Why does my trauma still affect me?

banner image

You’ve worked so hard taking the steps to leave the abusive relationship or set those boundaries with family, just to find yourself still being affected by triggers and reminders of the past.

This can be confusing and so frustrating. The impulse might be to “push through” and shame yourself out of thinking about the past. But unfortunately, this tactic is not helpful and will only result in prolonging the problem.

The reality is that trauma can be life changing. 

No matter if it occurred 15 days ago or 15 years ago. It affects the way we think, feel, and make decisions. And the best way to heal from those effects is to process it and work through it.

When an adverse experience (or trauma) occurs, it affects the survival center of your brain. It’s responsible for responding to danger and keeping you safe–physically and emotionally. 

For example, if you see a tiger charging towards you, the brain will make the decision to “fight, flight, or freeze” in efforts to protect you from that attack.

In addition to this, your brain also takes in details about that attack (i.e., the sound of the tiger growling, the smell of the grass) to help remember this event so it can respond better next time. Unfortunately, however, the brain doesn’t always get this information exactly right. For example, it might become difficult for you to mow the lawn if the smell of the grass triggers your memory of the tiger attack. Even though it is logical that your lawn doesn’t have a tiger in it, your survival brain might still want to try to protect you.

So when you think about the long-term effects of a past trauma, a trigger might look like perceiving a facial expression from your boss that reminds you of the look your ex gave you when he was drunk. 

Or bending over backwards in a relationship because as a child your needs were criticized and ignored.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a therapy that helps to heal the effects of trauma by reprocessing the troubling details of the memories and restoring them in a more adaptive place in your long-term memory. As those memories lose the strong emotional hold over you, you will have more opportunity to feel confident, in control, and safe in your body as you go throughout the rest of your life.

If you’re ready to begin healing from past trauma, reach out to me here.

Photography by Portrait Memoirs