Trauma and Abuse
Going through a traumatic or abusive experience can be extremely painful, confusing, and difficult. Because trauma can cause you to feel powerless, helpless, and unsafe, it often has a negative impact on all aspects of your life, including your work and relationships as well as your physical and mental health.
The term "trauma" refers to the emotionally painful experiences that you've endured in your past, which continue to cause discomfort in your life. Because traumatic experiences are overwhelming, the negative feelings, memories, and uncomfortable body sensations that occurred during the trauma tend to get "stuck" in your nervous system, and thus remain unprocessed. This is what accounts for the ongoing after-effects or symptoms of trauma that occur in your life, such as:
- Anxiety, worry, and fear
- Panic attacks and phobias
- Relationship problems
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Sleep problems and/or nightmares
Traumatic experiences can occur in a broad range of contexts and circumstances. In fact, a traumatic reaction is a completely subjective experience - different people interpret and react to the same types of situations very differently. It's not the incident that determines whether something is traumatic or not, but rather your personal experience of it.
Certain characteristics can make you more susceptible to being affected by trauma compared to other people.
If you have a shy or sensitive temperament, you may react more strongly to traumatic experiences (some people are genetically more resilient to trauma than others). If you experienced trauma at a young age, when you were more vulnerable and less able to understand disturbing events, you may have been impacted by subtle traumas more severely than you would later in life.
When people think of trauma, they often think of situations that have a physical impact, like a car accident or violent attack. But, very often, trauma occurs on a purely emotional level, where there is no physical impact. This is known as "emotional trauma." Examples include:
- Verbal and emotional abuse
- Sexual abuse that does not result in penetration
- Abandonment and neglect
- A painful relationship breakup
- The death of a loved one
- Family problems
The phrase "emotional trauma" also describes the emotional impact of experiences that affected you in a physical way. For example:
- Physical or sexual abuse
- An injury or accident
- A violent attack
- Invasive medical or dental procedures
- Catastrophic events or natural disasters
Something that makes trauma and abuse so difficult is that once a traumatic event is over, the impact of that trauma continues to affect you. Trauma not only creates painful feelings, but it also reinforces negative thinking. For example, if you felt rejected by one of your parents when you were a child, you may have developed the belief, "I'm not valuable" or "I'm unlovable." If you were abused in some way, you may have developed the belief, "I'm not safe" or "I can't protect myself."
Trauma also leads to self-defeating behaviors.
After going through a traumatic experience, it's natural that you would shift toward behaviors that help you to cope with the pain of your trauma and protect you from future trauma. For example, to numb your pain you might start drinking or engaging in compulsive behaviors. Out of fear of rejection, you may become "clingy" or "needy" in your relationship. Or, you may stay away from social situations to avoid the possibility of feeling embarrassed. Trauma often leads to a wide range of self-defeating behaviors, including:
- Social isolation
- Anger and irritability
- Poor boundaries and trouble asserting yourself
Fortunately, trauma and the symptoms that it creates in your life can be resolved!
I use a variety of counseling techniques in my work with trauma and abuse. The goal is to help you resolve the emotionally painful traumas, as well as the negative thinking and behaviors that block you from feeling confident, empowered and fulfilled in your life.
Imagine how much better you could feel if you released the old traumas that have been getting in the way of your life. Counseling for trauma and abuse can help you to:
- Feel more relaxed and at-ease
- Experience more happiness and joy
- Overcome relationship problems
- Have a more positive outlook on life
- Experience greater self-esteem and confidence
- Live free of addictive and compulsive behaviors
Enduring any type of trauma clearly has its downside; yet, counseling for trauma and abuse has the potential to open you up to deep transformation and personal growth. As your trauma heals, you may begin to notice a deeper level of confidence, strength, and resiliency, which prepares you to successfully handle other challenges in your life. After you face and overcome your trauma, you may find that you appreciate yourself more and understand yourself better. It's not uncommon to experience adeeper sense of compassion, empathy, and intimacy in your relationships with others. You may also experience a greater sense of wisdom, acceptance, and appreciation for life.