Dealing with Trauma

Trauma impacts your relationship with yourself and challenges and changes how you think about yourself.

Before a traumatic life experience, it is common to believe in your ability to make good decisions, control your environment, and keep yourself safe. Trauma smashes these beliefs and creates new ones namely, that you are unable to count on your judgment: if you once judged a situation, person, or behaviour to be safe, and it proved to be traumatic, it is easy to believe that your actions cannot change or influence things.

These new beliefs can feel more accurate and convincing than the ones you held pre-trauma, and thereby lead to a reduced sense of safety and feelings of vulnerability. What can often then happen to cope with this feeling of vulnerability is you might find yourself claiming responsibility for the traumatic occurrence or you may try and control all aspects of your life, like scheduling every minute of the day. Even though these efforts at increasing your sense of control are entirely understandable, they do not lead to the desired outcome and often pus you to try and control more elements of your life causing you to feel exhausted and not able to fulfil your daily expectations leading to self-criticisms and even self-hatred.

The damage that trauma causes on your self-esteem also feeds into the self-criticism that frequently arises following a traumatic life event. It is common to believe that if you had been smarter, faster, fought harder, yelled louder, or simply been a better person, then the trauma would not have occurred. These inaccurate beliefs, though understandable, cause damage by creating a falsely logical conclusion that since the trauma did happen, you must have deserved or caused it—and if you did, then all the shame self-hatred you feel is warranted. This constant eroding of your self-esteem can become unbearable and paralyzing, leading you to want to hide, disappear, apologize, or prove that you are worthy.

It is important to work on challenging these beliefs in order to reclaim the fact that you can make good decisions, that you do have some control over your life. Stay connected to those in your life who are emotionally healthy so that you can gain support regarding your abilities and capabilities. Finally, don’t forget to reach out to a professional and harness her or his training, compassion, and expertise to help you heal and grow through these trauma-induced beliefs.