Trauma? Not Me

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1945

From CPTSD Foundation: “Trauma is a word or a concept that does not resonate with everyone. This is especially true for those of the older generation. Many in the older generations, like my mother’s age (70’s and above), say things like, ‘That was just life…it was what it was,’ and that is the end of the story for them. They ‘don’t have trauma’ because they are ‘tougher’ than that. To them, being traumatized is a weakness or failure to be able to ‘handle’ something.

That is also true of those I speak to within the workplace. When they describe their pain points or struggles with me as a trauma recovery coach, I see them as symptoms of previous trauma. To be clear, I was once in this space myself, so there is no criticism from me.

There was a time in my life when I packaged up all of the emotions and memories from my childhood trauma and stored them in a zip file within an archive folder of my mind. I thought, ‘I survived my childhood, so I will put that behind me and move forward.’

Sadly, it doesn’t work that way, though.

Adverse childhood experiences, like abuse (physical, emotional, sexual), neglect (physical, emotional), or household dysfunction (mental illness, mother treated violently, divorce, incarcerated relative, substance abuse) are potentially traumatic events that can impact a child’s brain development and how the body handles stress. Generational trauma is woven into the fabric of our being. Unresolved trauma shows up as unexplainable anger, flashbacks, sleeplessness, irritability, nightmares or night sweats, anxiety/panic attacks, or hypervigilance.

If we manage to cope with those symptoms of unresolved trauma through achievement or workaholism, it will start to show up in our biology. It might look like multiple health issues such as autoimmune disease, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, asthma, skin disorders, digestive problems, heart issues, or cancer.

One way or another, trauma will let us know it’s there. That was what happened to me at age 51. My carefully concealed and archived zip file of traumatic memories opened up on me, flooded my nervous system, and overwhelmed me. I went from a high-functioning overachiever to being unable to function at all, which was extremely disturbing to me.

I didn’t think I had any other choice but to address it because it threatened my career and the identity that I had built for myself. Of course, I did have a choice. I could’ve continued denying this was an issue and kept telling myself I was fine, but honestly, that was a terrible choice.

If you are in excruciating pain and someone tells you there is something you can do about it, but it’s going to get worse before it gets better, would you take that chance? I did. The healing journey is hard work and painful at times, but I found it wonderfully liberating.

Many people in the workforce are still in denial about their childhood trauma and the impact it can have on their lives. I am a trauma survivor, trauma recovery coach, and mental health advocate, but when I talk to people in the workplace about trauma, it’s like all the air gets sucked out of the room, and they try to change the subject as quickly as possible. I am not making this up and am curious about what is driving this response.”

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4 COMMENTS

  1. This article resonates with me. I was raised in an abusive militaristic dysfunctional home riddled with all kinds of adversity.
    I do believe there are generational differences in how we view trauma.
    But Ive been thinking lately about what it would have been like to be a teen or young adult and experience the trauma that happened in this country pre 1970’s.
    More specifically, these individual, our parents, were raised in the late 40’s and 50’s with a strong sense of national pride, but then they seen the assignation of a Martin Luther King and President Kennedy.
    I can’t help but wonder how it silenced our parents and aspirations for peace and change.

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  2. This is a very common perception of what “causes” mental health problems, and thus what must be done to remedy it.

    Hubbard explored this aspect of the problem in his 1950 book The Modern Science of Mental Health. This made sense to a lot of people, and many people learned the therapy technique he laid out in that book, and had some success with it.

    But Hubbard could not reach everyone with this technique, and it was also difficult to learn to do well. So he continued his research.

    We dwell a lot on the people who are traumatized. Ever consider the mental state of the person or people who traumatize other people? They have a mental problem, too, right?

    Further, using his technique for locating traumatic incidents on a case, Hubbard discovered, first, prenatal traumas, and then, previous life traumas. And that gave pause for a reassessment. So, we can point to trauma as a key element in mental illness. But 1) we need to look at both “flows,” receiving it AND inflicting it on others, and 2) we need to account for and handle past life trauma.

    And so, traditional psychology fails us. The work pointing out a better way has been done. Demand better from the mental health system!

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