“The ordinary response to atrocities is to banish them from consciousness.”
So writes Judith Herman in her powerful book Trauma and Recovery. In this text, Herman expresses a fundamental truth about trauma: We tend to push it down and out of sight. Most of us know what it means to hide away from the worst things that have happened to us.
The problem is that banishing our traumas doesn’t make them go away. As Herman notes in the same passage, “Atrocities … refuse to be buried …. Remembering and telling the truth about terrible events are prerequisites both for the restoration of the social order and for the healing of individual victims.”
In other words, you need to be able to recognize and name your trauma in order to heal from it.
Recognizing The Signs of Trauma
Longtime readers will note that we’re changing up our usual post format this week. We’ve just been hearing so much about trauma that we were moved to write this.
If you or someone you love shows these signs of unhealed trauma, reach out for help. Connect with a qualified, compassionate counselor; find someone who can help you to heal yourself.
It’s my belief that we heal ourselves, and that everything we need in order to heal is always available within us. That said, sometimes we need some help learning how to access those inner resources!
How many of these signs of trauma do you exhibit in your own life?
Top Signs of Unhealed Trauma
1. You’re hurting yourself.
When you’re hurting very deeply within yourself as a result of unhealed trauma, you’ll express that hurt in the external world in some form.
Human beings operate on four levels of self: Physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. What happens on one level affects all other levels; our mental and emotional pain manifests in the physical world.
For example, this internal pain may show up as overt acts of self-harm, including cutting and drug abuse. Or that pain may show up through more subtle behaviors, such as overwork.
2. You’re hurting others, or lashing out with anger when you least expect it.
As the saying goes, “Hurt people hurt people.” If you see someone screaming with rage at a helpless child, it’s a fair bet that that person is struggling with unhealed emotional wounds of their own.
When we don’t know how to manage our own pain, we tend to take it out on others. That’s one of the principles behind projection: We offload onto others that which we cannot bear within ourselves.
3. You’re struggling with depression, anxiety, or another serious mental health concern.
Depression is anger turned inward. Anxiety is what happens when we cut ourselves off from our feelings and our energy bounces back and forth between our internal walls. Both of these serious mental health conditions find their roots in unhealed trauma.
4. You avoid certain places, objects, or people you used to love, because they trigger terrible feelings.
Ever found yourself driving the long way in order to avoid a certain street, or burying certain objects in the very darkest corners of your home? Most likely, you’re doing so in order to avoid “tripping the wire” of unhealed mental and emotional pain.
5. You have significant gaps in your memory, particularly surrounding difficult times.
While not all traumatic events involve memory loss, we do know that it is possible for us to repress memories of our most traumatic times. For more on this topic, check out our interview on The Link Between Trauma and Addiction.
Do you relate to these 5 signs of unhealed trauma? If so, be sure to check out our next post, where we’ll share 5 more signs, as well as resources to get you on the road to healing.