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How Does Trauma Show Up and How Do We Cope with It?

So we may or may not realize that we’ve experienced trauma. Perhaps you’re still unsure whether the shoe fits. Perhaps you’ll identify yourself in one of the common tell-tale signs or coping mechanisms that seem fairly normal, and even positive! 

In my last blog, Am I a Victim of Trauma, we ended by touching on the negative self-talk that ensues from wounding words and other forms of trauma we experience. This negative self-talk tells us we are not worthy. 

This sense of unworthiness can show up in many ways in our adult lives. What happens when we don’t heal? What we resist persists!

Feeling unworthy is another term for low self-esteem, and negative self-talk resulting from trauma is what causes it. Worse yet, negative self-talk can stop us from taking care of ourselves and make us resort to things like poor nutrition or even plastic surgery. I have met plenty of beautiful women who feel ugly and constantly worry about their physical appearance. Why? Because of their lack of self-esteem or self-worth. 

Self-esteem is formed in early childhood. Whether our parents’ expectations of us are too high or too low, we take our messages from them, and many parents do not know enough about “normal” child development to be reasonable in their expectations.  

Some trauma starts even earlier from a lack of secure attachment to our caregivers. Parents or caregivers who were not consistently reactive or connected to our needs as babies. 

Does any of this sound familiar at all?

So what do we do with these feelings? 

Band-Aid Solutions
If we are enlightened, we try to counter these negative thoughts with positivity, mindfulness, or exercise. If not, we try to numb these voices with such things as alcohol, shopping, drugs, sex, or porn. Whether we are enlightened or not, these are all Band-Aid solutions. 

Don’t get me wrong! Positive thoughts and actions are necessary and effective. They do work. They work as effectively as Tylenol and Advil do—short-term remedies that only treat symptoms. But the minute you stop doing them, these voices come creeping back. They can be so engrained in your psyche that even if you are not hearing them consciously, they are clear in your actions and attitudes. 

Hide It and Withdraw
Some of us hide it. As Freud said, we are experts at repressing, to the point of sometimes even wholly forgetting what happened to us. Some in this group become depressed, withdrawn, and unengaged.

Own It but Get Stuck
Some of us own it. We understand it at a rational, cognitive level and we talk about it matter-of-factly, but we never process it at an emotional level. We are afraid of “going back there” and experiencing how traumatic it really was. These are the people who blame the past, are unable to move on, and remain “stuck”.

Drown It Out or Self-Medicate
Whether we own it or not, without doing the necessary healing work, we tend to medicate ourselves in a variety of ways. We exercise vigorously, we bury ourselves in our studies or work, we achieve. We make ourselves busy, we overdrink or overeat, we even do things to make ourselves unattractive. We shop impulsively. We use drugs to escape. We are disorganized and run late. We keep the noise and the busyness to a maximum so the pain can never surface in the quiet. 

The Helper
Others help everyone around them to the point of feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. This is being codependent. When you have lived a childhood of rejection, that fear of rejection makes you do more for others than they would do for you, always sacrificing your own self-care and well-being. 

Affirmations
Because the power of The Secret works, there are a number of influencers who inspire people to be positive, change their negative mindset, and manifest their goals. It helps you get out of bed and achieve your dreams of success and abundance, which is great and is what you deserve. But money and success are not all you need. It is easy to bury yourself in studies to try to get the grade you need to get into the best college and obtain the job you want, or to bury yourself in work, speak words of affirmation to yourself, and build the business you want. 

But when you don’t heal your past wounds, you carry those deep feelings of inadequacy with you. You feel alone, believing you are not enough, so you push yourself hard to achieve so you feel you’re enough. How many successful people have we met who are miserable or always wanting more? 

I can tell you that the epidemic of loneliness, depression, hostile divorces, sexless and blah marriages, obesity, and successful people who have terrible marriages and kids who don’t like them is all too real.

Relationships matter! Happy marriages matter! Being sexually active with someone you love matters! Being great parents matters! They matter so much. The Harvard Happiness study proved that a close, healthy relationship is the leading indicator for longevity and health, not money or success. 

Healing is the key.

My hope is that through HealIn, I can offer you keys to your healing so you can set yourself free to be the true you.