Maybe you don’t think about the past. You don’t want it to get in your way.
But somehow, underneath it all, there’s something you witnessed, experienced, or heard about pushing peace and happiness just out of reach.
A lot of people handle tough times the way you do. But the pain in your past can still make trouble.
Whatever it was you endured, you never want to experience it again. So you forced yourself to get over it. To get on with it. To file it away. Unfortunately, you may find now that life just won’t cooperate.
Actually, it’s likely more complicated. Your relationships are difficult. And you just can’t seem to feel better or make the kind of choices that will give you the life you hoped for.
First, know that it’s okay. It’s tough right now, but you can work through this.
What’s going on?
You may be experiencing the pain and confusion of unresolved trauma.
Despite your attempts to be done with the pain of the past, your pain really isn’t being handled effectively. It’s still living inside you, negatively affecting your perspective and clarity.
Essentially, the trauma is buried and blocked out, rather than accepted and addressed.
You may not even realize that your actions are related to trauma. Do you recognize any of the following behaviors? Unresolved trauma symptoms include, but aren’t limited to:
- Conflict avoidance
- Addictive behavior
- Intolerance and avoidance of intense feelings
- Feeling spaced out, losing or missing time
- Chronic depression
- Eating disorders
- Intense anxiety or panic attacks
- Intrusive thoughts or images, flashbacks, bodily pain
- Unexplained, intense fears of people, places, objects
- Assuming fault or responsibility inappropriately and profusely
- Disorganized or unhealthy relationship attachments characterized by short, intense relationships, minimal connections, or dysfunctional relationships with inappropriate people
Don’t worry if you recognize yourself in the list above. Most people dealing with unresolved trauma are stuck because denial and suppression feel safer. You now have the opportunity to make changes.
How can I overcome unresolved trauma?
It’s okay if you need help to recognize and resolve your traumatic experiences.
You can work through trauma successfully if you face your situation and commit to healthier mental and emotional processing. How?
Accept the past. A lot of what you suffer now is perpetuated by avoidance and denial. You’ll begin to recover and regain some clarity when you begin to tell yourself the truth. Say it. Write it down. Share it with a friend. Allow the truth to stand on its own. You may discover you’re stronger than you think.
Seek help.You needn’t do this alone. It’s often much more productive to work with a professional who can help you process your experience without reliving it or being re-traumatized by the memory. Find someone experienced and trustworthy to guide you toward healing.
Look closely at how your suffering serves you. Sometimes it is hard to heal because we derive a certain amount of comfort from the pain we know. It is important to ask yourself:
- Is my unresolved trauma an excuse to behave the way I do? (Nobody will blame me… look at what I’ve been through!)
- Is my unresolved trauma my identity? (My past, my anger, my depression, my loneliness is all I know how to be.)
- Am I using my unresolved trauma to obtain the attention, affection, or love I crave? (He/she loves me because I need them so much.)
- Is my unresolved trauma punishment for someone else? (I want him/her to recognize how they hurt me by my suffering!)
Finally, as you work through these questions, you may see how they lead to unproductive thinking and behavior. Consequently, you may feel less inclined to live your life plagued by depression, anxiety, self-destructive tendencies, problematic relationships, physical pain, and addiction.
More empowered and able to make healthy choices, you can move forward. You can discover a future unburdened by false beliefs and unproductive perceptions.
Resolving trauma in therapy helps provide healthier tools to cope. With those employed, you can choose to move past the people and circumstances of the past.
You can open yourself up to new experiences, embrace a new view of yourself, and learn to see people through a lens unclouded by trauma.
Now is the time to stop your suffering. Face your past.
Be patient with yourself and happiness will bloom as you come to see that your life can be so much better.