January 10, 2024
“That wasn’t a traumatic event. I’ve never experienced trauma in my life.”
This is a common response I hear from my clients all the time. Too often, they’ll share a story or life experience with me. When I ask them how they handled the trauma, they immediately reply with a negative.
But trauma comes in all shapes, sizes, and intensities. There’s no one right way to experience it. And there aren’t any rules about how you’re supposed to react and heal after a traumatic event.
But the first step toward healing is recognizing the traumatic events that happened in your life. Then you can process your thoughts and feelings – and move forward in the healing process.
Trauma is a complex emotional response to distressing events. It can result from experiences like natural disasters, serious accidents, or acts of violence – but it can also occur after events like prolonged stress or witnessing a traumatic event.¹
When most of us think of trauma, we immediately picture extreme experiences like:
While these are traumatic events, they aren’t the only experiences that can cause trauma. Any experience that leaves you feeling like you’ve suddenly been uprooted, lost, or disconnected from your surroundings can be traumatic.
This means any event, no matter its “size” or intensity, can be traumatic like:
All of these are traumatic experiences – and the only one who can “decide” if it’s trauma is you.
Which might get you wondering, “How do I know if I’ve experienced a traumatic event?”
Trauma can be a singular event or a series of events that overwhelm your ability to cope.² It can creep up on you over time without you realizing it.
It’s also not a one-size-fits-all experience. It encompasses a range of experiences, from a one-time event to prolonged exposure over the years. The key is to understand and identify the types of trauma you might be experiencing in your life like:
As you can see, emotional upheaval can manifest in many ways – depending on you and the nature of your experience. So understanding trauma and how it can occur in your life is the first step toward healing.
The impact of trauma extends beyond your initial responses. It can affect all parts of your being – mind, body, spirit, and emotions.
If you continue to ignore (or deny) traumatic events that occur in your life, it can cause serious, long-term problems like:
As scary as this list sounds, there are ways to overcome these challenges – which can lead to increased resilience and a deeper understanding of yourself.² The first step on your healing journey is recognizing and acknowledging the trauma that’s occurred in your life.
Healing from trauma is a deeply personal and often nonlinear journey. It involves confronting and understanding your traumatic experiences – while rebuilding your sense of safety and trust in the world.
Healing can involve a variety of approaches and methods like therapy or self-care practices. It might also take time to figure out what works best for you. To get started, I recommend going through the three-step process I outline below.
Start by trying to identify trauma within yourself. This might involve looking back at past events and acknowledging that what occurred caused a strong emotional reaction – one that left you at a loss or feeling overwhelmed.
If you’re struggling to recognize trauma within you, it’s ok. This is often more challenging than people realize. Usually, because you’ve been living with it for so long, you don’t recognize it as “traumatic” anymore.
Take a look at unusual physical, mental, or emotional symptoms you might be experiencing instead. Some examples include:
Be honest with yourself and acknowledge these signs. Then, give yourself a break – because these are all valid responses to traumatic experiences.
After you recognize the trauma within you, it’s time to let go of it. This usually involves fully processing the thoughts and feelings you experienced during and after the traumatic event occurred.
It’s a process that requires patience, self-compassion, and often the guidance of a skilled counselor (like me). Certain techniques are an effective means for expressing and processing traumatic experiences like:
This is often the scariest part for people – but also the most cathartic. Because you often feel like you’ve emerged from a dense fog into clarity.
Acknowledging and processing the trauma in your life is a great first step toward healing. But it’s not the end of your journey. You also have to learn healthy coping strategies like:
At this point, you might be thinking, “But isn’t it over? Aren’t I healed now that I let go of my trauma?” Unfortunately, the answer isn’t a simple “yes.” For most people, it takes time to fully process and accept past trauma – and the longer it’s been suppressed and unacknowledged, the longer it can take you to heal.
Your symptoms won’t disappear overnight. It will take time for your body and mind to feel safe again. So you might still have nightmares or get headaches – but with healthy coping strategies, you’ll be more prepared to handle these symptoms as they occur.
Your journey through trauma is unique – and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to healing. But understanding trauma and recognizing it in yourself is the first step on your journey. Then, you can begin to process traumatic events and develop coping strategies that help you heal.
If you’re ready to embrace a life of recovery and self-discovery, I invite you to book a session with me. I can help you discover how trauma is impacting your life using techniques like:
These methods go beyond healing past trauma – they empower you to embrace a life of fulfillment and growth.