We often associate the term “trauma” with physical injuries resulting from accidents or violent acts. However, emotional trauma can inflict equally deep wounds on our sense of self. Just like a physical wound, emotional injuries require attention and care to heal fully. But when left unresolved, these traumas can cast a dark shadow over our relationships. In order to build healthy connections, we must first cultivate a healthy sense of self.
The Origins and Effects of Emotional Trauma
Emotional trauma can stem from any experience that threatens our well-being or sense of safety. Whether it be childhood shaming, physical abuse, the loss of a job or loved one, or even going to war, these experiences shape our perception of ourselves and the world around us. Trauma that occurs in childhood tends to leave deeper scars, as we were more vulnerable and lacked coping mechanisms.
As a means of self-preservation, we often detach ourselves from the pain, denying its existence or repressing the memories. Unfortunately, unresolved trauma manifests in various ways, such as addictive behaviors, conflict avoidance, anxiety, confusion, depression, and a deep-rooted belief in our own worthlessness.
The Impact on Relationships
Living with unresolved trauma and carrying its burdens into our relationships is not conducive to intimacy and happiness. When emotional wounds remain unaddressed, triggers in our day-to-day interactions can elicit strong emotional responses. These triggers unintentionally mirror the original trauma, causing us to perceive attacks where none were intended.
For example, if we experienced emotional distance or abandonment in our childhood, our spouse coming home late from work may trigger feelings of powerlessness and rejection. Although our loved ones may have our best interests at heart, our scars color our perception, leading to misunderstandings and strained relationships. Similarly, if we feel unworthy, we may struggle to effectively express and maintain our self-worth in our connections with others.
Unresolved trauma becomes the lens through which we view the world and all our relationships.
Resolving the Unresolved
If you carry unresolved trauma, you are not alone. Here are some steps you can take to address and heal from your trauma, leading to a healthier way of life and more fulfilling relationships:
Understand trauma and its effects
Reading books on trauma recovery and seeking professional guidance can help uncover how past traumatic events continue to influence your present behaviors, even if you can’t recall the specifics.
Writing about your experiences or confiding in a trusted friend or counselor can provide valuable insights into the connections between your past and current life. Sharing your story offers an opportunity for healing.
Develop observer consciousness
Be mindful of the thoughts and feelings that arise as an observer in your relationships. Differentiate between past triggers and present experiences. Learning to identify when you are triggered and the accompanying self-talk can help break the cycle of emotional response.
When you notice you are triggered and that your feelings may not reflect the truth of the present moment, express this to your loved ones. Saying, “I feel triggered by what you said or did,” allows for open discussion without blame.
Cultivate emotional resilience
Rather than pushing away your feelings, acknowledge and experience them. Notice where in your body you feel emotions such as sadness or anger. These emotions offer valuable information that can guide you toward healing.
Learn self-soothing techniques
Healing involves developing self-care practices that bring comfort. Whether it be journaling, using a hot water bottle, or taking a warm bath, engaging in self-loving behaviors will positively impact your relationships.
Consider the spiritual dimension
View your life as part of a bigger picture, recognizing it as a journey. This perspective empowers you to find hidden gifts within your pain, cultivating strength, vitality, and compassion as a result.
Take your time
Remember, healing is a unique and personal process. Everyone heals at their own pace. If the journey becomes overwhelming, allow yourself to take breaks and proceed at a slower pace.
Just as healing a broken arm is essential for a healthy and fulfilling life, the healing of emotional trauma is crucial. Embracing healing and reconnecting with our sense of wholeness brings us fully into the present, making room for connection, intimacy, and freedom.
If you need someone to talk to and navigate the challenges of trauma, I recommend checking out Six Minute Dates. They offer a safe space to explore your emotions and find support.