As we experience a present event in our lives that triggers the memory held in every cell in our bodies, our entire autonomic nervous systems re-experience the original trauma. Certain sounds, smells, or sights can remind us of a time and place that we had no control over bad things that were happening to us. The smell of pipe tobacco is one of those triggers for me. We may come to believe unconsciously that we are the sum total of nothing more than what happened to us.
All of life is then seen through those glasses. Perhaps, we were told or shown that we were not worth taking care of. Within that belief system, we make choices that impact our adult relationships, parenting, careers, and self-care. Our egos, the parts of us that hold those memories and attempt to keep the pain at bay, get caught up and carried along in our own reactivity, leading us to become other than who we really want to be. Instead of taking care of ourselves when we need some down time, we perhaps live out our unconscious belief about our worth by continuing to drive ourselves into the ground.
This presents two problems. First, we come to believe that we are only the culmination of our own thoughts and feelings. Whatever we think and feel has ultimate authority over what we perceive to be true. If something feels a certain way to us, we easily allow that to subvert even the reality of what we see and hear. Second, it perpetuates a cycle of violence that we perpetrate upon ourselves, shaming and beating up the parts of us that need love the most. This self-rejection then sets us up for lifelong abuse by our own hands or minds and the hands of others.
The PTSD that adults suffer from as a result of a temporary trauma can be challenging to heal. We all know of Vietnam veterans who still are unable to enter into life fully without being tortured by their experiences from the war many decades ago. Victims of natural disasters may have many triggers that send them into a fear response though there is no impending storm currently.
Complex PTSD that many people suffer from as a result of ongoing childhood trauma can seem impossible to recover from. Enduring many years of abuse at the hands of those we trusted without an adult to help us understand what happened creates havoc with every part of our minds, bodies, and spirits.
There are many people now working to help those with complex PTSD heal and live thriving lives. These resources cover a large variety of issues including physical, emotional, and spiritual healing. The good news is that we are not alone and there is help! Despite the reality that our brains have been traumatized in a variety of ways, there is great hope for healing. We live in a time where we are gaining understanding of how our bodies, minds, and spirits are affected by trauma and increasing resources daily for addressing those traumatized parts of us. The first, middle, and last thing we need to remember is that we can’t do it alone. Since our egos fail to inform us of the truths outside of our own thoughts and feelings, it is imperative for our healing that we have input from outside sources.