To begin with, we need to understand what trauma is: Trauma can be looked at as being a situation or experience which is stressful, scary and or distressing. On occasions, it can be that you have experienced trauma but not realised it, that the symptoms of trauma come up and confuse you.
When a traumatic experience happens to anyone, your mind changes from being present to being in survival mode. Your mind turns to get through the experiences the quickest way possible, where it can start to feel like your thinking is switched off. It can feel like you are on autopilot. The difference between traumatic situations and ‘everyday’ situations is that in ‘everyday’ situations you can cope with what is happening as well as gradually come back into thinking slowly as well as being able to move past the situation. Whereas with traumatic situations, you tend to spend a lot of time in your mind, working things out, processing and trying to understand what has happened, including trying to come up with solutions to stay safe.
When trauma occurs, there are certain thinking patterns that take place. These thinking patterns help you to get through the trauma, provide you with ways of coping, even though it is extremely difficult. These thinking patterns can provide useful when you are in a traumatic situation however, they can cause issues when the trauma has stopped, and these patterns continue in non-traumatic situations.
These ways of thinking, feeling and reactions are ‘normal’ responses to trauma, they are there to keep you safe and get through the trauma, however, these responses do not tend to change on their own. These patterns of thinking despite feeling deep-rooted, automatic, intense in how they make you feel, can be altered with self-awareness and understanding of how a human mind works in trauma.
What tends to happen when someone experiences trauma and comes out of that experience is that you have memories that come back, these memories with the feelings attached can be very intense, to the degree where it starts to feel like you are in that trauma again. The exact same feelings are experienced again, the memories are very vivid and happen as though you are in that situation (it does not feel like a memory). You become reactive to that memory as though it is happening to your right now. When this trigger happens, you tend to find it difficult to stay present at the moment, your mind reacts to a memory as though it is reality, not realising that it is a memory.
The good thing is you can rewire and teach yourself new ways of thinking and operating. The trauma you have experienced does not have to define you. One of the issues that I tend to find is that when someone experiences trauma, they tend to feel they are not ‘normal’ however this is far from the truth, you are ‘normal’ and the way you are functioning is expected for anyone who has suffered trauma. Another way of looking at this would be, if you have a friend who had gone through the same experiences as you, how would you expect them to be? Would you say the things to them that you say to yourself? The answers can be enlightening in understanding yourself better.