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How to Know If You Have Unresolved Trauma – 12 Signs You May Be Carrying Emotional Wounds

by Body-Mind connection

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Angie Ramos

Clinical Hypnotist , Havening Techniques® Certified Practitioner, Somatic Practitioner

Most of us would not use the word trauma when telling our story, perhaps today is more common, but for so many people is not that easy to recognize the impact of their own experiences and emotions. It is very common to associate trauma with natural disasters, illness, war, loss, or other extreme acts of violence. Unless we have experienced sexual or physical abuse, or even if we have, we may tell ourselves that it wasn’t that bad or we don’t even allow ourselves to say that it was trauma. But today, trauma is defined as any shocking experience that has made us feel bad, scared, hurt or ashamed.

The truth is that most of us have experienced some degree of trauma in the process of growing up. And how well or poorly we cope with our lives today depends, to a large extent, on how much we are willing to acknowledge and make sense of these traumas.

Thanks to neuroscience and the development of our brain, we know how childhood experiences create our belief system in adult life, and form the schemas with which we relate to other people and our self-image and self-esteem.

What is emotional trauma?

An emotional wound is a type of emotional trauma that causes pain on a deep psychological level. It can result from any negative experience that makes us feel scared, hurt, ashamed, or bad.

Emotional and psychological traumas are the outcome of extremely stressful events that leave us feeling unsafe and disconnected from everyone around us. Such traumas can make us feel helpless, overwhelmed, and cause anxiety that persists.

The emotional wounds we suffer during our early childhood can create various defence mechanisms, which in turn create negative beliefs about ourselves and our relationship with the world.

To a child, even small rejections can seem like a life-or-death threat, since we depend on our parents for survival. We may think that our mother forgetting to pick us up from school or arriving too late was a normal (and unimportant) part of our childhood, but that experience may have been internalized in a way that makes you feel like you are not important or that you are not worthy of attention, or being over responsible.

Children quickly internalize or blame themselves for the traumatic events they experience. Often, as children, we end up feeling guilty for experiences that were completely out of our control, for example, the anger or sadness of a parent, physical or emotional abuse, or neglect of our caregivers. For a child, the need for connection is much more important, on a biological level, than maintaining our authenticity, so it is easier for a child to learn that the fault is in themselves, rather than thinking that their parents are untrustworthy or they hurt us because they can’t regulate their emotions.

We carry these beliefs, attitudes, and orientations into our adult lives and then unknowingly replicate them in our relationships.

Unresolved trauma is like a shadow that follows us, casting darkness over every aspect of our lives. Until we confront and address the wounds of our past, they will continue to bleed into our present, affecting our relationships, weakening our mental and emotional well-being, and limiting our ability to find inner peace. It is only by having the courage to confront our pain that we can move beyond it and discover the light that awaits us on the other side.

Unresolved Trauma - Angie Ramos

What is unresolved trauma?

Lately, we’re hearing more and more about trauma, and it’s important to know that unresolved trauma is actually what we see in our adult lives as toxic behaviours, negative patterns, and a negative self-image.

Unfortunately, we hear every day that the past must be left in the past and you have to forget or forgive what has been done to you, but just thinking positively or being grateful is not enough to stop suffering or change our lives to feel good.

It is important to know that when we have suffered trauma during our childhood, this changes our brain both physically and psychologically. It creates a more negative image of the world, and of ourselves. This trauma lives deep inside you and makes you act in a certain way even without knowing it.

Memories, even if they are rejected and unaware, are etched in our body, through our symptoms, in our unhealthy relationships and low self-esteem.

Many traumatized children feel that they have always been alone and in adult life, they unknowingly remain alone, without allowing themselves to ask for help, without allowing themselves to be vulnerable and think that someone could hurt them in the same way they were hurt when they were little.

The problem is that nowadays we want to solve everything with positive thinking, and unfortunately, yes, many therapists are not experts in childhood trauma, so many times in the process of healing, they make us feel bad or ashamed as if all we need to overcome depression, anxiety or addictions was just willpower. In reality, what we need is to get to the origin of the symptoms and behaviours that we want to change today, that is, to heal our nervous system, start feeling our emotions and learn how self-regulate. 

How to identify that you have unresolved trauma

Many people ignore the traumas of the past or use other methods that don’t involve the nervous system, thinking that somehow the symptoms and coping mechanisms will disappear just by forgiving or deciding to move from the past. It happened to me that, for a long time I spent “resolving” the past by denying it, using affirmations or other spiritual tools which made me develop even more trauma by not attending to my emotional needs, in addition of not being able to really connect with my emotions.

When we carry trauma, we can see it in many different ways. Some of these points that I am going to tell you are related to the research carried out on Adverse Experiences in Childhood and their impact on physical, emotional and mental health.

Here are some of the most common signs that may indicate that you are repressing trauma:

1. Intrusive memories:

Memories of the traumatic event may suddenly appear in your mind, without warning, and may be so vivid that they transport you back to the moment of the trauma. These flashbacks can be triggered by stimuli in your environment that remind you of the traumatic event and can cause intense emotional distress.

2. Recurrent nightmares:

During sleep, your mind may relive the trauma through distressing and vivid dreams. These nightmares can wake you up in the middle of the night, causing intense fear and making it difficult for you to get adequate rest.

3. Hypervigilance:

You constantly feel on high alert, as if you are constantly waiting for another traumatic situation to occur. This hypervigilance can make you feel nervous, irritable, and exhausted, as your body and mind are constantly in a state of alertness.

4. Avoidance of associated stimuli:

To avoid reliving the trauma, you may deliberately avoid anything that reminds you of the traumatic event. This may include avoiding places, people, conversations, or activities that could trigger painful memories.

5. Mood changes:

You experience significant emotional changes that may be difficult to control. You may go from feeling overwhelmingly sad or anxious to feeling irritable or hopeless within minutes, especially when something reminds you of the trauma.

6. Emotional hyperarousal:

Your emotions can be overwhelming and difficult to control. You may experience sudden bursts of anger, fear, or sadness that seem to come out of nowhere, resulting in impulsive or explosive behaviours.

7. Social isolation:

You feel disconnected from others and may find it difficult to trust those around you. This may lead you to socially isolate yourself, avoiding contact with friends, family, or coworkers, as you fear being vulnerable or hurt again.

8. Physical health problems:

The stress and emotional tension associated with trauma can manifest in physical symptoms such as chronic pain, gastrointestinal problems, frequent headaches, or difficulty sleeping. These symptoms can affect your quality of life and contribute to a cycle of emotional and physical distress.

9. Relationship difficulties:

Traumatic experiences can affect your ability to establish and maintain healthy relationships. You may have difficulty trusting others, expressing your needs, or setting healthy boundaries, which can negatively affect your personal and professional relationships.

10. Low self-esteem and negative self-criticism:

After trauma, you may blame yourself for what happened or feel ashamed or guilty about the circumstances surrounding the traumatic event. This can affect your self-esteem and make you feel unworthy of love, acceptance, or support from others.

11. Codependency:

You may develop codependent patterns in your relationships, constantly seeking validation and approval from others to feel worthy of love and attention. This can lead you to sacrifice your own needs and boundaries for others, perpetuating a cycle of dysfunctional and unbalanced relationships.

12. Mental illnesses:

Unresolved trauma can contribute to the development of mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), eating disorders, or other psychological conditions. These illnesses can affect your overall well-being and quality of life, requiring professional intervention to address and treat properly.

We cannot change the past, but we can change how we understand the way it has impacted us and how we liberate ourselves in the present to free ourselves for the future. Dr. Dan Siegel

 

Some tips to start healing trauma

1. Recognize

Often, this is one of the most difficult steps, it is not easy to recognize that the people you love the most are the people who hurt us. Or perhaps we are so focused on running away from the past that it is difficult for us to look back to recognize the true cause of our present discomfort.

Pause and notice what you are feeling.

This is usually the best way to realize how you are feeling and recognize that something is not right.

2. Accept/acknowledge/allow

Try to sit with your emotions, just let them arise. Notice how it feels in your body, without judging, without trying to eliminate it. Just notice it.

Notice sensations, images, feelings and thoughts.

3. Investigate/Explore

Start investigating your inner experience.

Gabor Maté has a concept that I use a lot in my sessions, and that is important to develop compassionate exploration.

When we compassionately explore, we do not try to judge or change, but rather we ask ourselves, why do I feel this way? What led me to act this way?

This will take us even deeper, making us notice that there is something more beneath those emotions, beneath those reactions.

4. Non-identification

The fourth point is to prevent thoughts, feelings or experiences from defining you. If a memory arises, remember that the memory is not happening to you now and does not define who you are.

Your reaction does not define you. Start to see those reactions, thoughts, and feelings as a way your body and mind protect you. They are not you.

5. Develop self-compassión

Making sense of these experiences from this more compassionate point of view helps us improve our relationships, as a parent or partners and even at work. Otherwise, we will continue to repeat the same attachment models with which we grew up and we will continue to project our beliefs on other people.

Creating a coherent narrative helps promote emotional regulation. It develops and improves the nine important functions of the prefrontal cortex, including regulation of our body, emotional balance, attuned communication and response flexibility, intuition, empathy, fear modulation, insight and morality. It can also help us form healthier bonds. (Lisa Firestone, Ph.D.)

We hear a lot about how we cannot change the past, “stop looking at the past”, “get as far away from the past as you can”, and “forgive and forget”, I believe that this attitude only hurts us and further distances us from healing and caring. the true origin of our unhealthy relationships, even with ourselves.

If we do not look to the past to explore it, we only cling to negative beliefs about ourselves, we continue repeating the same relationships, and the same patterns that do not help us feel good and achieve what we want. Attachment research teaches us that it is not what happened to us, but how much we have felt and experienced the full pain of our childhood that affects how we relate today. As children, our history has shaped our schemas, and the individuals we have become, but thanks to neuroscience we know that this can change.

We can shape our history, give it meaning and change our present. Of course, we cannot change what happened to us, but we can change the way we relate to our story and by healing our nervous system we can reduce the symptoms and change our physical and emotional responses. 

Conclusion

When we learn to approach our memories calmly and curiously, we are less likely to react with judgment or criticism. This way of exploring allows us to begin to notice our triggers and our behaviours that arose as protection or management of those strong emotions.

Dr. Daniel Siegel, one of the most recognized clinical professors for his research on brain development in children, recommends creating a coherent narrative. We all have a narrative of our past, through our compassionate exploration we can begin to make sense of our lives when we allow ourselves to look into our past to understand it, we can better understand how our past informs our current state, our decisions, and the way we live. the current way we see the world.

Hi! I'm Angie

Guiding you out of survival mode so you can start feeling confident and secure within yourself.

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