"Trauma is a treacherous road, because without a safe and secure environment, patterns of disconnect and disengagement can lead to further hurt down the road."
As a counselor, it is easier to say, “no one deserves to experience trauma of any sorts” than it is to recognize that trauma engulfs our communities, our nations, and our homes. Like makeup, trauma covers the mere complexion of our identities. First and foremost, trauma covers a wide variety of experiences or events in one’s life—overwhelming experiences of near-death circumstances, a threat to one’s life, loss of control, an actual physical injury, witnessing death or injury, or long-term exposure of emotional neglect, to name a few. Each of these situations might involve some form of low or high exposure to such circumstances. What is easily misunderstood regarding trauma is the fact that many people, who experience similar events of trauma, experience the symptoms of trauma or PTSD differently.
Developmental distress conveys how, depending on the stages of our life when we experience trauma, our brain is susceptible to embedding these memories and impacts one’s ability to heal or connect. Trauma is a treacherous road, because without a safe and secure environment, patterns of disconnect and disengagement lead to further hurt down the road.
It impacts our ability to connect and attach in healthy ways with other people, to regulate or process our own emotional experiences or control how we are behaving. One of the hardest realities clients I’ve worked with have had to accept in some way is-- I didn’t have someone checking in to ask, “It seems like something is going on, you can talk to me,” or, “How are feeling? I want to understand what you need when you feel __________.” In certain bonds, this pattern of checking in is inconsistent or absent all together, which leads to internalizing emotional experiences. I like to call this experience emotional conservation—conservation mirrors terms like preservation and protection—for people who have experienced this in their lives, and have endured the windy roads of trauma, they learn to accept that “no one is going to show up,” “I guess no one cares,” or in other ways experience shame or guilt about sharing their own emotional experiences with others. Safety becomes protecting others from their vulnerability, because they’ve learned that they cannot trust anyone else, but themselves, to manage that pain.
And the hardest truth is that we cannot regulate all of our emotional experiences on our own. This is where we see the beauty of secure attachment in sessions as counselors. When you experience this long and treacherous road of trauma, tied to inconsistent or absent emotional attunement, you find it hard to trust someone else to dig into the very protection that has covered the complexion of your emotions. When individuals find themselves faced with ongoing, and similar experiences of trauma, it is likely they’ve learned that they must bottle up their emotions to the extent that they pressure themselves to find an answer to whatever issues they are facing. They learn to build a logical safety net—I see this with clients when, for ex. They’re triggered by their partners actions and begin to feel fear regarding their safety—while their partner may be engaging in a safe and secure way, they feel exactly opposite, unsafe and insecure. Instead of reaching out for comfort in this time, they move into their heads and question what’s going on, why it is happening, and protect themselves from further pain.
Instead of opening up to someone that might want to provide a healing space for them, they shut down, withdraw or disengage in a way that closes themselves off from connecting with their loved ones.
Whatever your experiences with trauma might entail, we want you recognize the beauty of secure attachment—when you find yourself struggling to engage emotionally with yourself and others, learning to reengage and repair unhealthy cycles of communication and rebuilding vulnerable ways of connecting. We strive on unraveling unhealthy patterns of protecting the real vulnerable parts of ourselves and sharing it with someone that can help us understand our emotions and emotional needs in times of great distress.
If this hits the mark on some of your internal struggles and experiences, please reach out to us to schedule an appointment. If you feel resistance or reluctance seeking help, and have endured these types of traumas, it’s valid that it might be difficult to do so. We will work together and build the safety and security you need for healthy emotional survival and connection.