Unresolved trauma, even something relatively minor, can show up in our lives in many ways. Here’s how to recognise it, deal with it, and create greater love and connection in our relationships.
Let’s talk taboo
Before we start taking about trauma we need to recognise that it is something that is pretty taboo in today’s society. We are socially conditioned to avoid vulnerability and focus on the good, positive, and pleasant side of life. In doing this, we tend to turn our backs on all other emotions and experiences that may have caused us pain, anger, or suffering – yet we all experience these feelings at some time in our lives.
When we avoid anything, we make it separate from ourselves, which is the exact opposite of love; love is to bring something closer to ourselves, to unify. This separation is what causes great levels of disconnection, isolation, and pain in today’s society.
Fear causes separation
What causes us to separate is usually fear, and fear can often stem from trauma we have experienced. When that trauma is unresolved, we can perceive its presence as potential threats in our world, and this can cause a great level of stress. This is why it’s important we take trauma out of taboo and start talking about it. The more awareness and acceptance we can bring to the traumas of ourselves and others, the more we can create wholeness by giving love and care to the parts that really need it and integrate them. From here we can start to create a society that is more authentic in embracing all aspects of people’s experience.
Trauma is not necessarily so-called ‘big’ trauma
Trauma can be defined as any experience that overwhelms an individual’s ability to cope with life. It is anything that was too much, too fast, too soon, or wasn’t by choice.
For many of us, the word trauma often carries a certain weight and hugeness to it, and the assumption that trauma is only present in big scale incidents, such as a car crash, violent abuse, or torture. The truth is that trauma can be experienced in smaller moments, such as when we are shamed, hurt, or neglected. We make small by comparison something that could have had an effect on our mental, emotional, or physical health.
All pain and suffering, all experiences, all feelings matter – no matter how great or small we might think they are. You don’t have to have been in a massive, tragic event to be experiencing the symptoms of trauma. Each individual’s experience is valid just because it is felt, and this is enough reason to do what we need to support ourselves through it.
How does trauma show up in our lives?
Unresolved and unhealed trauma can show up in many different ways. It can affect the way we do or don’t care for ourselves and others, the way we react in our relationships, or what we are reacting to. Trauma can also impact how we generally feel within ourselves on a day-to-day basis. It can manifest as:
- poor memory
Trauma can lead to people questioning their own purpose, or even their lives. When we are experiencing these symptoms of trauma, but don’t have the awareness, resources, or tools for how to resolve them in a healthy way, it can play out in our behaviour. We may seek coping mechanisms such as drugs and alcohol, self-destructive habits or isolating ourselves.
Because of the way we are socialised, we can often judge these feelings and behaviours, rather than hold compassion for this aspect of ourselves or others, and appreciate that some level of pain from unhealed trauma is at play. If a small child were acting out in pain, would we judge them in the same way? Or would we seek to help and soothe what was causing them distress? When acknowledging trauma, we need to similarly treat ourselves and others with a more loving, gentle, and kind approach. Pain needs presence – not prosecution.
Trauma in relationships
At the heart of our relationships are our feelings, and all feelings are important indicators of what we are perceiving and experiencing in our own reality. When we have unresolved trauma, it can show up in our relationships as reactive behaviours: where we shut down, shut off, push away, run away, or fight.
Relationships are catalysts for growth and expansion. Often our partners and children have the capacity to illuminate the places within us that are needing our awareness and attention in order to create more healing and wholeness. But we tend to interpret this simply as our loved ones being the cause of the stress. When we can soften inside ourselves, take space, time, and ask questions to discover the deeper truth, we can start to heal the root wounding of the trigger, rather than shut down, avoid, or fight the ones who are just pressing the button that says, “Hey, look at this.”
Try this next time your family pushes your buttons
First, with awareness, bring your attention back to yourself – stop, breathe, and ask:
- What am I feeling right now in this moment?
- Do I know what triggered me?
- What does this feeling or situation remind me of?
- When was a time I experienced this before?
When you start to look inward like this, you can start to find where the roots lie rather than treating just the symptoms.
Then, when you can begin to heal from the roots, you dissolve the triggers, as their whole purpose – to bring our attention to the spaces calling for healing – is no longer needed. When you find this clarity and connection within yourself, you can then communicate and connect with your loved ones in a more authentic and honest way.
A time to be tender
The world needs more love, not less. One of the greatest acts of love is to bring something close to you and give it your awareness, time, and presence. The more we can honour that not all aspects of ourselves, others, and life feel pleasant and positive, the more compassion we can bring to these aspects that really need kindness. We can start to take down our guards of judgement, fear, and reluctance to feel discomfort. We can be more open to welcoming those aspects back into our hearts. Trauma is not something we need to avoid, dismiss, or deny, but something that we need to tenderly embrace with, “I see you, I feel you, and I care”. So bring your tenderness now, because it’s time.
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