What is trauma?

Trauma can be a large or small one-time event, but for many people, trauma is more likely to be the result of a prolonged period of time of feeling unsafe, helpless and/or powerless. The latter is the case for many human beings, because of the world we are living in and have been living in for a very long time.

Trauma can be as large as rape, war, racism, abuse, slavery, loss of a parent or caretaker or addicted or emotionally dysregulated parents, but also as small as being bullied, neglected, ignored, shamed, downsized, being constantly told what do to, who to be, what to wear, how to act or being punished for not being like the rest.

A lot of trauma occurs inside of our family homes without anyone being aware of it or intentionally causing or perpetuating it. It just happens because, as you can read, all human beings are traumatized to some degree and thus never really got the chance to truly heal and break free from their trauma and the dysfunctional systems they grew up in. They then have children while not being fully healed and free themselves, not aware of their trauma and not equipped to emotionally support themselves and thus their children, therefore causing new trauma and/or perpetuating old trauma.

In this way individual and collective trauma and dysfunctional patterns and conditionings inside family homes, schools and our society, will be repeated over and over again. We call this trauma intergenerational trauma and we believe that this kind of trauma impacts the world the most as it is today. 

To truly save our planet and future and change the way we live, work, relate, consume and respond to life and nature, we have to become aware of and heal our collective and familial trauma. We have to find the means and courage to say: no longer, not anymore, it ends here, with me. We have to do the work from the inside out and create the change we want to see in the world, inside ourselves. 

When is something traumatic?

Something is experienced as traumatic when you find yourself in a stressful situation or adverse event and you experience that you haven’t got the right tools, means or resources to handle the situation on your own. You then perceive the situation as life-threatening and feel unsafe, powerless and helpless. This causes you to feel strong (sometimes extreme) negative feelings and emotions.

Because these strong feelings and emotions are too complicated to process for you when you are a little child (and sometimes even when you are an adult) you want to distance yourself from them. You will try to numb, ignore or suppress them and shut off those parts of yourself that remind you of that traumatic event or those strong negative feelings and emotions. That is where the first dissociation or fragmentation and thus suppression or hiding of (parts of) yourself start.

To deal with the situation plus the strong negative emotions, and to prevent it from ever happening again, you will do everything you have in your power (which is not much when you are a little child) to get out of it safe. You do this by creating coping (or survival) mechanism(s). But, by doing this, the strong negative emotions won’t actually go away. They will stay with you, stored in your body, leaving their marks there. Also, your coping mechanisms seem protective and helpful in the moment, but you take them with you as you grow older, while they are no longer really necessary and even detrimental for your growth.

How does trauma influences your daily life? 

When strong negative emotions and experiences are not felt, healed and processed in a proper way, they will stay stuck and stored in your body, unconsciously dictating and controlling your life, behavior and choices. Because of this, parts of you are still mentally, emotionally and physically ‘stuck in the past’ causing you to look at the world through ‘traumatized’ glasses. Now, every time when you experience situations in the present moment that look and/or feel similar to the traumatic ones in the past, your body reacts to this situation as if it is the same situation of the past. This then activates the memory of the traumatic event.

The strong negative feelings and emotions tied to that traumatic event or situation will then come to the surface, causing you to feel e.g. hyper-aroused, anxious, angry and/or frozen. This in turn activates old coping mechanisms and behaviors, keeping you in a destructive and self-sabotaging loop. Causing you to feel unhappy, unfulfilled, depressed, lonely, anxious, stressed or even burnt-out and blocking you from truly growing up and becoming a free, authentic, conscious and empowered human being who feels ready to safely and responsibly navigate through this world.

This is why at Beyond Psychology we emphasize the importance of doing the work and starting to heal yourself.

Because we believe that healed people, heal the world.