Childhood Trauma And Over-Thinking :
When we suffer a great trauma, one of its effects can be to greatly reduce the sense of control we have over our lives, making us feel extremely vulnerable, and, sometimes, leading us to become preoccupied with central questions to our existence such as lack of justice in the world, the meaning of life, religion, philosophical beliefs and so on. For many, this can be a torment. For others, however, it may lead to benefits. These benefits may include :
– clarifying our beliefs and values
– reprioritizing our lives
– deepening our appreciation of life
However, as I have said, others find themselves tormented by the effects of the trauma on their thinking, remaining stuck in their unpleasant thought processes for months or years, feeling constantly victimized, helpless and unable to rebuild their lives. Many turn to drink, drugs, over-eating etc in an attempt to reduce the mental anguish that this over-thinking inevitably leads to.
Often, in the aftermath of trauma, the person who suffered it finds that his/her thinking becomes very angry. Frequently, this anger is not only directed at the person/s who caused the trauma, but, also, at others for their perceived insensitivity to how seriously the person’s life has been affected by the trauma. We may become angry that they do not offer enough support, don’t show sufficient empathy, have failed to grasp the enormity of the trauma’s impact, and so on. We can fall out with these people and become isolated, feeling that others have abandoned us.
Recovering from trauma takes time. We can only re-order our lives gradually, step-by-step. Those we feel are not supporting us may believe we should be able to bounce-back quickly and, when we don’t, run out of patience. But this is unrealistic, and, frequently, based on a lack of knowledge about how severe and long-lasting effects of trauma, especially childhood trauma, can be. Even with therapy, people can take years to even start to come to terms with their experiences and may never get over them completely.
Unfortunately, the medical profession often treats the person suffering from the effects of trauma with medication. Whilst some find this of help, many others would be better treated by psychological means.
As has already been stated, many people who have suffered serious traumatic experiences find, as well as the negative impact it has upon their lives, it also has some positive effects. As well as those already mentioned above, these can also include :
– growing in character
– growing in maturity
– developing skills that they did not have previously
– gaining a new perspective on life
– deepening their relationships with others
– emerging from trauma as a ‘better’ person
Ways to stop over-thinking about traumatic experiences :
Over-thinking about the trauma we experienced often does not move us forward or gain us any insight in relation to what happened to us, but, instead, clouds our mind and keeps us ‘stuck’ in a cycle of futile, self-damaging thought processes. However, we can help ourselves break free of being ‘trapped in our thoughts’ in various ways. These include :
– telling ourselves we will not let those who caused our trauma ‘win’ by letting the effect they had dominate and destroy our lives
– realize that we may never find answers to the questions that we are tormenting ourselves with, accept this and ‘cut our losses’
– mentally ‘step-back’ from what happened to us
– constantly seek out soothing and comforting ways to occupy our time
– stop telling ourselves ‘we will never be happy again’ (as this is a prediction, caused by depression, for which there is no evidence)
– stop isolating ourselves (it is vital to undertake activities which act as positive distractions, and this will often involve interacting with others)
– writing down our feelings if we feel overwhelmed by them – this helps to ‘get the feelings out of our system’ and puts boundaries around them
– accept we may have to live with some emotional pain but that this should not stop us taking steps to reclaiming our lives – connected to this, we need to stop telling ourselves we should be ‘over it by now’ and accept that recovery is often a lengthy process
– rather than use up precious energy feeling angry with the person who caused our trauma, we need to redirect this energy into rebuilding our lives and protecting ourselves from further harm/emotional pain
– if we have an ‘internal critic’ (thinking negative thoughts about ourselves) we need to realize this is likely to be the influence of the person who made as feel bad about ourselves, and are therefore not a realistic reflection of us, and, in all likelihood, are utterly false.
David Hosier BSc Hons ; MSc ; PGDE(FAHE).