Core Counselling - discover your true self

Has Trauma Affected You?

What is a traumatic event?
An event is considered traumatic if the person experienced or witnessed an event or events that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical or psychological integrity of self or others. The person’s response must have also involved intense fear, helplessness, disgust or horror.  This includes one-time or chronic abuse of any kind, car accidents, war, hospitalization, abandonment, emotional neglect, deaths and controlled environments.

A 2014 U.S. study found that 8% of children have experienced 1 childhood trauma, and 23% have experienced 2 or more. These traumas (aka “adverse childhood experiences”) include: extreme economic hardship, parental divorce/separation, living with someone with a drug/alcohol problem, witnessing or a victim of neighborhood violence, living with someone who was mentally ill/suicidal, witnessing domestic violence, a parent serving time in jail, treated or judged unfairly due to race/ethnicity, and the death of a parent.

Regardless of the type of trauma, these actions cause immediate and long-lasting emotional and psychological suffering. Jung noted that the enduring emotional impact of childhood trauma “remains hidden all along from the [person], so that not reaching consciousness, the emotion never wears itself out, it is never used up.

The intense feelings of anger, helplessness and shame along with horrific memories of the abuse are overwhelming for the child. Unable to process the emotions and images, the trauma gets stored in the body. Physically, the person may later experience headaches, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, and gastro-intestinal complaints.

Unresolved or untreated trauma (for children or adults) leads to symptoms such as depression, anxiety, panic attacks, alcohol and drug dependency, reliance upon social support, missed work and unemployment, relationship dysfunction, and the increased risk for serious and chronic circulatory, digestive, musculoskeletal, respiratory and infectious diseases.

On a neurological level, studies show specific changes in the brains of traumatized individuals. These changes correspond to noticeable inabilities to process feelings and to self-reflect, inhibit creative capacities and alter one’s sense of identity.

It is this shattered sense of self that brings real psychic suffering. On an even deeper level, analyst Petra Affeld-Niemeyer observed that for many traumatized people, “It is as if the soul stopped breathing.”

Time does not heal the pain.

Many people, even those with traumatic backgrounds, do not fully see the connection between past abuse, current behaviours, body symptoms and psychic suffering. 

Researcher Robert Anda noted that the cumulative, long-term and powerful effects of traumatic childhood events are “likely to be invisible to health care providers, educators, social service organizations, and policy makers because the linkage between cause and effect is concealed by time.”

Review your trauma history and identify any adverse childhood experiences.  How did you cope or adapt to the trauma?  How do you think the trauma has influenced and still continues to affect your life?

What to do?
 Unresolved and stored traumatic feelings need to be identified, expressed and what I call, neutralized.  Perceptions and thoughts of sense of self and world also need to be changed into positive and rational ones.

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Diane Hancox, MA, CCC provides counselling services to Parksville, Qualicum Beach, Nanaimo and Vancouver Island.