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Trauma Therapy: Understanding and Healing the Wounds Behind Your Behavior

by Jul 25, 2023

It’s likely that there are specific events or situations in your life that bring out a strong reaction in you, perhaps a feeling of fear, anger, or defeat.

You might understand intellectually why these things shouldn’t bother you, yet they still do.

Understanding these emotional triggers and addressing their root cause is the objective of trauma therapy. And, rest assured, you can heal from the internal burdens you carry.

What Is “Trauma” Really?

Trauma is a complex subject, and to heal from trauma, we need to understand how it functions as much as we need to understand aspects of ourselves and our pasts. Let’s break it down:

  • Trauma is an emotional response to a painful event, often associated with war, accidents, or abuse.
  • Trauma may also occur over time through subtler instances of abuse or pain experienced over a long period. 
  • Trauma can be experienced by both children and adults.
  • Most people have experienced at least some degree of trauma in their lives, which can manifest into addiction, PTSD, strained relationships, or impaired self-esteem.
  • Traumas generate fears and emotional reactions around certain stimuli; if they remain unaddressed, they can affect a person for decades.
  • Trauma can leave individuals feeling helpless, useless, or in perpetual emotional turmoil. 
  • Trauma behaves like a burn on your nervous system. When you encounter something that activates your trauma (an object, an event, a behavior in another person), you can feel it spring up in a predictable way.
  • Trauma is prevalent in the United States, especially in the form of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, and most often in children.

Traumas are the wounds left by life experiences. If trauma occurs in childhood, it can cause individuals to feel “stuck” in certain moments. And to cope with trauma, individuals may construct new behaviors, beliefs, or entire personalities. 

Trauma does not have to look like a terrible accident or instance of abuse. Less immediate traumas can build up over time and create enormous suffering for any individual. 

Trauma researcher Gabor Maté puts it like this:

Trauma is not what happens to you; it is what happens inside you as a result of what happens to you. It is not the blow on the head, but the concussion I get.”

The past events that caused your trauma cannot be changed, but what can be changed is what remains: the internal wound underneath your personality.

The Different Types of Trauma Treatment

There have been several breakthroughs in trauma treatment in recent years. Here are the most reliable methods for healing trauma and the memories associated with trauma.

  1. EMDR 

Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR) was developed to treat trauma by having patients reprocess their traumatic memories through bilateral stimulation. Here’s how it goes…

  • Working with a therapist, patients make a list of their traumatic memories, how they made them feel, and to what extent they affect their well-being.
  • Going one memory at a time, the patient “reprocesses” these memories by picturing them in their mind while a therapist has them move their eyes back and forth rhythmically, or they hold on to alternating buzzers. Both methods stimulate both sides of the brain (bilateral stimulation).
  • Bilateral stimulation activates a portion of the brain that mimics REM sleep, and processing memories in this state helps patients gain new perspectives on past events, and the feelings and beliefs they associate with these memories can be completely changed.
  1. RTM 

RTM (Reconsolidation of Traumatic Memories) is a newer type of trauma treatment that involves having a patient recount a narrative of a traumatic memory through visualization.

This technique allows trauma sufferers to change their emotional reactions to memories without having to relive them in all their vividness.

  • RTM is an emerging treatment for trauma that can be completed in three therapy sessions.
  • Relapsing into trauma symptoms after RTM is incredibly rare.
  • Patients will picture their traumatic memories as though they were in a movie theatre, with the intention being that their memories will be consolidated into this “safe zone” instead of a zone of fear or anger.
  1. Talk Therapy and Vulnerability

Those who have experienced trauma may become highly averse to being vulnerable with others.

Vulnerability for trauma survivors means revealing their pain to others so that they may be understood and seen.

This vulnerability may illicit feelings of helplessness and even terror in trauma victims, and some do everything in their power not to become vulnerable in their lives.

There are even reported incidents of people dying in restaurant bathrooms because they were choking and were too afraid to draw attention to themselves. 

Making the brave choice to reveal oneself to others is the root of immense personal healing from traumas and anything that would otherwise evoke shame.

Being heard and understood in these painful admissions of vulnerability is the greatest gift a traumatized individual can receive. 

It allows traumatized individuals to feel safe in their own bodies finally. It allows for the development of self-trust. It allows for feelings that were locked away in an attempt to “fit in” to be released finally.

If you don’t know where to start in your trauma healing, start by being a little more vulnerable. Admit when you don’t know something. Admit when something bothers you. Admit when you need help. Show your weakness, and you’ll realize that everyone else has weaknesses too.

Trauma Therapy Exists for You to Heal

Your dispositions, how you approach relationships, your level of self-trust, and your fears, can all be influenced by trauma.

But imagine a life where you didn’t have to carry these burdens anymore. Imagine trusting yourself. Imagine being able to breathe and live without pain or worry, or shame. Imagine reconnecting with yourself so that you can live a life that’s healthy and fulfilling. 

That’s all possible. It’s backed by science and extensive research. It just comes down to your willingness to try. Healing your trauma is one of the most worthwhile journeys you can take.