A trauma is something that all of us experience throughout our lives. Trauma can be the break-up of a relationship, moving school as a young person, moving house as a young person, an argument that you have with a key figure in your life. All of these are different everyday traumas.
Some traumas can be really prolific and very obvious like instances of abuse or violence and some can be a lot more covert e.g. dynamics in relationships can be very traumatic and are not always as easy to identify. So, it’s not a question about whether we have trauma, we all have trauma. The question is whether we’re able to identify that and whether we’ve been able to process and move on from that trauma. When that trauma is not validated for us we can become stuck with things.
I believe that trauma responses are any of those destructive strategies that we use to try and cope and manage our emotions. Often, this is what we recognise as mental illness – depression, anxiety, eating disorders, self-harm, addictions etc. If this is you, my answer would be you have trauma and it’s not been processed because you are acting out in these self-harming ways. Traditionally when we thought of self-harm we thought about it in a very literal way as somebody harming or injuring themselves. Actually, we self-harm in lots of different ways – by not feeding ourselves properly, by not resting properly, by pursuing relationships with people who hurt us.
Partly it’s about looking at what’s driving some of those destructive behaviours and what’s the internal narrative that we have. Is that internal narrative telling us that we are worthy of love, kindness and compassion or is that internal narrative critical, unkind, punitive? For so many of us, the latter is the case. So unpicking all of this and just being a little bit curious about what’s motivating your choices and being able to identify certain patterns of your behaviour can in itself be super healing.