Monday, February 6, 2017

The Trauma of Accepting Our Trauma

It can literally take five minutes of trauma to permanently affect a child’s life. It does not necessarily matter what the trauma is or if it happened only once or multiple times, the underlying damage can physically alter the development of certain areas of the brain thereby altering the development of personality. This is particularly true in cases of childhood sexual abuse.

During the trauma we simply do not have the capabilities to cope with the situation, so the natural instinct of the brain kicks in and the emotional center is quickly replaced by the instinctual (reptilian) portion of the brain. The mind does what it needs to survive the trauma at the time, which is basically to shut down and kick into survival mode, since our brains are entirely unable to process what has happened.

Fast forward an undetermined period of time and our brains are as developed as they are going to be and are now better equipped to cope with our childhood traumas and despite our desperate attempts to keep these memories repressed, they slowly start to exit their domain of safety and creep their way towards the front of our brains.

Those seemingly unexplainable actions and behaviors, the bad habits and negative coping skills and the diagnoses of whatever mental illness, all really do have an underlying reason. The emotional outbursts were not displays for show and the random and often harmful acts were not cries for attention. The lack of ability to fully bond and trust was in no way meant to be malicious. The darkness that you have carried in your heart and soul has cast a shadow that has dimmed your entire perspective of life.

Once the memory is at the forefront, we can either spend a tremendous amount of emotional energy trying to repress it again, or we can try to ignore it, but somehow it always seems to rear its ugly head. The process of accepting these memories as truths is not only the first and perhaps most difficult step in the healing process but is also multi-faceted.

To believe these atrocities happened to us brings about intense feelings of shame, confusion and anger. We question why this happened to us, or what we did to deserve it. We can’t accept that it isn’t our fault and self-blame torments us for years. Even our adult brain has trouble comprehending that these memories are actually real. We cannot understand how someone we knew or trusted or even loved could violate us in such a traumatic manner that it forever changed our views of the world, and of ourselves. It marred our ability to trust, set boundaries and have healthy relationships. The feelings of shame have weighed us down and burdened us throughout our lives and the emotional weight of the trauma that has held us captive for years finally breaks our back.

What alternative do we have aside from accepting these new truths that are not only completely overwhelming but seemingly impossible? We are almost forced by our minds to deal with our trauma whether we believe we are ready or not. We are guided directly through the middle of it as there seems to be no true detour.

Acceptance involves challenging the only values and beliefs we know, and puts into question our already fragile sense of self. It requires setting new emotional boundaries and learning to place the blame where it rightly belongs. It often means we will have to emotionally and sometimes physically remove ourselves from the lives of certain family or friends. It means taking a step back from life in order to get a different viewpoint.

Acceptance forces us to look deep inside at the shame we have been unnecessarily carrying around for a lifetime and realize it is actually not our burden to carry. It means opening up wounds that we have already formed scars over in order to heal properly. Accepting our abuse, however hard and trying it may be is the beginning to the end goal of healing.

Blog Post And Images (c) 2017 by Don Shetterly and Jody
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  1. This is an excellent overview about trauma and survival. The shame issue is a difficult part to let go of, and is easier if you have someone to help or guide you.

    1. Glad you liked it. Jody did an excellent job on it. I would agree that the shame is a difficult part to let to of.

  2. One question: Am I understanding this right? These repressed childhood and adult memories start to exit the emotional part of the brain where they have been hiding all these years and move to the front of our brain? Excellent very logical blog.






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