Humans experience trauma when they perceive attack or threat to themselves or others. They feel powerless unable to defend themselves in an unexpected, unpredictable and uncontrollable situation. It is easy for our normal coping responses to become overwhelmed and debilitated by these events.
It is human nature to attempt to drive unbearable experiences out of consciousness. Some people can banish the memories which can result in feelings of numbness, emotional remoteness, and a sense that nothing seems real, a lack of connection to that around them. Others try to suppress the memories and associated feelings with substances and distractions.
The aftermath of trauma can affect self-confidence, our ability to trust ourselves or others, our sense of identity, and our self-worth. We may have lost respect for ourselves and engage in self- defeating / destructive behaviours or become withdrawn.
Trauma can affect appetite, sleep patterns, nightmares, resulting in, irritability, restlessness, hypervigilance, anxiety and outbursts of anger. Flashbacks can occur from internal and external triggers. We may feel fear, guilt, shame, anger, hurt, sadness, empty, crushed, helpless, misunderstood, alone, angry, invisible, powerless, worthless, humiliated, or a persistent sense of yearning.
It is not uncommon to try and make ourselves feel better by self-medicating; overeating, alcohol and substance misuse, shopping, over working, over exercising, hoarding and people pleasing behaviours
Shame often complicates the recovery process. We can try hard to supress the feelings, denying ourselves the opportunity to better understanding ourselves emotionally. Feelings of shame can fester, perpetuating the emotional denial that leads to isolation. By accepting our feelings as a natural human response, we can lessen the sense of shame.
Traumatic adversity summons our personal strength. Without guidance, our natural tendency is to fight against the pain. Talking is an important way to recover from any trauma. The thought of talking may feel vulnerable and unsafe. There can be a sense of safety in keeping things secret. Yet the more something is kept secret, the greater becomes its power. Secrecy undermines sharing, which can lead to healing within the bounds of a compassionate therapeutic relationship.
Talking in a safe empathic relationship at your own pace can enable emotional understanding and self-awareness. Your experience can be heard, understood and validated, this process gives you an opportunity to reassess the personal impact of the trauma. Working through your experiences can enable post traumatic growth, as you change your sense of self and your approach to living your life.