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Unveiling the Enigma of Trauma: Why We're All Prone to its Grip

Updated: May 5

Written by Angela Oldfield


Angela is an experienced trauma trained psychotherapist and social worker, working extensively with first responders and in disaster mental health response.

Trauma exposure is often thought of those acute single incidents that can happen to us in life like car accidents, natural disasters, shootings, and sexual assaults. However, more commonly we are exposed to repeated experiences of trauma without recognising that they are themselves a type of trauma. These tend to be things like repeated verbal or emotional abuse, exposure to family violence, exposure to community violence, racial, cultural or gender discrimination, emotional neglect physical neglect or multiple attachments and placement disruptions, particularly in early life. Trauma tends to be born in environments that echoed chaos and a lack of support from the primary caregiver.

The effects of trauma can be varying and long lasting and can have an impact on all aspects of the way that we see the world and ourselves in context to it. This includes the relationships we have, our ongoing physical health as well as our emotional and psychological health. When we are exposed to complex trauma in early childhood, we are twice as likely to be described as having clinically significant emotional and behavioural problems in our youth and twice as likely to go on and develop emotional and behavioural problems in adulthood such as Post Traumatic stress disorder and Complex post-traumatic stress disorder. Relational harm is the most common type of trauma that individuals experience, and these can occur across many different developmental stages, impacting and compromising our ability to develop physically and psychologically.

Complex trauma describes a child's exposure to multiple traumatic events. These events tend to be invasive; they tend to be severe; they can then begin early in life and can disrupt many aspects of a child's development into youth and further into adulthood. For this reason, when working with your therapist around your trauma history, the therapist will want to have a good understanding of what trauma looks like in your life, in your home growing up and even intergenerationally. Individuals can be exposed to things like, maternal depression, emotional and sexual abuse, substance abuse, homelessness, incarceration, divorce, parental mental illness, discrimination community disruption, lack of opportunity, poverty, and lack of housing. If individuals have grown up in the context of chronic poverty and prolonged exposure to community violence, they are more likely to go on to have relationships peppered by violence, to engage in risk taking behaviours, have addictive and harmful behaviours and have disruptions to adult relationships.

Trauma can affect the way that individual’s feel that they can trust, understand, and connect to others. They can have difficulty with being able to know what they are feeling, regulate their feelings, and express themselves in the appropriate ways. Individuals may be more impulsive, aggressive, oppositional, or destructive and this again can create problems with our health, alter the ability to connect with what we are feeling in our body and even with our perception of pain. Trauma can impair our memory and concentration and can create difficulties in learning, processing information, and problem for solving.

Trauma can affect our self-esteem and feelings of shame and guilt. Much of this comes back to this underlying mechanism of attachment. As infants, our experiences of our caregivers help us develop a sense of where we sit in the world. It allows us to safely explore the world. It teaches us how to communicate and how to understand and tolerate and cope with others.

Therapists can help with trauma by providing trauma-focused therapy, trauma-informed care, or trauma therapy, which is a form of psychotherapy designed to manage the impact of traumatic events on people’s lives. They can help people process traumatic events and the lasting experience of trauma that may follow those events. Therapists can also work through symptoms of traumatic stress, such as intrusive thoughts or memories, avoidance coping, and cognition and mood changes. A therapist can work with an individual. Using techniques such as eye movement desensitizing reprocessing therapy, cognitive processing therapy, somatic therapy, to restabilize your trauma and create pathways for acceptance as you move into a new phase of your life.

If you would like to learn more about trauma therapy, call Ange on 0493 239 627 and make a time to come in for a chat.

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