The Challenge of Going Back to Life After a Trauma
Car accidents, plane crashes, life-threatening natural disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes, awful things like rapes and kidnappings… All these situations have something in common: they can turn into long-lasting, incapacitating traumas for people who go through them. But how can we return to life after a trauma?
The pain of each situation depends on each person’s personality and circumstances. While for some, a certain event may be a very big shock, for others the same event won’t be a big deal, soon forgotten. What can be done to keep traumas from paralyzing us? How can we make sure we will move forward?
Can traumatic experiences change our personality?
After a trauma, there are often significant changes in the person’s personality and life. The effects can be seen even many years after the incident. On the one hand, they take a lot of effort for a person to adapt to. On the other hand, they also demand a readjustment of their abilities and resources. All this means that there will be future challenges, too.
Sometimes these readjustments make the person more assertive or better at self-control. But, in other cases, they make the person feel insecure and vulnerable, which makes it difficult to return to life after a trauma. In addition, a trauma may trigger unhelpful and actually harmful coping strategies.
Gender violence usually affects the victim’s personality. Women, transgender people, and other victims of gender violence are constantly subjected to potentially traumatic situations. It can be traumatic when their partner screams at them, beats them, harasses and humiliates them. They can only find peace when their partner leaves the house.
Without a doubt, abuse will leave a mark on their personality. In addition to physical injuries, psychological attacks can give the perpetrator control over their victim. Victims may start to question their own decisions
Let’s give another example. After a plane crash, surviving passengers have to face a new kind of life. They must accept the trauma of losing loved ones or now having to deal with serious, chronic injuries.
They will be more likely to develop new fears in the months or years after a trauma (fear of flying, claustrophobia, of social anxiety). Or they may develop an obsessive disorder. As you can see, life after a trauma can be overwhelming.
We reduce the impact of traumatic experiences when we air them out
Before the age of 6, traumatic experiences are almost permanent if they are not treated. Why? Because they get fixed in the unconscious and subconscious. That’s why it’s so important to know the basics about what you should and should not do in extreme situations like this.
In the case of emergencies or catastrophes, you shouldn’t sleep for the first six hours after the crisis. Dreams play an important role in the consolidation of memories, so it’s better to stay awake or busy to avoid remembering shocking or traumatic images.
Although those affected want to lay down or rest, we should not let them fall asleep for those six hours. It’s also not a good idea to use sleeping pills, just let their sleep be natural.
Helping yourself after a trauma
As we’ve said, every person’s response to traumatic events is different. Therefore, it’s crucial for specialists to understand that there are multiple symptoms. They’re all equally acceptable, and each person must be treated individually and privately.
First, in order to return to life after a trauma, we recommend getting into a daily routine, not changing habits overnight. Don’t run away from places or people who remind you of the trauma. Instead, talk to a professional about how these things bother you.
For this, the first step is to recognize that we can’t control everything that happens around us. But you should also try not to expose yourself to more stressful moments or events and try to reduce bad feelings by participating in recreational activities, resting and resolving conflicts calmly.
Talking about how you feel is a very important part of the process
Last but not least, lean on your loved ones. It will always be a good thing to express your emotions, identify what is causing pain, verbalize it, and give it a first and last name.
Think about how facing something is easier when we know what that something is. It will also be easier for others to help when they know what that something is, too. Let’s not only look at the emotions or the object causing them separately, but also the thread that unites both things.
It may seem too simple. But only by telling others can we find a good part of the security that we’ve lost. Especially when others accept and understand the logic behind it.
We find relief in telling or writing a secret. Both are self-knowledge and self-therapy tools and contribute positively to overcoming the situation and returning to life after a trauma. In fact, not integrating traumatic, negative or disturbing events into our personal narrative can trigger very serious problems of dissociation.
After a traumatic event, a person very well may feel defined by it. They may feel like it’s contaminating everything, inside and out. Then, if any problems worsen, it may be a case of post-traumatic stress disorder. This is when we have massively acute stress with effects that can last for years, even for life.
It’s common for people to relive the trauma in the form of flashbacks. It’s also common to have sleep problems or feel emotionless. Whether these symptoms become chronic will depend on the intensity or severity of the event. Also, don’t forget that stress can add up. In other words, any stressful event that occurs after the trauma can create anxiety.
Nobody is safe from traumatic, unexpected situations. In any case, you should always see a professional. This will not only help you know how to move forward, but also give you the tools you need to return to life again after a trauma.