Why Won't Past Trauma Let You Get Past Your Past?
When we have a past trauma, so many things can trigger an old memory to rise up and take over our emotions. A smell, a shape, a sound, a touch, a person. Anything our senses take in can send us emotionally back to a threatening past trauma.
The suffering of this is intense. It may be a nightmare, a flashback, or an anxiety attack. It can also be incredibly frustrating and disappointing that even though you are presently safe--that you feel the persistent panic as though you are still in constant danger.
Trauma Reactions from the Past Are With You for a Reason
When you were in a situation of danger, (i.e, being abused, combat, prison camp). You needed acute skills of survival. These skills have literally saved your life! This constant vigilance is how you made it through.
For example, you kept a secret to save a sibling from harm. Or, you made sure things looked okay to an outsider so that police wouldn't be called. Or you worked hard in school to prevent abuse. These skills were so essential to your survival that they meant everything to you. These skills meant your next breath. You needed these skills and thank God you had them!
Getting Past Your Past Trauma
Now, you may be safe in your life, yet you are still triggered into the panic. You are still afraid to tell the secrets. You are still afraid of people: what they might think of you, what they might do to you, how you will react to them. But you don't need these old skills anymore. They were so helpful when you needed them, but now, they are getting in your way of living your life.
Healing seems scary at first. It goes against the skills you created to survive. It can be confusing, since these skills meant everything to you.
Respectfully Release Your Unneeded Skills
Letting them go like they are garbage doesn't give them the honor they deserve. They saved your life! Thank these skills: how they protected you and others, how they made you feel empowered, how you survived. Thank them from the bottom of your heart. Give them a truly honored send off. Write them a thank you letter. Have a ceremony.
Only then, let those skills know they have done their duty and they can retire. You can take it from here. Only because they gave you this chance.
Then, continue your healing journey.
Can you tell me what skills you have had that saved your life?
Lobozzo, J. (2013, February 27). Why Won't Past Trauma Let You Get Past Your Past?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, October 1 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2013/02/why-cant-you-get-past-you-past
Author: Jodi Lobozzo Aman, LCSW-R
Care taking which I later learned was codependency. I still feel the need to make everything ok with everyone and feel very stressed when someone is angry.
Maybe you are more normal than you think!
[...] It was in the past. Sometimes people have anxiety from trauma that happened. Read here how to get past your past. Remember: there is no danger today. Use affirmations or therapeutic documents to help you [...]
This post absolute resonated with me,as do the comments-I finally feel I found a niche. I was misdiagnosed with BPII for over 8ys. It hit me when I was 4yrs sober.Excruciating depression. During the times that I could function I had body experiences & tears without emotions. Memories came back a yr ago & got correct diagnosis fm Psychologist. Awareness & Acceptance is so difficult. PDoc isn't educ.about,but doesn't deny at least. Haven't att. S, but have been obsessed with as only solution to pain. I get so tired. I have 'hope?' maybe here? Info to heal?
I am not sure if you are asking a question of me. It was hard for me to follow your comment. I hope you have hope and that some of the info you read here can add to it!
Thank you CFCD! I hope this brought you solace. You are brave for starting therapy. I hope that did not cause you to OD. I understand both wanting/seeking out aloneness and feeling lonely. This tells me about low self worth which makes sense from your history of abuse. You had unspeakable things done to you, and that was horrible and not right. I am so sorry. I hope you find peace by finding the light in yourself. Abuse can't estinguish it completely, it just makes it hard to see.
My survival skills....pushing everything down inside for the last 47 years. The neglect,the years of sexual abuse that started at 5 and then continuing on into physical and emotional. I will never have a partner and don't want one. I started therapy six months ago and have overdosed 5 times....cannot deal with the nightmares and flashbacks anymore or the loneliness ...even though I want to be alone! Doesn't make sense...but then none of this does! Jodi....it certainly sounds like you are a godsend to so many people and am glad you are dedicated to helping so many of them overcome this mess. Thank God for You and all those like you.xo
Great blog. I agree with what you are saying, except for the word "skills". It's not you, it's my own non-existent self esteem talking. I don't think hiding, running away as fast as you can, letting your abuser do whatever they want to you to protect others, letting yourself be used as a slave, keeping the younger kids quiet, raising younger siblings, making the house "perfect" with no noise or covering for siblings so they wouldn't get a beating is considered skills. It's survival mode. 'Children are to be NOT seen & NOT heard' was one of the rules. Being the oldest, it was exhausting work. How do you keep a house quiet with 5 little kids? It's impossible. I was set up by 2 maniacs who never should have been allowed to have children. Maybe it was skills, but I would change it to survival skills. <3
Yes, they are survival skills, that's exactly it! You used them to survive and help your sibs survive! Without those survival skills you might all be dead or worse. Maybe you are starting to see? xoJ
I learned to be quiet and watchful. I have tried to turn that around to something more positive--to be aware of others' feelings and mood to better help them, not to better protect myself.
Awesome, Tina! Great skills!
I know that when I go home to visit my family, the whole trip traumatizes me because everything is the same old stuff, the same house, the same town, the same people, all where i did my screwing up and being crazy. my family doesn't really understand, but after i'm there for more than a week I start to go downhill........
Never schedule your visits more than a few days if you must go at all. And then take provisions with you. A friend, an activity, something that can help you get through!
I'd say one of my skills is the fine art of becoming invisible. Not literally, of course, but not putting myself forward, speaking in a subdued voice, if at all, sitting in the back of the class/corner of the room and observing rather than participating.
I still do it at times, when sussing out a new situation, but I don't *stay* in the corner forever.
I think you are savvy enough to know when to use this skill and when not to! This is a double skill! Thanks for the comment! <3 Jodi