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How Trauma Stays Linked To You, And What You Can Do About It

Updated: Jan 14, 2021

by Juanima Hiatt

Childhood and adolescent years can be full of things we’d rather forget about. Abuse, divorce, assaults, violence in the home, neglect, natural disasters, getting lost or separated from our parents, serious accidents, death or loss, health problems, bullying, burglary/robbery, mass shootings, being trapped…

These are just some examples of what can be classified as trauma; but it’s certainly not an extensive list.

There is no all-inclusive list, because it’s not the event itself that is traumatic; it’s the way we respond to an event that determines if it is traumatic to US…to you, as an individual. You might be surprised to hear that even hearing some bad news can be traumatic if it overwhelms you.

Here’s how many people tend to respond to these childhood events:

When a traumatic event happens, you do whatever you can to survive it. For children this might be dissociating (checking out mentally and emotionally during the event), acting out, withdrawing, etc.

When you get older you make a mental decision to put all that “stuff” behind you, and just move on with life.

You try to make the best of your life, and maybe even for a while, things go pretty well. But as an adult, you notice one or more of the following:

  • certain things make you afraid that you don’t think you should be afraid of;

  • you avoid certain places, people, environments or situations because they make you feel afraid, uneasy, or anxious;

  • you struggle with underlying/ongoing/persistent depression or anxiety;

  • feeling like you’re not your real self, or who you are in public is different than who you really are;

  • you suffer from low self-esteem;

  • certain behaviors of others drastically impact you in a negative way, and perhaps you’re not sure why;

  • you struggle to maintain healthy relationships;

  • deep down you feel very insecure about who you are;

  • you have difficulty connecting with your real feelings, or your feelings towards certain things are extreme;

  • you have phobias towards certain things.

Other more definitive signs of trauma or PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder are:

  • Shock or denial; anger, irritability, or mood swings; anxiety and fear; guilt, shame, or self-blame

  • Withdrawing from others; avoiding places or people that remind you of the trauma

  • Feeling disconnected or numb; feeling sad or hopeless; persistent depression (over the event, or perhaps you haven’t made that connection)

  • Re-experiencing the event through nightmares, flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, or hallucinations

  • Being startled easily, difficulty concentrating, racing heartbeat, edginess and agitation

  • Severe physical or emotional reactions after being exposed to a reminder of the event

These are all signs that your past trauma is still affecting you. You may have experienced several good years – like I did – until a subsequent trauma seems to suck all those bad memories of the past right back into the present.

I understand now why – when we think we’re “dealing with it,” or “putting it behind us” – we’re actually just enclosing it inside an internal pressure cooker at great risk of one day exploding on us.

Many people who endure a traumatic event are able to work through it and move on with their life in a healthy way. HOWEVER, 1 out of 4 of us won’t be able to process trauma.

If an event overwhelms our nervous system beyond our ability to cope in that moment, the brain is unable to process it, and the memory of that event gets trapped in the brain, unprocessed.

During trauma, your amygdala (the fight-or-flight center) makes sensory recordings of the event (sights, sounds, tastes, smells, and touch or feeling). Your subconscious will remember every single second of that event. From that moment on (even years later) it will do its very important job: to protect you from that event ever happening again. Your brain pattern-matched everything it recorded.

If that traumatic memory never gets processed, then as you go through your day-to-day life, any sight, smell, taste, sound, or feeling even remotely similar to that event will send an alarm to your subconscious, and you will feel those same feelings of fear, anxiety, panic, or dis-ease. If you dissociated as a child, you may even automatically dissociate as an adult when triggered.

None of this is your fault! Your brain simply can’t differentiate between the past and present… as long as that memory remains unprocessed.

So what can you do??

There are different ways to process a memory. Once that happens, all triggers cease. Nightmares end. Hypervigilance disappears and the body can be calm again. Anxiety and depression decreases or dissipates. Phobias and irrational fears can disappear.

If you’ve tried talk therapy and that hasn’t helped you, it’s because trauma elicits an emotional response…not a thinking response. An unprocessed memory is trapped in the amygdala, where “talking” doesn’t reach. “Talking” happens in the prefrontal cortex, where the majority of your memories end up after they’ve been processed properly in the brain.

Studies have shown that talking about traumatic events can actually make you worse – not better – because talking about it is re-traumatizing, and embeds the trauma even further into the brain.

One of the best, non-intrusive ways to process traumatic memories is the Rewind Technique, at the end of one 90-minute session, that traumatic memory no longer effects them emotionally. It is no longer upsetting. The PTS (Post-Traumatic Stress) symptoms disappear, and a new chapter of life can begin.

You may have residual issues that past trauma has conditioned you to create in your life, but all of those can also be resolved through solution-focused life coaching, which I also offer.

Bottom line is, healing doesn’t have to be painful, nor do you need to spend years in therapy. Traumatic memories can be neutralized in one to three sessions, and they are relaxing…not re-traumatizing. Believe it or not, you don’t even have to talk about the details of the trauma.

You can read up on the details in our Rewind Technique FAQs.

If you think this might help you, I invite you to schedule a no-pressure, free 30-minute consultation, and let’s discuss your unique circumstances and see how I can help. You’ve got nothing to lose, but everything to gain.

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