Do you know the full legacy of the emotional trauma you suffered?
Perhaps you feel you’re very tuned in and aware of how you are affected. If that’s the case, good.
You will find more relief when you can readily acknowledge your suffering.
But, sometimes we just can’t see everything we want to see or know everything we think we should know about ourselves. Some hurts are buried or too painful to explore on our own. And some signs of trouble just simmer and bubble up through our lives over time.
Consider these often overlooked markers of emotional trauma. These signs of emotional pain are subtle and may take a keen, objective eye to be seen and effectively resolved.
Do you hold back, hold on too tightly, or try to hold off the world?
The pain and confusion of emotional trauma undoubtedly changes the way you relate to people. Perhaps you missed the signs of relationship difficulty because the way you interact or refuse to interact is somehow different from the way you or others imagine a trauma sufferer should behave. Keep in mind, the effects of emotional trauma often aren’t necessarily static, textbook, or predictable. Sometimes you must look deeper than assumptions or common stereotypes to see your unique reactions or interactions and really start healing. Might you be dismissing or overlooking these signs of emotional trauma because you assume something more explosive or dramatic should be occurring?
• Withdrawal: You feel disconnected, prefer to remain in the background or opt for isolation. It may even appear to friends and loved ones that your withdrawal is a rebuff or rejection of them. Unaddressed, this can lead to hurt feelings or add additional strain on your relationships.
• Dependence: Unresolved or untreated emotional trauma may live on inside you as anxiety and fear. Helplessness and powerlessness can become a mindset as a result. You may find that this manifests in a desire to hand over the reins of your life to others. Do you feel unqualified to manage your body, life, decisions, and/or relationships? As you live this way, you may find that those you love most misunderstand you or feel burdened by the way you lean on them.
• Overprotection: That same previously mentioned powerlessness may play out another way. Perhaps the feelings connected to your emotional trauma create a strong penchant for policing or protecting everyone you care about. You might attempt to control or corral your loved ones; so much so, they feel you are crossing boundaries and becoming intrusive. This may lead to the sense that your efforts are constantly frustrated and your care is unappreciated.
Do you feel like a “square peg”?
How you see yourself now, post-emotional trauma, has likely shifted greatly. Your self-perception was significantly tested, altered, maybe even broken. You may feel like a victim when you used to feel powerful, or suspicious when you used to trust easily.
More than that, however, you may not fully realize what subtle fractures from emotional trauma in your identity can lead to. A deep sense of social disqualification may occur. Your experience can leave you feeling unacceptable or outside the sense of normalcy that defines and connects you to safety and safe people.
Employment may be hard to sustain. Your love life may be static, dramatic or toxic. Your friendships may feel untrustworthy.
Why? Emotional trauma can make you feel alien or foreign, like you just don’t know how to fit or whether you’re good enough to expect acceptance.
This loss of identity even attacks your innate desire to belong at all and can leave you feeling lost and questioning your worth.
The effect of this reality on your personality can also be confusing and upsetting to people who know you, making healthy interaction difficult.
Are you worn out, numbed out, or checked out?
Another subtle aftermath of emotional trauma is a kind of internal slowing down. Maybe you just feel completely exhausted most of the time. Perhaps lethargy or emotionlessness keeps you disconnected. Or maybe you just live in a foggy internal shutdown of sorts.
What’s happening? Expression of painful or frightening emotions may simply seem intolerable for you. So, essentially you turn difficult emotions off. Unfortunately, all the good and pleasurable emotions cease as well. Of course, while this begins as a subtle change, the ramifications are an even deeper psychological pain. This walled-off reaction makes intimacy unlikely, or rocky at best. Your partner or loved ones may feel confused by your aloofness and wonder about your feelings for them. Over time, this can be extremely dissatisfying for everyone, leading to more emotional pain.
It’s time to deal with the conscious and unconscious effects of emotional trauma you experience every day.
Emotional trauma can harm you in ways you may not even realize right now. You are wise to seek therapy for guidance through the maze of feelings and responses that keep you stuck. Whatever it is you need to deal with, subtle or plainly visible, you can heal with compassionate help and commitment to the process.
Take the First Step…
If you’re ready to take a step toward healing from emotional trauma, I would like to help. Please contact me by phone or by email so that we can discuss how we might work together to achieve your therapeutic goals as quickly and effectively as possible. I look forward to hearing from you.
Linda K. Laffey, MFT