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Trauma, Please Explain!

Personally I believe all humans have experienced traumatic events but most unconsciously disregard, dissociate, or purposely deny any influence these events have on their life. Who would want to live life in fear of rejection, vulnerability, anxiety, loneliness, or sadness? I doubt any human would want to live life this way therefore it is natural to want to decrease or stop the feelings associated with our negative past & sometimes present.

If you are thinking you or your loved one hasn't experienced a traumatic even in their life , hold that thought. Trauma results from an event, series of events, or set of circumstances that are experienced as emotionally, physically, or life threatening such as a natural disaster, combat, illness or accident as well as physical & psychological abuse and neglect. Traumatic events aren't always life-threatening & can instead be ego-threatening such as divorce, death of a loved one or pet, loss of a job, legal trouble, infidelity, or personal injury. We commonly overlook these less threatening examples of trauma because we don't want to be thought of as dramatic, weak, or attention seeking so through shame, unmerited reasoning, & avoidance we bury them into our subconscious. We may be able to tolerate one small traumatic event but as these accumulate our emotions, health, sleep, relationships, and job/school become negatively impacted. We all experience life differently, therefore the magnitude of stress in a given situation is unique to the person experiencing it. Whether someone develops trauma-reaction symptoms or not can be due to a multitude of reasons including but not limited to baseline coping skills, other past experience, support, and additional life stressors.

Unresolved trauma may causes us to experience the world, those around us and ourselves defectively. Ideally we have the ability to acknowledge stress and trauma, process these experiences, communicate, meditate, and move forward healthfully through life. But this isn't reality for most of us so to numb the unpleasant feelings of small and big traumas we engage in distracting behaviors, some more socially acceptable than others. Here are some examples:

  • alcohol, tobacco, drugs

  • dating, sex, porn

  • gambling

  • physical illness +/- hyperawareness, hyperchondriasis

  • academics/job (over or underachieving), procrastination, overcontrolled

  • disordered eating/eating disorders

  • compulsive, compensatory exercise

  • overtraining

  • excessive hobbies or spending money on 'stuff'

  • isolating or a disproportionate social life

Our physical, emotional, cognitive, and spiritual health is adversely effected by our deep rooted past experiences whether we like it or not. Sometimes these affects are obvious but often they are subtle. Consider this list as possible signs and symptoms of unresolved distressing memories/traumas that may be causing dysfunction in your current life

  • Weight changes

  • Obsession with food, exercise

  • Sleep changes

  • Dysfunctional personal relationships

  • Poor body image

  • Cognitive and/or physical fatigue

  • Frequent illness

  • Performance anxiety

  • Loss of libido

  • Imposter syndrome

  • Mood changes

  • Decline in academic/work performance

  • Fear

  • Uncertainty, loss of self-esteem

  • Intrusive thoughts

  • Feeling of being locked, stuck, or frozen

For athletes it is common to also see

  • Decline in athletic performance

  • Inability to execute muscle memory movement

  • Fear of re-injury

  • Loss of interest in sport

  • Inability to return to sport following an injury or illness

These symptoms can be resolved or decreased with appropriate psychological therapies. Reprocessing traumatic memories through Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy lets your brain focus on positive and productive thoughts like strength, resilience, and physical healing. The quicker you heal trauma, the closer you become to a mentally & physically healthier version of yourself.

Learn more about EMDR

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