-traumatic stress response.

But sometimes we get into a mental malaise and we have no idea where it came from. Yet, the feeling is the same as if we suffered some trauma recently. We cannot think straight, we cannot focus on a specific thought and we feel spaced out.

Some unresolved trauma from the past is likely the culprit. This may be the most difficult problem to solve because it may not have been caused by a trigger, but is simply the past living within you.

But what you can do is write or journal. By externalizing your thoughts you can start to make a map of what you’re thinking, how you’re feeling and how you can tackle whatever it is you need to do.

Former Edu. Psychologist | Current Writer | Constant Learner | “By your stumbling the world is perfected.”

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