How do I stop past trauma from affecting my present life choices and relationships?
Hi, B. My name is Beth Tabbert and I am a licensed counselor here at BetterHelp. Thank you for reaching out. I am so sorry you are struggling to overcome a past hurt. Asking hard questions, and opening up about your struggles is the first step in making getting past your trauma and making your life and your relationships happier, healthier, and more successful. We all have traumas in our pasts that interfere with our ability to fully enjoy our lives.
When a memory, emotion, interaction, and sensory information, like sights, sounds, or smells, pop up when you least expect it, it is called a trigger. A trigger is associated with a past trauma, which you have realized. Now that you have acknowledged these triggers, you can move toward processing them and moving past them or coping more effectively with them.
Insecurities, feeling controlled and unmotivated, having difficulty feeling close with people or trusting them, and all the difficult emotions are all "symptoms" of trauma. There are many others, that you may be experiencing, that you might not be aware of are also symptoms. Symptoms that can be eliminated or lessened through counseling.
Traumatic events can actually change the way the brain functions and the way we interact with our environments. Then, what happens is that you filter every experience through the past event. It sounds like one or more people from you past have hurt you deeply. I'm sorry you had to endure this and that it continues to hurt you today.
I'll give you a few tips to help you to start moving forward. First, acknowledge your emotions. They are valid! Every single one of them. You are not making them up, exaggerating them, or over reacting (or any other possible negative thing people in your life have possibly said to you to minimize or dismiss your pain or experience).
Second, know that whatever happened is not your fault. The person, or people, who hurt you hold the responsibility. Your responsibility is to grow from the experience and learn to not let their bad behavior and choices continue to hurt you.
Third, when you find yourself feeling triggered by someone else, who has done or said something that reminds you of the past, communicate that with them. Utilize an I statement, such as 'I feel anxious, sad, scared, etc, when X happens and I am going to ask you to help me with this by [state what you need in the moment].' Avoid saying 'you' during this sentence, to avoid an argument and don't respond to their defenses. Try to stay focused on your emotions, not their behaviors.
Finally, set good boundaries with people. The people who love you and respect you will respect your boundaries. They may not like it, but when you are consistent with your boundaries, they will catch up and respect them. Setting good boundaries is the way we teach others how to treat us and make us feel emotionally safe in relationships.
Also, always practice good self care and positive coping strategies, such as meditation, mindfulness, exercise, favorite pastimes and hobbies, and positive self talk. Writing about your thoughts and feeling can help too. It's a great way to process emotions and help yourself understand them better.
I hope this helps to answer your questions. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to provide some perspective.