Edelson Blog

Don’t be Blinded to the Impact of Trauma

Written by: Janice Hagans-Higgins

We understand trauma to be ongoing distress that was triggered by an unexpected event, an event that felt overwhelming and caused immediate stress, pain, suffering, or some other form of damage (physical, mental, psychological). Many of us have been through some type of trauma, yet we are often unable to explain how it affected us or how it continues to impact us daily. It is well known that two people experiencing the same event may have very different reactions.  Seeing others deal with traumatic events and appear to shake it off and keep going can lead to self-doubt, embarrassment and at times anger and withdrawal. Furthermore, this perception or view that I shouldn’t be responding this way often leads to the minimization of one’s experience related to the trauma. At times this presumption, by self or others, that the response should be different, leads to a devaluing of much needed help with processing, coping, or dealing with the emotional and psychological aftermath.

Trauma sometimes creates a disconnection and a detachment from ourselves and those around us. This detachment may manifest in feelings of sadness, loss, anger, guilt, frustration, denial, fear, anxiousness, withdrawn, insomnia, fatigue, or even flashbacks. All these so-called symptoms derive from an unprecedented event or series of events and have ongoing impact on our ability to function in our everyday life.

It is important to be aware of the effect of trauma and to understand that it can present in many ways.  It may be emotional trauma – producing feelings of being unsafe or hopeless; it could be complex trauma – presenting in many different ways and connected to many different stressors; it could be secondary trauma – distress that presents after witnessing harm befall someone else; there is also chronic trauma – long standing, ongoing, and impacted by many events;  acute trauma – triggered by a recent event; vicarious trauma – distress from hearing about something that happened to someone else; or historical trauma – meaning intergenerational trauma experienced by cultural, ethical, or racial groups that have a history of being systematically oppressed.

Once we begin to recognize the presentation and gained some awareness of trauma and the many ways it presents, understanding that it could affect anyone at any age or stage of life, it is imperative to reach out and get help or encourage others to do so. Realizing the need for help is the first step in the process of healing. Take time and reach out to friends, family or a therapist. No one must go through this alone.

For those who wish to understand more about trauma I suggest reading Healing Trauma, by Peter A. Levine or Transcending Trauma, by Beverly Sartain. These books can increase your understanding of the trauma that you are experiencing and might also aid your discussion with a therapist.

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