Trauma. Trauma. Trauma. Trauma. Trauma. Drama. This word can affect your life in so many ways with you knowing. Because that’s one of the ways trauma presents itself. It hides. It will do anything to stay alive. It will control your life in mysterious and destructive ways.
The tricky thing about trauma is that it makes you self-destruct through defense mechanisms that are there to protect you and your personality and your spirit, from facing your pain.
You cause yourself agony by trying to avoid it.
Hello paradox of life!
So welcome your unwelcome feelings.
Everyone has some kind of traumatic experience of loss they will have to learn to heal from. A person can be traumatized an infinite amount of times. The numbers of trauma between people can vary. Trauma can form through extreme, sudden, one-time events like rape, being in war or the middle of a natural disaster. Or just trauma can be residual, generalized, the product of being absorbed in an environment filled with subtle forms of sadism and emotional abuse.
Healing from the past happens when you are so aware of the situation that has shaken you to the core and made it impossible for you to feel safe in the world, that you begin to prevent it from ruling your reactions to the present. This healing requires some of the most radical self-awareness. Until this self-awareness is cultivated, you will be controlled by your defense mechanisms that ultimately prevent you from experiencing peace and true connection.
There are many defense mechanisms people utilize to avoid facing pain. Think of an animal in the wild, ready to attack anything that approaches it. That's how people become when they've been violated in ways they don't understand. That’s why it’s imperative to put the puzzle pieces together to let go and accept of the source of your wounding.
Now let’s get to learning:
1) Disassociation - Have you ever found yourself blanked out in spacey place where time seems suspended and you longer have a grasp on what's happening around you? That’s disassociation. The root of trauma is an inability to process the inner effects of a situation after the outer event is gone. Dissociation is the mind's way to help you minimize extreme stress or conflict. You drop out of reality for a bit to spare yourself discomfort.
2) Acting Out - Someone makes you angry and you slam the door. You omit a sudden burst of intense emotion that may not seem appropriate to the situation in the eyes of others. However, whatever that situation is, reminds you of a situation in the past you haven't come to accept and understand. Acting out can manifest itself in rebelling against authority or engaging in extreme risk-taking adventure. In craving attention, emotional release, a way to scream out about your unmet needs - you alienate yourself from others, and rarely get the feeling of safety you are looking for.
3. Regression - When you have childhood trauma, there are moments when some stimuli will take you right back there - right to your emotional age when “it” happened. Arrested development. Instead of handling the situation in an adult, level-headed way that would produce a desirable result, you may throw your hands in the air, kick and scream like a child. You may refuse to move onto other stages in your human development, to meet your own needs, to cling to the childlike feeling of innocence and victimization.
4. Displacement - Your boss yells at you and so you come home and yell at your roommate or significant other. You do this because you can’t yell at your boss or you’ll get fired. Your anger needs space for expression and so you displace that emotion onto someone else.
5. Projection - This one is sneaky. Remember, what is one is in the whole. Projection is what happens when you identify and attack a behavior in someone else that you don’t want to see in yourself. It’s very hard to look at ourselves - excruciatingly difficult at times. It’s easier to see other people for their flaws. When we project, the mind exaggerates these negative qualities in others and denies them in one’s own self to maintain a self-image of being good and without fault. The truth is we are all good, as long as we are open to working on our character defects alongside others.
Image by J. Foster Savage