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Objections to Exploring Trauma in Therapy

There is a big misconception to Trauma, that it has to be something extreme. But the truth is, Trauma is about the IMPACT, NOT the event itself. The 2 main objections I see around exploring Trauma in therapy, come from this misconception, Either someone says "Well all my physical needs were met so I have nothing to complain about my childhood" or "Yes I had these severe things happen to me in early life, but I'm an adult now so I know that the past is not the problem."

There are a lot of factors that play into whether or not an event or situation becomes overwhelming enough to induce Traumatic Stress, major ones being developmental age and quality of support before during and after the event. In my approach there is an underlying assumption that what you are currently struggling with, let's say long-term anxiety, makes sense given a historical context of experiences that can have an impact on your sense of safety.

Those experiences though, may not be what you think, and impact affects more deeply and in more areas of your life than you may realize. But the key here isn't to play the blame game. In order to heal an impact, you must be able to see it for what it is. Acknowledging that some of your emotional needs were not met, does not automatically mean now you have to hate your parents and they are the worst human beings on the planet. But neither does that mean that it is somehow your fault for letting that impact you because some other needs were met.

On the flip side, sometimes the impact of severe events can be overlooked because of the amount of time that has passed, or a lack of understanding that Trauma, especially early life Trauma, affects the development of the nervous system itself. This does not actually mean that now you are screwed for life, or that you are somehow weak or wrong, or broken if you're in your 40s and still affected by an extreme event that happened when you were 6.

In both situations, the key question is still the same: What makes sense? If all your physical needs were met, but those who raised you were unaffectionate and only saw value in what you could achieve vs who you are, it makes sense that that experience over a long-term period such as a childhood would begin to affect what you believe about yourself.

DO you have any value outside of what you can achieve? Are you deserving of affection? It would make sense that this then creates a belief system that you must achieve or you don't have value. It would then make sense that you would become anxious about achieving, because what if one day you don't. The longer this story continues the longer lasting the anxiety.

Trauma can be defined as the nervous system replaying the past as if it were in the present. In this case what is being replayed is trying to get your emotional needs met by proving you deserve it through achievement. Unfortunately this tactic doesn't really work and you simply become more anxious. The other hard reality is that you can replace the initial situation with something extreme, let's say you fail at something once and are violently physically assaulted for this failure, the same exact domino affect will happen.

If you are convinced that your anxiety doesn't make sense and it's happening magically because your body is against you, then you have no way of addressing it, but if you begin to ask the question, what makes sense? You can work the dominos backward and begin to see a clearer picture of where healing needs to happen and how to approach it.

I've witness huge shifts occur in my patients when they begin to realize that they make sense. It sounds simple, but it is a HUGE factor in being able to see and address the impact of Trauma and the impact of events you may not have considered before.

I believe in the concept of using Fear as a compass. Usually what you are objecting to or resisting to look at is exactly where you need to look. YOU make sense, what you are struggling with makes sense, whatever affected you the impact makes sense.

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