Even if it is a common universal experience, trauma isn’t something most want to or care to talk about. As a society, we tend to associate trauma with some kind of physical harm, like domestic violence or sexual abuse, but trauma comes in many different forms that can stay deep within an individual for their whole lives and affect them daily.
Trauma is caused by events that left one feeling hurt, rejected, unloved, disregarded, or unwanted. The response from these situations leaves a lasting impression on your brain and can stimulate areas in your brain that are in charge of fear and alarm. It may be difficult to understand or admit, but your brain takes time and effort to heal when using healthy coping strategies.
Here are some of the top misconceptions about trauma and why they’re incorrect.
#1: Trauma destroys your life
While trauma can absolutely be life-changing, this does not mean recovery is impossible. Negativity and bad feelings may be a part of trauma, but so are light and growth in the healing process.
Success and healing do not always travel upwards in a linear path, but that does not mean the experience has to burden you for the rest of your life. The emotions you feel and have felt are valid, and it is possible to transform yourself and make yourself stronger for future difficulties.
Maybe your wound will never fully heal, but at least with time, effort, and patience with yourself, the pain can hurt a little less and allow you to move forward.
#2: Trauma is only caused by big, life-altering events
Something that causes trauma to one person may not to another. Trauma is not just a reaction to an event but is a result of the emotional and psychological effect that it has on a person. Any time something shocking happens, a traumatic reaction doesn’t happen immediately. It can rise later when a person begins to question themselves, their past, and their reality.
Many might think trauma only happens after physical or sexual abuse. While both of those experiences are very traumatic, that is not the only kind of trauma. Trauma is how a person has perceived the trauma, rather than the size of it, and it leaves one feeling scared, helpless, or vulnerable. Whatever caused you psychological or emotional damage will not have the same effect on another person because you are different people with different perspectives.
#3: Having trauma means you have PTSD
Not all those who experience trauma will go on to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is a mental health disorder that occurs after a person has a life-threatening traumatic event.
This trauma has caused them to experience flashbacks, irritable behavior, social withdrawal, and avoiding people and places for longer than a month after the event has occurred. Some people are able to handle some psychological effects more healthily than others, and others may find themselves to be more emotionally numbed or distraught due to the burden of their trauma.
#4: Struggling with trauma means you are weak
Society has placed expressing emotions or admitting fears to be a sign of weakness, but it couldn’t be further from true. Asking for help is incredibly hard, and so is dealing with exhausting symptoms of trauma by yourself, and being able to admit that is a very strong thing to do.
So many different factors can affect how someone deals with trauma, and it’s unfair to compare yourself to anyone else. Trauma recovery is very complex, and there is no right or wrong way to heal the damage.
#5: Time will help me not think about it
Trauma very rarely heals on its own. Being “strong” and powering through it leaves so much potential to open the wound again later, and it will keep happening until you face it.
This can worsen symptoms over time, or show up more intensely in certain situations, and affect your interactions and future relationships with family, friends, coworkers, and many parts of your everyday life. Maybe you are able to find ways to cope and avoid thinking about unpleasant memories, but this does not mean the memories are gone, and they can continue to influence actions and thoughts in the future.
#6: I have to get over it alone, and there’s nothing I can do
There is a way through your trauma and to find a new perspective in life, regardless of what you have experienced. You do not have to face your trauma alone, and there are people that care to help.
Even if trauma is an experience most go through in life, it doesn’t make it any less significant. Stanley Wipfli is a licensed trauma-based therapist in downtown San Francisco, who specializes in anxiety, depression, and PTSD therapy.
Contact Stanley Wipfli today for a free 15-minute consultation. In-person therapy is available in downtown San Francisco, as well as virtual therapy sessions for all California residents.