Jordan Zipkin, LMFT
What You Need to Know About How Trauma Affects the Mind
Trauma is any negative event that causes us distress, so we have all had and will continue to experience, a trauma in our lives.
When we endure a trauma, we must respond in some way in order to survive. Depending on how often and intensely we experience these various negative events, they affect our minds, brains, and bodies in different ways.
In this first blog, we will look specifically at the way trauma affects our minds, as well as how, armed with this knowledge, and with an understanding and application of several other crucial tools, we can reduce and eliminate the negative impact of these negative experiences on our minds.
Traumatic experiences can cause us to alter the way we think. We might change our beliefs about the world and ourselves. Specifically, we may worry whether we are safe, question whether we can trust others, feel limited control in our lives and decision-making success, and experience a diminished sense of self-worth.
Often, when we experience trauma, we also experience profound shame and self-blame, both of which tend to cause us to keep these negative experiences a secret.
When we keep our trauma to ourselves, the negative influence of the trauma on our lives notably worsens.
Similarly, avoidance (of experiences, people, and places in life that might remind of us of our traumatic experiences) also strengthens the hold of these negative experiences on our lives.
The key, then, to reduce the effect of trauma on our lives is to confront it. I realize this is easier said than done. Here are some crucial concepts and steps to engage in this process:
We should try to look at and treat ourselves with compassion and understanding. Trauma, understandably, has a profound impact on us, so we should attempt to consistently remind ourselves of this and treat ourselves accordingly.
We want to look at and more closely understand our trauma, often with the help and guidance of a psychotherapist. The more we can understand that our symptoms are the result of profound negative experiences, the more we can reduce and eliminate our symptoms and their detrimental hold on our lives.
We can do this through remembering, writing about, sharing, and analyzing our trauma.
There is no specific timeline for how long it should take to process your story, so try to have patience with yourself. Go at whatever pace feels comfortable and reasonable to you, which could be several weeks, months, or even longer.
Know that, at any point(s), if the experience becomes overwhelming or triggering, take a deep breath, take a break, and come back to it later.
We also want to identify our triggers for symptoms, or things that in some way(s) remind us of the trauma we experienced. Then, instead of being triggered and succumbing to debilitating symptoms, we can engage in various proactive strategies to control our subsequent moods, thoughts, and behavioral processes.
In her book, “Trauma Survivors’ Strategies for Healing,” Elena Welsh recommends, “taking a deep breath, reminding ourselves that we’re safe, or using mindfulness techniques to ground ourselves in the present moment.”
If you have any questions about trauma or how to recover after a traumatic experience, I'd be happy to speak with you. If you would like to schedule your first session, call me at 954-391-5305 for or for more information about my services, read my bio here.