One only has to open up the paper to see the devastating consequences of war and the refugees spilling into northern Europe from war-torn countries. Some of these, if not all will be victims of trauma. Alas, you do not have to be a refugee to suffer trauma.
The long-term effects of trauma.
Trauma can be a devastating shock to one’s psyche. Trauma can be linked to physical, sexual, and verbal attacks, or witnessing such attacks. People who have been raped or have witnessed a rape, witnessing a murder or catastrophic accidents, and even people who have been victims to benign medical procedures, have been known to suffer the effects of trauma.
Furthermore, an incident of shaming or an emotional or verbal attack, can leave its effects. One can also be traumatised after the breakup of a relationship, or a bereavement.
Trauma can shape people’s beliefs about themselves, or life in general. Trauma induced beliefs can be such as “I’m never safe, “no one will love me”, “Love is incredibly dangerous”, “it’s my fault”, “I’m defenceless” thoughts such as these can affect how people, feel about themselves such thoughts can cause depression.
Sometimes a person’s beliefs are based on something that was true at the moment of trauma, such as a feeling of helplessness, this can translate into a general feeling of powerlessness.
Beliefs that are formed due to the consequence of trauma are stored without contextual information. Therefore, a moment of helplessness at the point of trauma can be translated into the core belief that “I am always helpless”. If the person doesn’t get a chance to talk about the traumatic event, and express their emotions regarding this they can carry on holding this belief, for many years, if not for life.
Trauma can be linked with depression
Dramatic events, associated with trauma can turn a moment of helplessness into a person’s belief system. Therefore, it makes sense if people who suffered a traumatic event can suffer from depression, this is amplified by the feeling of powerlessness and this can be translated into the rest of their lives.
If trauma occurs in childhood, such as witnessing a parent being abused by another parent; often the case of domestic violence. A person can be often be left with the feeling of hopelessness, and lack of power, which they had as a child, watching a parent being abused.
So painful are these memories that the person can often develop coping strategies, which become part of their belief system.
Beliefs such as, “I’m a weakling” can become part of the person’s core beliefs, living with this can be difficult, especially for a man, as societal and individual family cultures may say that men have to be stronger than women.
How trauma can define your life.
Returning again to the child who has watched mother being abused by her partner. This child may develop the core belief that they are a coward. Such a child may start picking fights and engaging in risky behaviour at school. Such behaviours will give them a euphoric feeling of control and self-confidence, furthermore, give them a form of relief from the pain of the feeling of their core belief that he or she is weak. Such euphoric feelings can be gratifying and help, he or she’s, desire to avoid any form of shame, therefore they carry on taking risks and engaging in risky behaviours.
In taking such risks he or she starts to form a new identity about themselves, risky behaviour will often get a child in trouble, when they come up against the rules, especially in the education system. This means that kids, such as themselves, are inevitably being pulled into each other’s orbit. Therefore, this makes them hard to do well at school, developing an identity as the tough girl or boy, who is not to be messed with. Often this will lead to, brushes with authority, such as the police, social services and probation.
Beliefs formed at that moment of trauma can come to shape the decisions the victim will make, in later life, such as who he or she will date, what employment, he or she goes into, where eventually they live, and ultimately what company they keep; who their friends are.
The point of realisation: how psychotherapy/counselling can help.
At some point the trauma victim may realise that he or she is depressed, perhaps when a close friend dies from an overdose, or a man or woman they love leaves them, when their behaviour becomes unacceptable, or it could be when they, themselves, overdose, and end up in a hospital A&E.
It is at this point, in the victim’s life that the causes of depression, may be uncovered, this is often when the victim is persuaded to enter psychotherapy/counselling, sometimes this is not the case and the cycle is repeated many times over. In unravelling the victim story, they may become, angry, not only with themselves but also the perpetrator of the trauma. Sometimes this anger is inward turned, and self-hatred can develop over the years, sometimes the anger is at themselves through, taking risks over many years, despite the consequences. Ultimately, their depression began when they watched their mother being abused. When, that trauma is resolved, only then can extricate themselves from responsibility, realise it was never their fault, coming to the conclusion that they were a child and at that moment freezing was the only thing they could do.
Freedom to redefining oneself after therapy.
At this moment, this moment the victim often has the liberty to redefine themselves, and who they are. Knowing deeply that they were not at fault, as complex of these scenarios are there are many more examples of trauma, but ultimately talking about how you feel, with a trained professional, can help the victim move on, with their life’s.