We often think of trauma as being something associated with a disaster, major event, or accident that has a serious affect on ours or others well being. Society validates examples of this type of event and over time has developed a response to support those affected.
Although any of these events are likely to affect our psychological well being, society can overlook other life events that may have a less obvious visible impact, but still make a serious emotional impact on our lives.
These more private events can also cause serious emotional impact, and affect us for a lifetime because neither we nor others have given them the same emotional value. Examples can include miscarriage, rape, being involved in an abusive relationship, feelings of loss or insecurity, childhood bullying, the possibilities are endless, and could include any event that has left us with fear or broken confidence.
Because we all experience life differently the impact of a traumatic event is going to affect us differently. For someone that has had a protected childhood, an event in adulthood that may involve violence or abuse, may be experienced differently to someone who has grown up with violence and uncertainty. We all have a different perspective on any life event.
One of the difficulties in recognising when a trauma has occurred, is that “private events” can become normalised and accepted as a part of everyday life. Although others may see us as coping we may still be experiencing the event through our relationships with others, or through the way our body and mind experiences the world.
We may be dealing with the event by disconnecting ourselves from what has happened, rather than facing the experience in a more associated way. We live with the trauma through our bodies, i.e. it goes in to ‘shock’.
The emotional shock blocks our awareness of the experience, and the feelings associated with them, so that we are unable to experience, or remember, the trauma in our conscious minds. With our feelings so effectively blocked, we gradually develop a tolerance for the trauma.
The memory is not erased from our unconscious mind, which creates another difficulty. We simply don’t ‘feel’ the trauma. Nevertheless, the long-term after-effects are no less capable of impacting our lives as those of a major disaster.
The effects of trauma can take any number of forms, but some of the more typical ‘symptoms’ are:
Stomach problems, including diarrhoea, constipation and nausea.
Aches, pains, and tense muscles.
Chest pain and rapid heartbeat.
Frequent colds and infections.
Loss of sexual desire and/or ability
Difficulty in maintaining concentration
Feelings of isolation or loneliness
Loss of concentration
One of the ways to begin to overcome the trauma is through talking. Whether talking with a family member, friend, or a professional – talking provides the important first step towards bringing your body out of ‘shock’ and back into emotional awareness.
Get in contact today if you think that talking to a counsellor would help you deal with your own trauma.