In Part one of this series on trauma and EMDR, we acknowledged that it’s not uncommon for us to have a hard time recognizing traumatic events in our own lives. The reason we may need to look carefully and honestly at our past is because traumatic incidents often hijack our current emotions, behaviors, relationships, choices, coping, etc. If we see and name the historical events accurately, we can actually walk towards health and freedom.
Here, in part two, we’re looking at reasons we might miss seeing or naming our own experiences as traumatic.
Most likely, the incidents don’t qualify in your mind as a “traumatic.” Why is that? It may be due to messages you received from important people in your life, unhelpful societal norms, self-blame, or great pain-avoidance tactics. There are also some common lies that get in the way of seeing accurately.
When people experience powerful, negative events they can’t explain away, they may believe the Lie of Responsibility: “I’m responsible. I caused it. Or, I could have prevented it. If I had been a better, smarter, or stronger version of myself, this would never have happened. Essentially, the fact that it happened was my fault.”
Or there’s the Lie of This-is-Small: it sounds something like, “You’re being dramatic or high maintenance; this shouldn’t matter. If you weren’t so emotionally fragile, it wouldn’t be that big of a deal.”
Sometimes there’s the Lie-of-Fine: this one sounds like, “It’s fine. It’s in the past. I’m over it.” To be clear, we can grow to be “fine” but the way we say that would sound more like, “Yeah, it was hard for a while. I wrestled with it, and did some hard work. Seems like I’ve slowly moved through it to a different place where it has less power now.” Big difference, right?
We’re also great at distancing ourselves from our pain – but that’s not to be confused with healing or resolving our pain. We find things to run to that make us feel great (achievement, romance, sex, money, image, perfection, control, food, substances, comments on social media that tell us we are brilliant, beautiful and important). We can spend all our time running – in pursuit of whatever gets us further from that thing that hurt or made us feel weak, vulnerable or not good enough.
There are a variety of reasons that we miss seeing our own trauma. In the upcoming blogs, we’ll break down the definition of trauma, and discuss one great option for resolving it.
Written by: Mindy Pierce