The Subtle Ways Trauma Affects Your Life
Trauma is such a big word.
Most people think of war, accidents, violence, and big life-changing tragedies. And those events are traumatic for most people.
(Even though not necessarily so. Because trauma is not about what happens to us but how we deal with it, whether our nervous system was able to discharge the excess energy.)
But for the most part, trauma is a subtle and insidious part of our everyday life. Insidious because we are so used to it that we don’t even know it’s there. And when you don’t know it’s there you don’t do anything about it. Instead, you probably keep looking outside yourself to change the “off” feeling inside, and you very likely judge yourself for feeling and being the way you are.
So before we continue, let’s take the charge out of the word and call trauma “frozen” or “blocked” energy instead. I’m sure most of us can agree that we have some of that.
Here are the ways it may be affecting you:
Feelings of separation. Inability to feel fully nourished and loved by others. Not really feeling part of humanity or like you belong on this planet.
Confusion, indecision, overwhelm. Inability to know what you want. Feeling stuck and like you’re treading water in life. Mood swings. Neediness.
Inability to express yourself and your needs. Always the bystander and observe. Always helping others but building silent resentment inside. Feelings of inferiority.
Needing to be the best and unable to tolerate failure. Always talking about yourself and dominating the space in social circumstances. Unable to tune into the needs of others.
Always on the go, hyperactive, judgmental, and critical toward self and others. Unable to take time out, have breaks. Life is black and white, and it’s all about performance.
Hang on… aren’t these just normal personality traits?
Yes, they are. And I’m sure that most of us can relate to at least one of these if not all of them to some extent.
Our very personality is formed around the developmental challenges (traumas) that we experienced throughout our childhood.
It’s really important to understand our personality (that is, how we chose to respond to external stimuli) served as our survival mechanism. So there is nothing wrong with it and us. We are not fucked up. We are not broken. We just learned to adapt to less than ideal circumstances and it got us here.
We are alive and kicking. And that’s quite impressive because if you are reading this article, it means you are intelligent enough to do so.
Plus you are fortunate and capable enough to own a device to give you access to this information (which means you are at least a semi-functional member of humanity).
Plus you have a willingness to learn new things and evolve (why else would you be reading this?).
So give yourself a break. You are awesome.
We are not fucked up. We are not broken.
Now that we have taken judgment out of the way, let’s get curious.
What can I do about my personality in order to experience a better quality of life?
Step 1: Acknowledgment
We are not just our personalities. There is a part of us that is untouched by our personality, and whether you are spiritual or purely scientific, it doesn’t matter. You may call it consciousness, spirit, divine, love… we are talking about the same thing. For our purpose, let’s simply call it presence.
We always have access to that part of us, even if it may not appear that way. And sure, you have experienced moments, glimpses, or even periods of that part in you. So you know the difference when you are in presence and when you are triggered.
Step number one is, therefore, acknowledging that you are triggered; that alone is empowering. The same thing happens when you are drunk and you acknowledge that you are drunk—it will probably keep you from driving. Acknowledging that you are being triggered in your core-wounding will give you enough pause to at least consider another perspective.
Step 2: Compassion
If you judge yourself for your triggers, you are only cementing them deeper into your self. Treat yourself the way you would a five-year-old in pain: understanding, accepting, and loving. Your judgments toward your self are the very symptoms of your traumas. Every time you hear that nasty critical voice inside, take a deep breath and say: I love you. I know you are just trying to help. Thank you. I hear you.
And don’t judge yourself for judging yourself! It takes practice. It’s lifelong patterns that you are changing here. From the perspective of presence, all is welcome and there is absolutely no rush.
Furthermore, practicing compassion will not only allow you to become softer with yourself but also with those around you, which will improve your relationships.
Every time you hear that nasty critical voice inside, take a deep breath and say: I love you.
Step 3: Bodywork
If you want to truly transform and heal, bodywork is essential. With bodywork, I also mean breathwork and other modalities of healing that engage your body and energy in different ways.
Our personalities are not separate from our bodies. In fact, we can also call them body types.
For example, if you tend toward depression, it is likely that your shoulders will be slouched. Likewise, if you tend toward dominating others, your chest will probably be more puffed up.
We are our bodies. If we want to create deep change in our lives, we have to engage all of ourselves in the work, and that includes our physicality.
Breathwork, de-armoring, and other types of bodywork all help to release deeply held tensions and frozen energy out of our system. That has a profound effect on our psyche. But you have to try it for yourself.
Step 4: Vulnerability
Vulnerability is the opposite of shame. The reason why trauma can be so insidious is that it makes us feel alone. From this space of frozenness inside we often believe we are unworthy of love as it seems that there is something wrong with us. This feeling of being fundamentally flawed is what we call shame. It is the very thing that keeps us frozen and stuck in our patterns.
As soon as we start entertaining the idea that even in our deepest shit we are still worthy of love and care from others, we start opening up to new life and the warmth from others.
Our wounds mostly came through relationships. So, therefore, it makes sense that we need relationships in order to heal them. Vulnerability is the key to our healing. You cannot heal a wound if you don’t know it’s there. If you don’t show it, it will only fester, get inflamed and infected.
To become vulnerable is to acknowledge and have faith in our very human nature. We need each other, and we are made for loving.
Next time you are struggling with yourself, being critical, and impatient for not living up to your own standards, just remember that the thing you are judging is what brought you to this moment.
Take a breath, soften your heart, and take that inner five-year-old by the hand:
We can do this. I am with you as long as you need.
To do this every day is to heal the trauma in your life and to co-create an authentic human reality in which we all can thrive.