Your Therapy

Trauma—Little or Big—Can Affect You Deeply. Talk Therapy Can Help.

From time to time, I’ll be turning over my blog to other therapists from the Your Therapy team, so they can share their own insights on mental- health issues. Today’s post, on the subject of recognizing and dealing with unresolved trauma, is by Emily Atkinson.

Recognizing the effect of trauma on our lives

Most people outside the mental health professions are surprised to discover that trauma is much more common than they might think. The Canadian Psychological Association estimates that 76% of people have experienced some type of traumatic event, at least once in their lives.trauma

Although trauma is often associated with a major incident like war, the death of a loved one, a violent attack, rape or abuse, a wide range of other, more nuanced—yet still distressing—experiences can also be traumatic. And these have the potential to significantly disrupt our lives. Some use the term “micro-traumas” or “little-t” traumas to refer to these events, which can include divorce, neglect, job loss, infidelity, bullying or receiving a difficult medical diagnosis. Little-t traumas can build up over years, resulting in negative consequences akin to or, in some cases, even more severe than those from “big-T” traumas.”

Whatever its nature, past trauma lives deep inside us. In his book, The Body Keeps the Score, Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, a neuroscientist and world-renowned trauma expert, eloquently describes the links between trauma, its resulting stress, and the physiological imprint it leaves on our bodies and brains. Even with absent outward manifestation, we carry trauma with us, and it influences our present lives in countless ways. For example, it informs how we relate to family members and friends, how we think and feel about both ourselves and, more generally, about the world. Left unresolved, this trauma can be detrimental to our emotional, psychological, and physical health.

You CAN Overcome the Effects of Past Trauma

Fortunately, past trauma doesn’t have to afflict us forever. Talk therapy can help to unlock and process traumatic memories and experiences. It can also equip us with healthy responses when we’re triggered with past thoughts, reminders, or emotions. Our inclination may be to repress the memories—to “forget” the trauma and minimize the pain. However, stopping to think, feel and talk about the experiences, no matter how painful, uncomfortable, or distressing they may be, is necessary for healing. Counterintuitive as it may seem, feeling bad can be good for us, since the pain can lead to growth. An important piece of that growth is identifying and understanding how our past traumas inform and impact our current lives and relationships.

Seek Out A Mental Health Professional to Help You

With the assistance of a therapist, unresolved trauma can be acknowledged, validated, reintegrated, and released so it occupies less space, allowing us to be more fully present in the now.

The therapeutic work and healing from trauma is reinforced when we engage in other self-care activities, including: healthy sleep-hygiene routines, mindfulness, meditation, yoga, breathing practices, physical activity, journaling, self-reflection, staying connected with people and seeking out support.

Working through past trauma isn’t easy, nor is there a quick fix. So, we need to be patient with ourselves and remain flexible and open to all of the experiences and emotions along the way. The release of trauma from our minds and bodies can be profoundly liberating, and it allows us to live our lives with renewed and improved insight, perspective, and health.

Thanks for reading and, as always, please feel free to reach out with questions about this or other mental health issues.

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