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Overcoming a Traumatic Past

Overcoming a Traumatic Past

When you experience trauma, it can leave physical as well as emotional and mental scars. People who’ve had trauma in their past can sometimes be closed off and hesitant about trusting other people.


These kinds of experiences can make you feel worthless and impact your ability to achieve your life goals unless you know how to deal with fallout from them.


When Childhood Abuse Shapes Who You Are for the Future


Everyone learns about trust and how the world operates as children. Whether their experiences are good or bad, it shapes who they are for the future. Those who had a normal childhood grow up with the skills to navigate the adult world.


Those who have a childhood where abuse was present are often missing some of those important and necessary skills. Because children who experience trauma often deal with things that are beyond their mental or emotional capacity, they learn their own ways to cope.


These wrong coping skills develop to protect themselves from what the mind or body is unable to deal with. The age of the child, the type of abuse and the duration of abuse will impact the ways in which they learn to live as adults.


Many instances of childhood abuse show up in adulthood as anxiety, low self-worth, depression, withdrawal from other people, places or relationships. Fearful of new places or people.


Not feeling safe. Hypervigilant. Angry. Big reactions to small things that remind them of the trauma. Addictions. Self-harm. You cannot help what happened to you as a child. None of it, regardless of what it was, what you did or didn’t do, is your fault.


You were a child and you have no responsibility for how you were treated or what was done to you. If anyone asks, “why didn’t you stop it, tell, get away” remember that’s the wrong question asked in ignorance by someone who doesn’t understand childhood trauma.


One type of childhood abuse is verbal abuse. This is defined as criticism or insults spoken to you with the intent to be destructive in nature. The problem with verbal abuse is that you internalize these words even though they’re not true.


You take the “you are” plus whatever ugly thing was said and you turn it into “I am” plus whatever ugly thing that was said. You continue the job of eroding your confidence that someone else began when you do that.


Don’t rehash someone else’s words. Reject them with loving statements to yourself. I am beautiful. I am worthy. I matter. Verbal abuse says you are inferior. When in reality, you are superior to them.


Seek support from friends or from a therapist. Read self-help materials to help you retrain the wrong way that your brain has been taught to speak to you. Verbal abuse is just one type of childhood abuse that can cause pain and shape who you are.


Physical abuse as well as sexual abuse can cause a great deal of emotional turmoil. Abuse is about power. Someone else having power over you. While you bear no responsibility as a child for what you went through, it is your responsibility as an adult to deal with the lingering effects of the abuse.


You can be now what you could not then. Then, you were powerless. Now, you are not. Then, you were not in control. Now you can be. You are free. Healing from childhood abuse begins with rejection.


You must reject the hurtful ways in which the abuse affected you. It’s not a simple matter of telling yourself that you’re done and it magically happens. You must deal with what hurt you.


Ignoring it doesn’t work. You need closure. You need to grieve for what should have been but wasn’t. Start by not minimizing the abuse. Don’t push it down. Face that you were hurt and that the blame is on the abuser.


Not you. Recognize defensive actions in your life such as pushing people away, not letting anyone in. Choose to not let the trauma have center stage by accepting that it happened and then letting go.


That doesn’t mean you’re saying it’s okay.  It means you’re saying the past has taken enough from you. It doesn’t get your present life, too.


Abusive Marriage


Marriage relationships are supposed to be loving and supportive. They’re supposed to be with people who want what is best for you. Those who want your dreams to become reality simply because you do and they care about you.


Unfortunately, this is not the case with every marriage. Some marriages are abusive ones. Signs of an abusive marriage can be subtle such as gaslighting - manipulating you psychologically until you begin to question what you know is the truth.


You doubt yourself and question your own reality. An abusive marriage can be one in which a spouse accuses you of things you didn’t say or do. Another sign is a partner who tears you down.


He or she is critical of your appearance, your accomplishments or your dreams. Your partner may be constantly checking up on you when you’re not in the home and sometimes even when you are at home, he or she may want to constantly stay in touch to see what you’re doing.


He or she may hit you, shove you or perform other acts of violence that are abusive. Abuse in any form - whether it’s verbal or physical - is not okay. It eats away at your self-worth and makes you question yourself.


An abusive marriage is one in which a partner chisels away at you until you lose who you are for who the other person wants you to be. You have to remember that you cannot ever please someone who has an abusive personality.


That’s because the problem lies with that person and not with you. If you’re in an abusive marriage, that situation as well as the lack of support from the spouse has the ability to get in the way of you reaching your goals.


It can slow you down because you’re so busy trying to focus on surviving emotionally and sometimes physically that it takes most of your attention. You have little left of yourself to achieve what you really want to do with your life.


But that only happens if you don’t take back control of your life. First, you have to realize an important truth. That is that no one has the right to make you feel like unworthy regardless of who it is.


No one has the right to control you. You don’t need someone else’s approval to live your life the way you want. To achieve your goals. No one has the right to verbally tear you down or to touch you in ways that are hurtful or that make you feel shame.


Take back control by getting out of any marriage relationship that is physically violent. A spouse who does this kind of behavior rarely changes. Your life and your dreams need to be protected.


Get out. Whatever it takes. You should be treated with kindness and love. You deserve that. Regroup and decide what you want in life and what you need to get there. Then do it.


You may only be able to take small steps like buying some material or taking a class but do it. Every small step leads toward the completion of your dreams.


Accident or Crime


Traumatic life events such as car wreck or other serious type accident can disrupt your achievements. So can things like being the victim of a robbery or assault. For some people incidents like these that are traumatic in nature can completely throw them off course.


They can’t seem to find their forward momentum. That’s because a traumatic event disrupts your sense of normal. It impacts your center of safety. The event happened and now you don’t feel safe anymore.


You may experience things like anxiety because of the event. Some people go through a trauma and it seems all they can do with it afterward is relive what happened. The memories as well as the feelings associated with that event keep them stuck.


The incident has become more powerful than their ability to deal with it. They may find it difficult to cope with life afterward. They may have trouble going to work - trouble interacting with other people.


They may be emotionally distant or overly emotional. Yet, not everyone who experiences the same type of trauma react the same way. Some people seem to be able to put it behind them and move on to greater things.


Does that mean that their coping skills are better than the person who can’t seem to deal with what happened? No. It’s all in the way that someone processes trauma. For those who seem trapped by what happened it can be that the person has made the event the focus of their life.


They can’t stop dwelling on it. Can’t stop replaying the moment it happened. They hold onto it, not necessarily because they want to but because they don’t know how to move on.


But you can move on from trauma. You have to begin by not letting the event have center stage in your thoughts or your conversation. You have to stop reimagining the scene and picturing yourself reacting a different way.


You have to stop dwelling on what could have been worse. All of this can slow or even stop you from achieving life goals. If you stay stuck, it’s a lot harder to move forward with that weight hanging onto you.


When you begin to think about the event, realize that it’s happening. Stop allowing it to have a stage in your mind. Turn your thoughts elsewhere. Thinking about what happened won’t change anything.


It won’t make the feelings or thoughts go away. Instead, look for ways that you can heal. Learn what you can do to stop letting it have control of your thoughts. Look for ways that other people who went through similar events were able to cope and then heal so they could move on.


When thoughts about the past event come to mind, do something else. Anything that breaks your concentration on the past. Refuse to let yourself live in the past and miss out on the present.

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