How to Overcome Trauma – Free Ebook

Psychological trauma can be defined as a negative event so overwhelming that we cannot properly

understand, process or move on from it – but, and this is the devilish aspect to it, nor

can we properly remember it or reflect upon its nature and its effects on us. It is lodged

within us but remains hidden from us, making its presence known only via symptoms and pains,

altering our sense of reality without alerting us to its devilish subterranean operations.

Unsurprisingly, a lot of psychological trauma happens in childhood. Children are especially

vulnerable to being traumatised, because they are congenitally unable to understand themselves

or the world very well – and have to rely
to an uncommon degree on parents who are frequently

less than mature, patient or balanced. A child may, for example, be traumatised by a parent

who – through no particular fault of their
own – becomes heavily depressed shortly

after childbirth. Or a child may be traumatised through exposure to a parent’s titanic rage

or violence. Or, because the widest category of psychological trauma is also the most innocuous,

a child may be traumatised by what psychologists term ‘neglect’, which might mean that,

at a critical age (between 0 and 5, and especially in the first 18 months), it was not properly

cherished, soothed, comforted and, to use
a large but valuable word, loved. Image result

for bridget riley The leading symptom of having been traumatised is fear. Traumatised people

are, above anything else, scared. They are
scared of getting close to others, of being

abandoned, of being humiliated and disgraced, of falling ill, probably of sex, of travelling,

of their bodies, of parties, of key bits of
their mind and – in the broad sense – of

the world. The legacy of having been traumatised is dread, an un nameable, forgotten, unconscious

memory of terror and fear projected outwards into a future. As the psychoanalyst Donald

Winnicott observed: ‘The catastrophe the
traumatised fear will happen has already happened’.

That is why, in order to find out the gist
of what might have occurred to us long ago,

we should ask ourselves not so much about the past (we won’t directly be able to remember),

but about what are we afraid will happen to us going forward. Our apprehension holds the

best clues as to our history. Crucially, and
surprisingly, it can take a very long while

before traumatised people even realise they are such a thing. A leading consequence of

trauma is to have no active memory of what was traumatic – and therefore no sense of

how distorted one’s picture of reality actually now is. Traumatised people don’t go around

thinking that they are unnaturally scared:
they just think that everything is terrifying.

They don’t notice their appallingly low
sense of self-worth: they just assume that

others are likely to mock and dislike them.
They don’t realise how uncomfortable intimacy

is: they merely report not being happy in
this or that relationship. In other words,

trauma colours our view of reality but at
the same time, prevents us from noticing the

extent to which we are peering at life through a highly distorted lense. Only with a lot

of time, luck, self-reflection and perhaps
the odd breakdown do traumatised people come

to a position where they start to notice that the way they think of the world isn’t necessarily

the way it actually is. It is a vast step
towards mental well-being to be able to be

usefully suspicious of one’s first impulses
and to begin to observe how much suspicion,

fear and self-hatred one is bringing to situations that truly don’t warrant them. Working through

trauma usually works best when we can hook up our own malfunctioning and distorted brain

to another more clear-sighted one – and
can test our readings of reality against those

of a wise friend or therapist. We stand to
recognise that – to our great surprise – we

are not perhaps inherently disgusting; maybe not everyone hates us; perhaps everything

isn’t headed for complete disaster; maybe
we are not in line for a horrific punishment.

And crucially, if we do suffer reversals,
maybe we could find our way out of them, because

we are (and this can come as a true revelation) now adults, not the nine month old infant

whose trauma altered our mind. Overcoming trauma is the work of years – but the beginning

of the end starts with a very small step:
coming to realise that we might actually be

traumatised and that the world may not be the dark, fearful, overwhelming and dread-filled

place we had always assumed it had to be.

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