From Psychology Today/Annie Wright LMFT: “‘Why do I struggle to visualize a future for myself, let alone a positive one?’
In the 10 years I’ve been practicing as a clinical psychotherapist, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard some iteration of this question. And the question is almost always paired with some degree of incredulity that there are people out there who can really, truly do this—think forward decades into the future and visualize a positive, happy outcome for themselves and then work backward, taking steps that secure that future.
It sounds unbelievable to someone with a trauma history that this is possible, just as it sounds impossible for someone with a normative psychological background to believe that others can’t imagine a future version of themselves.
But, incredible as this may seem to some, the inability to visualize a future—let alone a positive future—is indeed a hallmark of coming from a trauma background.
Why is this?
Terrific research has been done and continues to be done on why, exactly, trauma impacts one’s ability to visualize a (positive) future for oneself. And while detailing the full breadth of that research is beyond the scope of this essay, I’ll share the three primary ways I’ve personally and professionally come to understand how and why trauma alters the brain’s ability to imagine a future for oneself:
1. Trauma alters memory.
2. Trauma can impair executive functioning.
3. Trauma can alter one’s self-perception fundamentally.”
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