How to Handle Childhood Trauma

As we grow up, most of us get a new perspective on specific events that happened during our childhoods and learn to see them in a new light with the wisdom and rational thinking that enables us to recognize the reasons behind certain emotions and behaviors.

However, for some people, certain childhood events carry substantial emotional burdens that are hard to let go of even when they understand the underlying causes of unpleasant emotions, leading to trouble with healing from developmental traumas. In some instances, including severe traumatic events, it’s also possible to be unaware of how those childhood emotions and fears shape us into and through adulthood.  Some people may find themselves fighting the wrong fight, needing “proof” that someone is trustworthy, feeling like it’s “never enough” and so on…

What Are The Signs And Types Of Childhood Trauma?

People who experience trauma as children may be able to overcome it with maturity, time, or professional help if needed. Others may not even be aware of how they were affected by childhood events. As a result, they could continue to suffer the consequences and carry negative feelings into adulthood. This is why it’s essential to recognize the signs of childhood trauma. It can be the first step toward healing and rebuilding relationships with yourself, others, and the world around you. If it is suppressed, then typically one may develop an avoidant style in relationships with others.  Avoid getting hurt, therefore, don’t get too close. 

When it comes to different types of childhood trauma, they range from neglect and lack of attention to causing physical harm to a child. In each case, the damage to a child’s emotional, mental, and physical health can be severe. The most serious examples of childhood trauma include:

  • Abuse. Verbal, emotional, or physical abuse; sexual abuse or incest.
  • Severe neglect or abandonment.
  • Dysfunctional home life, parents fighting, domestic violence, or separation from a parent.
  • Dysfunctional social environment, like school shootings, bullying, poverty, war, or racism.
  • Death or illness of a loved one – parent, sibling, or other close people in a child’s life.
  • Witnessing a death, suicide, or murder.
  • A serious illness that isolates a child from friends, school, or other areas of their life.
  • Accidents like car crashes, fires, and other sudden terrifying events.
  • Natural disasters like earthquakes or floods that affect entire communities can be particularly distressing for a child and make them feel unsafe.

Any kind of violence or sudden disaster can be severely traumatic for a child, even when it doesn’t appear so at the time. Children may hide or suppress their emotions, primarily if they’ve been taught that expressing them is a sign of weakness.

Unsurprisingly the most common signs of childhood developmental trauma are:

  • Lack of trust in other people.
  • Mood swings and unstable emotions.
  • Unfulfilling and toxic relationships.
  • Anger and aggression.
  • Substance use or other self-harming behavior.
  • Attention and focus issues.
What Are The Potential Impacts Of Childhood Trauma

What Are The Potential Impacts Of Childhood Trauma?

All types of traumas cause inevitable damage to the person experiencing them. The extent to which traumatic events will affect someone will naturally depend on each person’s character, coping mechanisms, and ability to examine the events that lead to traumatization rationally. The consequences of traumatic events can last a lifetime, affecting a person mentally, physically, and socially.

Since children’s brains haven’t had the chance to develop fully, they’re primarily driven by emotions. As a result, a child lacks the capacity to look for reasons behind the traumatic events, which is why the impact of developmental trauma on a child is considerably more profound than on a grownup.

The physical effects of trauma can be just as severe as the emotional ones. The stress a child is subjected to can impair the immune system development, as well as the nervous system. This can significantly raise the risk of illness later in life, particularly chronic ones like:

  • Asthma
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Pulmonary disease
  • Stroke
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Cancer.

As far as mental and emotional health is concerned, the most common consequences can include:

  • Anxiety, panic attacks, or depression.
  • Insomnia, nightmares, flashbacks, sleep problems.
  • Lack of energy.
  • Low self-esteem.
  • Feelings of guilt or shame.
  • Withdrawing from others.
  • Inability to identify, control and express emotions.
  • Intense reactions and anger control issues.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • Obsessive or compulsive disorders.
  • High irritability and stress levels.
  • High-risk behaviors, substance use, or self-harm.

People exposed to complex trauma as children may become dissociated or disconnected from their sensory experiences and thoughts. As a result, they can lose their sense of self or even have trouble remembering certain parts of their lives.

Another critical aspect of childhood trauma is the tendency to affect the ability to form healthy relationships. For example, people who experience traumatic events in early life might suffer from trust issues and have problems interacting with people in a healthy way.

The fear children experience can make them believe that the world is a dangerous place and that people can’t be trusted. This fear can affect all their relationships and make it hard to form deep and meaningful friendships and healthy romantic relationships.

Can You Overcome Childhood Trauma?

Overcoming trauma can be difficult for some people because lasting brain changes make a much deeper imprint in early childhood. A child’s brain is not fully developed, so any traumatic experience can cause drastic alteration or lead to neurological or psychiatric pathology. In addition, various parts of the brain respond to terrifying events. As a result, affected areas become permanently altered, disrupting normal psychological and emotional development.

If these changes are quite severe, overcoming childhood trauma may require challenging and usually prolonged professional therapy. The main goal of such treatment is to understand the changes that have caused emotional and behavioral issues. Once the problems are identified, recovery can begin. This can be a long and challenging journey that may require significant effort and patience.  Know this – you can get help and change your adult patterns!  

How Do I Heal Childhood Traumas?

Healing from childhood trauma can be a lengthy process for many people. This is because all those negative emotions get seeded deep into the subconscious while your brain is still not fully formed. Even recognizing and identifying your issues is a huge step toward recovery.

Unfortunately, simply being aware of the reasons behind your emotional distress isn’t enough for it to go away. Instead, it’s necessary to adopt new, healthier thought patterns that will guide you to healthier behavior patterns and more meaningful relationships with people. PIVOT from habitual actions to healthy actions. 

However, the most important relationship you need to address is the one you have with yourself, your self-image, and your self-worth. And, really understand and differentiate between your developmental parts! This is certainly not an easy task, as you must process all the distressing emotions stuck in your mind and body all your life. Only after finding a way to beat the sadness, fear, shame, or anger can you learn to love yourself and truly open yourself to loving others.

The healing journey will take you through acknowledging the trauma and accepting that it’s not your fault and doesn’t determine who you are as a person. First, it’s necessary to stop suppressing your emotions and address them, as painful as they might be. You might realize they’re not as terrifying as they seemed buried deep down. As you reveal them to yourself and others, you can start to let go of the pain, guilt, and shame and allow yourself to be your true self – not perfect, yet free of fear.

Can You Overcome Childhood Trauma

How To Heal From Trauma With PIVOT Support And Guidance

If you’ve recognized that your childhood trauma experiences are affecting your life and relationships, you’ve already made a step toward healing. Addressing it and learning to think more positively about yourself and others is something you can practice and learn in our Glass House retreat workshops.

Practicing self-love with people on the same journey can feel liberating and help you find the strength you didn’t know you had before. However, if you don’t feel ready to open up in front of others, you can opt for private individual sessions with our expert coaches, who will guide you to healing every step of the way.

Understanding Intergenerational Trauma

We’re all permanently affected by the family dynamics we experience in childhood and early life. Some of us can recognize where our emotional or behavioral issues come from. Sometimes we can pinpoint elements of our parents’ behavior that led to them. However, that awareness itself doesn’t help improve our negative emotions. Nobody’s a perfect parent, and while some might be better at it than others, there are also other factors to consider.

First of all, you might not be fully aware of the kind of childhood your own parents had. They could carry a lot of damage caused by their parents, and this is where the saying “Hurt people hurt people” is particularly evident. Your parents or grandparents may have endured emotional or physical pain and failed to learn how to cope with it in a healthy way. They may have passed it down to you through their behavior because it’s the only way they know.

Even if additional trauma isn’t present, intergenerational trauma can still be passed on. It may go back further than your parents or grandparents, reverberating across many generations, caused by many different events. As a result, it’s possible to experience and live with trauma symptoms and behavior patterns, struggling to recover from emotional trauma even though you personally didn’t experience a traumatic event yourself.

What Is Intergenerational Trauma?

Intergenerational trauma is the type of trauma that gets passed on from trauma survivors to their children or other descendants. It’s also known as secondary traumatization or historical trauma, when it refers to traumatic events related to racial, ethnic, or cultural oppression. Again, the historical context is essential here, whether it’s about family or more extensive community history.

Intergenerational trauma doesn’t have to be limited to parents or grandparents; it can go further down the family line. As a result, you might feel all the signs and symptoms of a traumatized person without even realizing where all the fear and other accompanying distressing emotions come from.

The point of a trauma response is to be adaptive. Unfortunately, it can turn into something severely harmful when it becomes ever-present in your life. If persistent feelings of high alertness, fear, and expecting danger sound familiar, this could be a sign of intergenerational trauma.

What Can Contribute To Intergenerational Trauma?

The range of life circumstances and hardships that can be passed on to one’s offspring in the form of intergenerational trauma is quite broad. It can include smaller groups of people, like one’s immediate family, or entire communities, like religious, racial, or national ones.

When it comes to family dynamics, the common factors that contribute to developing trauma and passing it on to the next generations include:

  • Witnessing or experiencing verbal, physical, or sexual abuse.
  • Emotional or physical neglect or abandonment, particularly in early life and childhood.
  • Loss of a loved one, like the death of a parent or sibling.

However, there are also large-scale, traumatic historical events that affect entire communities. Their influence can transfer beyond the people that survived them. The list of traumatic events most commonly includes:

  • Wars.
  • Forced migration.
  • Different types of oppression, like systemic racism or other types of discrimination.
  • Ethnic cleansing or genocide.
  • Cultural genocide.
  • Enslavement.
  • Separation of children from their families.
  • Natural disasters.
  • Lasting famine or poverty.
  • Major global or national crises.
What Can Contribute To Intergenerational Trauma

What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Intergenerational Trauma?

If it feels like you’re having a more difficult time dealing with the usual life hardships than most people you know, you might be experiencing the effects of trauma. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of intergenerational trauma is particularly important as it may cause problems in your relationships with other people due to communication issues. It can also cause unresolved distress in your romantic relationships and affect your parenting style.

The most common signs that point to intergenerational trauma are a bit different than the common trauma symptoms and can significantly differ from case to case. In addition, they can sometimes be difficult to spot because they’re also typical for other mental health conditions like depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, they usually include the following:

  • Emotional numbness or having a tough time identifying and expressing feelings.
  • A sense of detachment from your feelings and body.
  • Heightened response to stress, not being able to control emotions.
  • Feeling helpless and vulnerable.
  • Low self-esteem, shame, guilt.
  • Difficulty connecting with others, trusting them, and building healthy relationships.
  • Feeling isolated.
  • Risky behavior, substance use.
  • Nightmares.
  • Intrusive thoughts, thinking about death or suicide.

All these symptoms can severely affect your well-being. Regarding your mental health and sense of self, intergenerational trauma can cause considerable problems, particularly if you’re unaware of its origin. Only by identifying and addressing these feelings can you begin healing and minimizing the chances of passing them down to your children.

Can You Avoid Passing Such Trauma On?

You might not have experienced any trauma yourself. However, being informed about how it transfers and manifests can help you make sense of your feelings and behaviors and how you relate to other people and the environment you live in.

When someone experiences severe trauma, their DNA activates genes to help them survive. This is known as the fright, flight, or freeze response. These genes pass on to the next generations to prepare them for potential danger.

Those genes are meant to keep us safe, so the survival mode can be encoded in the family DNA and passed down to multiple generations. The downside is that it can cause constant fear and anticipation of danger. In addition, being stuck in this survival response can be highly stressful and harmful to one’s mental and physical health.

Recognizing and acknowledging the symptoms can make you aware of what you’re dealing with and what kind of help you might need to address your issues. You can minimize the chances of perpetuating the cycle of intergenerational trauma by being informed about the signs and the effects of trauma. That way, you can find appropriate expert guidance to help you change the way you think and respond to triggers.

What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Intergenerational Trauma

How to Recover From Emotional Trauma And Minimize The Chances Of Passing It On

Healing from trauma requires adopting some healthier coping mechanisms, more positive thoughts, and behavior patterns. You can learn how to avoid triggers or respond to them in less harmful ways that won’t put pressure on yourself and your relationships with others. This is particularly important regarding the family you create, your romantic partner and your children. Our experienced relationship advocates can help you identify and address the issues that are causing the problems in private, individual sessions.

However, don’t forget that intergenerational trauma is not uncommon, and many other people are going through similar experiences. It might make you feel better to hear their stories and tackle the issues in one of our small group workshops guided by PIVOT coaches. Realizing that other people are facing these same challenges can create additional motivation and strength. You can learn how to cope with them and start healing – for your own well-being and that of your family and children.

Complex Trauma: How to Recognize It

Many people experience difficulties that stem from diverse types of trauma without even realizing what causes trauma and what kind of effect it can have on one’s emotional, mental, and physical well-being. For example, consequences of trauma, particularly a complex one, can interfere with your ability to form healthy relationships with people or damage existing relationships with your family, partner, or close friends.

Trauma develops after experiencing a highly distressing experience. In such situations, both your mind and body get overwhelmed with fear which causes the “flight, fight, or freeze” response. This is the way your body faces any perceived danger, and it’s also your brain’s way of preparing for a physical reaction to it.

What Does Complex Trauma Represent?

Complex trauma often stems from childhood or early life traumatic events that occur for an extended period of time. It’s usually caused by a series of traumatic events rather than a single one. In many cases, those events occur during longer periods: months, years, and sometimes they even spread through several generations of a single family.

The problem for people dealing with complex trauma is that the memories of the traumatic events don’t stay in the past. If the distress experienced was severely damaging, it could cause the body and the brain to react in the same way, causing identical emotions and reactions to get triggered even in situations that don’t objectively present a serious threat.

This happens because complex trauma profoundly impacts your nervous system. When a traumatic experience happens, the limbic system in the brain activates. This set of structures in your brain is involved in emotional responses, memory, and arousal. It is particularly important when it comes to behavior necessary for survival.

What Is The Difference Between Trauma And Complex Trauma?

Typically, after a traumatic event has passed, stress hormones return to normal levels, and flight, fight, or freeze mode shuts down. The danger is gone, emotions calm down, and cognitive functions can return to normal. However, sometimes this doesn’t happen, and some people’s “survival” mode becomes their normal state. If a person is unable to return to a usual, emotionally balanced state, this often points to complex trauma.

This means that the limbic system stays continuously engaged long after the traumatic event has passed. As a result, both the brain and body suffer the consequences of this coping mechanism meant to keep you safe in objectively dangerous situations. These lasting effects are what make the trauma complex.

According to psychiatrists, complex trauma is similar to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and usually has the same or similar symptoms. Some of the signs that can help you recognize it are:

  • Anxiety.
  • Flashbacks.
  • Actively avoiding places, people, or situations that remind you of traumatic events.
  • Memory problems.
  • Hyperarousal, being constantly on edge or alert.
  • Trouble sleeping or having nightmares.
What Is The Difference Between Trauma And Complex Trauma

What Are Examples Of Complex Trauma?

Complex trauma commonly stems from childhood experiences, yet it’s not unusual for it to form in adulthood as well. It can emerge from any situation that causes a continuous sense of fear, helplessness, and powerlessness to defend yourself or escape the situation. If these feelings and fears go unaddressed and unresolved, they may become a permanent cause of problems in partner relationships, friendships, and family relations.

Some of the most frequent traumatic experiences that cause lasting damage to one’s emotional well-being and mental health can be caused by events like:

  • Childhood neglect, abandonment, or abuse.
  • Taking on adult roles as a child.
  • Sexual abuse.
  • Physical or emotional abuse.
  • Medical trauma or abuse.
  • Torture, kidnapping, trafficking, being held captive.
  • Wars, civil unrest areas, genocide campaigns.

Childhood trauma is a particularly severe cause of complex trauma because it starts before the individual’s brain has had a chance to develop fully. Children don’t have defense mechanisms and the ability to think things through rationally. Instead, they are driven by emotions, and if those emotions are fear and distress, their worldview can be permanently distorted. As a result, all relationships become viewed as unstable and people as unreliable.

What Does Complex Trauma Do To A Person?

Every trauma leaves its mark on a person. However, what does being traumatized mean? Not knowing this makes it challenging to recognize the signs and identify the effects it has on their lives. In addition, experiencing complex trauma can leave grave consequences that may interfere with your daily functioning and relationships with others and yourself.

Complex trauma can:

  • Make it hard to manage your emotions. This includes identifying, expressing, and controlling emotions or becoming easily overwhelmed. Stress reactions are common, as well as anger, fear, and anxiety. Not knowing how to cope with these feelings can lead to depression.
  • Cause relationship problems due to attachment and trust issues. Some might feel that people, in general, are untrustworthy and unreliable, even dangerous. It’s not uncommon to also have issues with authority figures like teachers or police officers.
  • Influence your physical health, even in the long term. Unfortunately, complex trauma can cause chronic illnesses like heart conditions, cancer, or early death, partly due to risky behavior.
  • Change one’s behavior and cause intense reactions. Affected individuals might be unable to calm down even when there’s no significant threat. Instead, they may act impulsively and unpredictably. High-risk behaviors are also common, like illegal activities, substance use, unsafe sexual conduct, or even self-harm.
  • Influence cognitive and problem-solving abilities. People may have trouble thinking clearly and rationally or lack the capacity to calmly think things through when faced with a problem or difficulty.
  • Lead to memory problems. Some people can even completely forget the traumatic experiences that happened to them or keep having gaps in memory or personal history.
  • Create a distorted sense of self and poor self-image. People may feel worthless and blame themselves for the trauma they experienced. They might feel shame, guilt, and low self-esteem.
  • Cause a person to have no sense of meaning and value, feel hopeless, have no sense of control, and have negative expectations.
  • Cause depersonalization or dissociation. This means feeling disconnected from your thoughts, feelings, or body. For example, people may feel like they’re in a dream or otherwise unreal or altered state.
  • Cause derealization, feeling detached from your surroundings.
  • Influence the immune system. Abnormal stress levels can cause the body to automatically respond to ordinary stress levels as it would to extreme stress and cause rapid breathing or heart racing in regular situations.
  •  Create permanent physical symptoms like an upset stomach or headaches.
What Are Examples Of Complex Trauma

How To Overcome Complex Trauma Through Individual Or Group Coaching

You might be experiencing emotional hardships that prevent you from having healthy relationships with other people. They could be causing constant unrest and crises in your romantic relationships as well. In that case, it might be a good idea to address the root cause of your problems

However, no two people are the same, and you might feel like nobody can understand what you went through. This is why PIVOT offers personalized individual coaching sessions to help you regain your strength and the ability to form trusting relationships and healthy attachments. You can also take part in small group workshops. Hearing about other people’s experiences can help you realize that you’re not alone and that healing is possible. In addition, the guidance of our experienced Glass House coaches can help you regain a sense of stability and safety.

Collective Trauma: How to Cope With It

All traumatic events, both individual and collective, are frightening experiences that cause great distress to those who go through them. They usually involve life-threatening situations, illness, death, abuse, or injury. While all these things can happen on an individual level to a single person, they can also happen to a large number of people at the same time. However, collective trauma is most commonly experienced by smaller groups of people, mostly families, friend groups, or colleagues.

The type of emotions collective traumas can cause and the long-term scars they leave are similar to those inflicted by individual trauma, but there are also specific characteristics of collective trauma. These specifics can be perceived in the way severe trauma is experienced, as well as the ways people overcome it, both as a community and as individuals.

What Is Collective Trauma?

Collective trauma is the result of a large-scale traumatic event that affects entire groups of people. This can happen in a situation like natural catastrophes, earthquakes, floods, wars, disease outbreaks, pandemics, terrorist attacks, mass and school shootings, hostage situations, recessions, and so on. However, collective traumas can also happen after traumatic events within a family or a group of friends, usually after a death or a severe accident of a loved one.

There have also been numerous collective trauma experienced throughout history that can transfer onto the next generation, deeply shaping entire communities. Some of the most powerful examples are events like slavery, the holocaust, famine, and multiple occurrences of genocide and religious persecution.

However, not all people inside the affected group get equally traumatized. This can depend both on the objective circumstances of what they went through, as well as their individual capacity to cope with traumatic events. While some members of the collective directly experience sickness, death, injury, or loss of a loved one, or their whole family, others feel the repercussions in diverse ways – indirectly. Some of the indirect ways to experience collective trauma could be job loss, financial difficulties, or temporary separation from family members and friends.

What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Collective Trauma?

Communities and groups of people can be affected by shared traumatic experiences in several different ways. Emotional and psychological symptoms of collective trauma are not that different from the ones caused by individual severe trauma, and they commonly include:

  • Fear
  • Grief
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

However, there’s another important aspect of collective traumas. Events that cause it can permanently change the way a certain community or a group of people sees itself. Just like individual trauma can influence one’s self-image, collective trauma can transfer through generations of collective memory and affect the way future generations view themselves too.

It goes as far as causing greater collective and individual fear. It can change the functioning and the dynamic of the group itself, relationships between people inside the group, but also with other groups as well. Both the traumatized generation and the future generations can adopt higher alertness for any potential dangers or threats, and heightened feelings of vulnerability. Collective trauma can even influence the general feeling of national or ethnic pride.

Symptoms that point to collective traumatization are:

  • Panic
  • Hopelessness
  • Helplessness
  • Disorientation
  • Stress
  • Existential crisis
  • Collective PTSD (post-traumatic disorder)
What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Collective Trauma

How Does Collective Trauma Affect Our Mental Health?

The effects of collective trauma on mental and physiological health are two-sided. This is where group trauma can get quite individual and personal. Since some people are better equipped to deal with the impact of events that transpired, the intensity of trauma-related feelings won’t be the same for everybody involved. Some will handle difficult situations better than others and are better equipped to deal with the consequences.

This generally depends on individual personalities, coping mechanisms, emotional health and well-being, as well as personal resilience. However, and this is a particularly important aspect, the way people deal with collective trauma will also depend on their socioeconomic background and other factors that determine their position in society.

Experts agree that collective trauma is harmful to the mental health of everyone experiencing it, and some factors that contribute to that are:

  • The general feeling of despair and hopelessness.
  • Arguments and conflicting opinions inside the group about the best way to deal with the event in question.
  • Oversaturation with disturbing images repeatedly shown in the news and other media.

Adolescents and children experience psychological and emotional repercussions of collective trauma more severely than adults. This is mostly due to the fact that they still haven’t had a chance to develop healthy coping mechanisms. Since these age groups are more vulnerable to trauma in general because their brain is still developing, they’re more susceptible to the influence of stress hormones. Unhealthy coping mechanisms might turn to risky or self-destructive behaviors like drinking, substance use, or eating disorders.

How Do I Cope With Collective Trauma?

Coping with collective trauma has two sides – how you cope as an individual and how you cope as part of the group that experienced the traumatic event. People who look at the event as a way to band together and work toward the common good usually heal faster from the traumatic experience. Some may even feel like they came out of it stronger.

Some of the positive aspects of shared trauma are the newfound solidarities caused by a shared experience of pain and distress. And it’s also known that severe hardships bring people together, making them form closer relationships while working on achieving a common goal.

Some of the ways that could heal ease the burden of collective trauma-related emotions include:

  • Talking to people who can relate to your experience and feelings, finding support networks.
  • Participating in group efforts strengthens community relationships.
  • Expressing shared values but also sharing feelings of sadness, anxiety, and fear.
  • Turning to all usual life routines after the danger has passed.
  • Engaging in physical activity and exercise can help clear your mind of intrusive thoughts and help balance your nervous system, as trauma affects your mind, body, and your physical response to stressful emotions.
  • Spending time in nature.
  • Eating healthy food.
  • Expressing your emotions in honest conversations with friends and family or getting professional help if necessary.
  • Maintaining close relationships with family and friends.
  • Being truthful about your thoughts and emotions with your partner.
How Does Collective Trauma Affect Our Mental Health

Recover from collective traumatic events and find new strength to return to your life in a healthy way

If your emotional health has been affected by severe collective trauma, that may have affected the way you observe the world, other people, and yourself in it, causing you to experience difficulty building or maintaining healthy relationships with new people as well as those who’ve been in your life for quite some time now. Relationships with your partner, friends, and family could all suffer the consequences of collective trauma even if you experienced it together.

To begin healing as a collective, you also need to heal as an individual. Trauma treatment and recovery may be a long and arduous process for some, but with the support and guidance of our PIVOT coaches, you gradually learn to adapt to your new self, inevitably changed by the severe trauma you experienced. PIVOT’s small group workshops are a perfect solution for dealing with collective drama. You can feel the support of people who know what you’re going through, and with professional guidance from our experienced coaches come out of it more resilient.

Trauma Becoming Drama Without Treatment

Most of us are familiar with the feeling of realizing we overreacted in certain situations. Sometimes it’s others who point it out while we might not even be aware of our behavior. However, it does happen that people unwittingly create intense situations because this is where the distinction between genuine trauma and plain drama becomes more blurred.

The definition of trauma can significantly vary from one psychological source to the other. Some of them classify adversity that many of us experience during life as trauma, while others claim that this is a trivialization of the issue. However, most experts agree that trauma is a type of stress reaction, so let’s take a look at the most common definition so we can notice the difference and understand the mechanisms behind the trauma response.

Trauma is usually described as any event that has long-term negative consequences and effects on the emotional and psychological well-being of an individual or a collective that can often include a distorted feeling of self, others, and the environment. This can include events like natural disasters, the death of a loved one, attacks, injuries, or accidents. But it may also be the result of long-term abuse, childhood neglect, and even long-lasting hardships that transfer through generations, like wars, poverty, or abuse.

What Is The Difference Between Trauma And Drama?

To make a distinction between trauma and drama, we’ll look at trauma as a scary, violent, or otherwise profoundly negative event, series of events, or type of behavior we might have endured, that left lasting pathological consequences.

Drama, in this context, would be one of the ways we respond to experienced trauma. It’s a psychological reaction that can lead us to create intense situations or conditions even when there’s no real threat. Certain parts of our brain can’t tell the difference between the two and all perceived threats, even minor ones, can trigger a flight or fight response meant to protect us from danger.

Many people will create intensity instead of intimacy because of untreated trauma. 

If you can’t tell whether you’re trauma dumping or simply venting and sharing your frustrations with someone, it might help to pay attention to these behaviors and ask yourself if you’re:

  • Oversharing, often at inappropriate times.
  • Not truly looking for a solution to the problem.
  • Not assuming responsibility for the mistakes behind your current problem.
  • Pouring out many different issues at once, jumping from topic to topic.
  • Not allowing others to share their own opinions, emotions, or hardships.

Can Trauma Become Drama?

Trauma is a more significant issue than commonly stressful everyday experiences that happen to all of us. The way we respond to it may point to more severe issues and often, underlying mental health problems. The range of trauma-related experiences is wide and the resulting emotions, if left unaddressed, might lead to trauma dumping as a coping mechanism.

People who went through traumatic situations might be interpreting neutral or mildly uncomfortable situations in a significantly more pessimistic light because both their minds and bodies became stuck in the traumatic experience they went through.

People get critical of their partners, avoid or attack, and the old patterns of false protection gain momentum.

True trauma often involves terrifying experiences like abuse, physical threats, attacks, or injuries. People who experience such events, particularly in childhood, may not even know where their emotions come from or what trauma is. In such cases, healing can take quite a long time and usually requires professional help.

If you leave trauma-related emotions unaddressed, they could easily be brought to the surface even by trivial everyday hardships. Damage done by traumatic experiences can cause the primal parts of your brain to activate the flight or fight response even when it’s unnecessary.

This creates HAVOC on relationships – especially on primary relationships.  Then, what happens is expectations are unrealistic and challenges arise.

It’s also possible to experience flashbacks or extreme fear in situations that trigger traumatic memories. When the brain goes into the flight or fight response all trauma-related feelings like fear, anxiousness, or panic can drive a person to react in the same way as they would if they were seriously threatened.

Can Trauma Become Drama

What Is Trauma Dumping?

Trauma dumping is an expression used to describe pouring out all your negative emotions and frustration on another person. While sharing your emotions, worries, or meaningful life events with your friends or coworkers is perfectly fine and healthy, there’s still a line. Like the pretenders song suggests, “There’s a Thin Between Love and Hate”. 

The need to vent after a distressing day is natural and most of us do it. However, there are many cases when this can become too much for the person on the receiving end of it. If this kind of behavior becomes toxic for your relationship it could be a sign that you might need to look into your well-being and address all these intense emotions.  Many relationships break up due to these unrealistic expectations.

Oversharing your emotions can be tiresome or harmful for the other person which presents a problem for the both of you. On the one hand, if the person experiencing trauma dumping doesn’t get a chance to respond and share their own feelings, they may feel overwhelmed. On the other hand, if you’re the one who’s trauma dumping, you might be doing so because you’re experiencing intense distress related to:

  • General anxiety or depression.
  • PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).
  • Stressful professional or home environment.

How Do I Stop My Trauma From Becoming Drama?

You might become aware of this type of behavior pattern yourself, but it’s more common for someone else to point it out to you after you start having relationship issues. Since people are unable to see themselves from the outside, someone else’s input may be crucial in this situation. It could be a close friend, family member, spouse, or even a complete stranger. You could suddenly find yourself having to deal with a realization that you’ve overreacted to an insignificant situation and while your feelings are real, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the threat is too.

And guess what?  Most people will get defensive and create more drama because they are not strong enough to look at themselves in the mirror.  It’s often too painful.  The inability to own one’s behavior because of entitlement birthed out out of old wounds is another factor that contributes to relationship break-ups. 

Maybe you get flooded by emotions and triggered by various issues you face in your daily life. If most of them carry no significant threat, your emotions are causing behavioral patterns that may not be appropriate for the situation. Of course, some situations do pose a serious threat, but those are much less common. Trauma survivors might even be unusually calm during such situations because this is what they’re expecting. You might experience fear after the event has passed, particularly if you suffer from a more severe form of trauma like PTSD.

Since these reactions are instinctive and come from a primal part of our brain, they’re quite difficult to control. Trauma recovery is something you can practice, usually with professional help or coaching, and it requires changing your thought and behavior patterns. It may take a while and require considerable effort, but new ways of thinking and acting can be gradually adopted with committed and consistent work

What Is Trauma Dumping

Learn How To Manage Your Emotions and Behavior to Change Your Trauma Response

Trauma dumping can go far beyond being simply uncomfortable – it can seriously affect your relationships, even the most intimate ones. You might be pushing people away and not even realizing it. If your close relationships feel one-sided to the other person, particularly your romantic partner, the very survival of your relationship might be at risk.

Our individual sessions can help you explore the emotions that are making you act this way and redirect your damaging thoughts and behaviors to accomplish that much-needed change. If you feel like there’s no escaping the stress of your everyday life, Glass House retreats may be the perfect solution for you. PIVOT coaches lead small group workshops where we provide each other with support and understanding to achieve recovery from trauma and build healthy relationships.

How To Treat Trauma

Experiencing stressful events can cause emotional and psychological trauma. This can include any event that provokes extremely negative emotions. Being involved in, or witnessing such an event, can damage one’s sense of security and cause lasting feelings of helplessness and fear. And, it can shape the way you enter, engage in, and exit relationships. 

Not knowing how to cope with these emotions can lead some people to develop certain patterns of behavior to use as a defense mechanism and leave them feeling permanently disconnected from others, and at times, unable to trust anyone.

Learning what emotional trauma is and what events can cause it is an important step to take toward recovery. Emotional and psychological trauma can be caused by one-time events like injuries, accidents, or sudden acts of violence. Natural disasters could also trigger trauma for many people. Many people are suffering from the affects of COVID 19 for many reasons. Fear of losing loved ones to the virus, actually losing loved ones to the virus, fear of catching it, being isolated,forced to be home with someone whom you are not used to spending so much time with during quarantine, losing jobs, etc. 

The most deeply rooted trauma can stem from various forms of domestic violence, child abuse, neglect, or bullying. The death of a loved one or a toxic and emotionally draining and abusive romantic relationship are also common causes of emotional trauma.

Treating trauma can be particularly difficult if it was caused by a childhood event or series of events. Childhood negative experiences like neglect and abandonment, affect brain development and influence self-image formation, as well as the way children view their environment. If left unaddressed these feelings will transfer into adulthood, causing a permanent sense of fear, insecurity, and helplessness. This type of trauma can become extremely challenging in relationships and a part of the family dynamic for generations

How Long Does Emotional Trauma Take To Heal?

Recovering from trauma is a specific kind of emotional journey and an incomparably different experience for many people. This also means that everyone will navigate through it at their own pace. Try not to compare yourself to others who may have experienced similar events. Even though other people’s shared experiences may serve as an inspiration and make you feel less isolated, they can also discourage you if their process seems faster than yours. You Matter. And your experiences are like your thumbprint – unique to YOU.

Healing from trauma is a gradual process, so don’t forget to have patience and compassion for yourself. Trauma recovery requires intention, a process, application, and perseverance. The most important thing is to keep on the path of healing. 

There are some general stages that most people go through while healing from trauma and don’t be alarmed if your journey doesn’t go exactly “according to plan”. The truth is, there is no plan when it comes to YOUR feelings. There are, however, ways to make it easier for yourself and one of them is allowing others to help you and guide you. 

What Are The Long-Term Effects Of Trauma?

While some effects of trauma are instantaneous, like shock, confusion, denial, or disbelief, most trauma will leave more permanent marks. You might experience all these symptoms or only some of them, and there’s no telling how long they could last. Some people might try to suppress them and it may appear like they’ve managed to overcome their challenges while others get caught up in a storm of emotions they can’t seem to get out of.

Whatever the case, it’s useful to recognize the most common long-term symptoms and effects of emotional trauma:

  • Anxiety and depression.
  • Flashbacks or re-experiencing the trauma, usually triggered by certain events, places, or other reminders.
  • Cognitive function problems, like memory or concentration disruptions.
  • Health issues. Trauma and accompanying anxiety can provoke general inflammation in the body and cause various diseases.
  • Behavioral changes, like high-risk behavior, and alcohol or drug use. Eating disorders are also common.

Aside from emotional symptoms, it’s quite common to feel physical ones too. Our bodies and minds are tightly connected, so any strong emotions caused by trauma can be followed by physical challenges like:

  • Nightmares or insomnia.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Irregular heartbeat.
  • Muscle tension.
  • Agitation.
  • General fatigue.
  • Unexplained physical pain, or other sensations like numbness or tingling.
What Are The Long-Term Effects Of Trauma

Does Emotional Trauma Go Away?

Trauma doesn’t simply “go away”, but recovery is certainly possible. Depending on the type or severity of the trauma, some people may learn to live with it and adapt their behavior to compensate for the damage it caused. Others, on the other hand, may suffer from the consequences so deeply that they significantly impair their everyday life. Such cases usually require professional help with a long recovery journey ahead.

However, the right type of support and guidance can be enough to help along the way to healing. It might be overly optimistic to expect all traces of trauma and feelings associated with it to completely disappear. Adjust your expectations and focus on learning how to cope with them in healthier ways without allowing them to interfere with your sense of self-worth.

Another important aspect of healing from trauma is how you can relate to others. Learning to form healthy relationships with friends, family members, and romantic partners is one of the most significant benefits of the healing process. Some people in your life might not realize that you can’t simply get over it and move on. Don’t be afraid to let them know that trauma recovery is a long process, one which may not be over for a period of time. However, what you can do is gradually build the strength to stop being the victim of past events and learn to create a happy future for yourself.

How Do You Heal Trauma?

Healing from trauma is an individual experience and your experience needs to be personalized.  There is no one size fits all. Different approaches work for different people and everybody pushes through the process at their own pace. Don’t get discouraged if you’re not healing as fast as you’d imagined as you might repeatedly get overwhelmed by all the emotions that need to be brought up to the surface and addressed.

Some of the common practices recommended during the process include:

  • Physical activity and mindfulness. Exercise may not be the first thing that comes to mind as a way of dealing with trauma, and yet it does make sense. Traumatic experiences influence your body too and healthy physical activity can help stabilize your nervous system. It’s also a good way to clear your head from negative thoughts by focusing attention on your body.
  • Self-care. Allow yourself to rest and relax. Actively working on overcoming emotional trauma can be exhausting, both emotionally and physically.
  • Meaningful connection with others. Try to resist your need to self-isolate. Make a conscious decision to spend time with your friends and to participate in social activities. Circle boundaries with PIVOT can help guide you in this process. 
  • Asking for support or guidance. If reconnecting with friends and family makes you uncomfortable or brings up bad memories, you can seek professional help. You might even feel ready for some new friends as you progress on your healing journey.
  • Healthy choices. Aside from physical exercise, make sure to eat healthy food, get enough sleep, and avoid falling into the trap of alcohol or drug use. They may make you feel better momentarily however all your issues will still be there, lurking, waiting for you to deal with them. 
  • Regaining a sense of agency by helping others. This may sound counterintuitive when you feel like you’re the one that needs help. However, knowing that you can make a difference and be there for others can help you reclaim your sense of dignity and power, to counteract the feeling of helplessness.
Does Emotional Trauma Go Away

Start Healing From Emotional Trauma With The Guidance Of PIVOT Coaches

Dealing with the consequences of emotional trauma usually requires thorough and engaging work with the support and guidance of a trained professional. Many people adopt unhealthy behavior patterns to avoid dealing with unsettling feelings caused by trauma. We can help you explore and address those feelings and then shift your focus to changing damaging behaviors. Personalized and individualized to your story, you will be able to PIVOT to healthier responses.

Since emotional trauma is a highly sensitive and personal issue, some people might prefer the discretion of individual one-on-one sessions with PIVOT coaches. However, there’s also the famous strength in numbers, so if you feel like working through your issues with a small group of people who understand what you’re going through, you might benefit from Glass House retreat workshops. You can escape the stress and responsibilities of everyday life and let yourself be heard, seen, and understood.