The Trauma Centre of Australia believes that trauma is complex and can include many scenarios.
They define trauma as “a psychological wound that has occurred due to a person’s perception of a stressful event” (Peter Horton CEO, 2013).
Many hear the word trauma and think of horrific cases of war, physical or sexual abuse, natural disasters, car accidents, extreme deprivation and so forth.
However trauma may include other experiences.
For instance, to a child, trauma may include not having his or her basic needs met on a repeated basis (food, hygiene, emotional needs etc). Trauma may include being bullied or when a child’s emotional needs are not met.
Manitoba’s Trauma and Information Education Centre states that a “traumatic event can involve a single experience, or enduring repeated events, that completely overwhelm the individual’s ability to cope or integrate the ideas and emotions involved in that experience.”
In the end it is the person’s perception that determines what is viewed as stressful and traumatic.
A persons beliefs about themselves may also affect how an experience is be perceived. Furthermore, existing beliefs may be either re-inforced by the trauma or develop as a result of the trauma.
Imagine these two different people:
One who is confident, secure and believes in himself.
The other who has low self-esteem and doubts himself.
They may both experience physical, verbal or emotional abuse from a loved one yet will perceive and react to the event completely differently.
The first person may take not take it as personally and make an effort to change the situation or ask for help.
Yet the second person may view the abuse as traumatic. He may take it personally, with the words compounding their own feelings of low self-worth and confidence. This person may believe the words being said to him or her.
The situation may perpetuate feelings of lack of safety, trust and belief in oneself.
Future experiences may further reinforce the person’s beliefs of “not good enough” or worthy enough.
Trauma can affect our core beliefs about ourselves.
For those who have experienced trauma, some of the distorted beliefs that may be re-enforced or may develop are “I am not good enough”, “I am unworthy”, “I am not safe”, “I can not trust anyone”, “No-one will listen to me or believe me”.
These beliefs become engrained in the person. And years later he or she may still have such beliefs even though these beliefs are no longer true.
Changing these beliefs comes with awareness of beliefs.
For those who have experience trauma – they may have lived most of their lives with such beliefs, and thus be unaware of them. They have not known any other way. Often it can come as a surprise when these distorted beliefs surface.
Some ways to become aware of and change distorted core beliefs include:
Reflective practices such as journaling, mindfulness or meditation
Affirmations or mirror work
Sharing in appropriate trauma groups
Formal therapy or complementary therapies
In the end our body has an inner wisdom that allows things to surface when we are ready and feel safe to do so.
Avdeep is an occupational therapist and coach who enables clients to make positive shifts in their thoughts and beliefs. She creates a space that allows clients become aware of their limiting beliefs and uses techniques to shift these beliefs. Through these processes clients can recognize and live to their highest potential.