Trauma is a wound that has a scar. Like a scar, it can be hard, it can suppress feelings, and it can be inflexible. People who have been affected by trauma may not want to dig deep because they are afraid of the pain that is underneath the surface. If this sounds like you, please know that you can get to a place where you can feel again.

There are two main categories of trauma.

The first main category of trauma consists of the obvious causes of trauma, such as:

  • War
  • Sexual assault
  • Experiencing or witnessing violence
  • Life-threatening injuries and illnesses

As resilient as they can be, children are highly susceptible to becoming traumatized. They are vulnerable and helpless and don’t have the tools to to deal with extreme stress. Early childhood trauma and experiences can profoundly diminish a person’s ability to cope, especially later in life. The following can be very traumatic for children:

  • Severe abuse during childhood, which can be emotional, physical, or sexual
  • Neglect, betrayal, or abandonment during childhood

The second main category are those things that are less obvious, such as:

  • Natural disasters (earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, and floods.)
  • Minor automobile accidents, especially those that result in whiplash
  • Invasive medical and dental procedures
  • Falls, especially for the elderly
  • Illness, especially where there is a high fever or accidental poisoning

Especially traumatic for children are all of the above, plus the following:

  • Being anesthetized, especially with ether
  • Being restrained or immobilized by casting or splinting for long periods of time
  • Exposure to extreme hot or cold
  • Being left alone (especially as a baby)
  • Sudden loud noises or parents frequently fighting
  • Invasive medical and dental procedures
  • “Minor” injuries such as falling off of a bike

Simply reading this list can be upsetting for some people.

If you’ve ever suffered from trauma, even reading a list of traumatic events can cause unwanted feelings and emotions because they remind you of events that caused you suffering in the past. This is not uncommon.

Also common is the triggering of certain body responses and sensations when reminded of past trauma. These responses can be tingling, muscle tightening or loosening, changes in breathing, and any increase or decrease in heart rate, temperature, etc.

Trauma is all about the perception (consciously or unconsciously) of a threat and the incapacity to deal with it. Many things can trigger it, such as a sudden loud noise like thunder, people arguing, a door slamming, etc. These things can be very upsetting for traumatized people and cause an intense reaction. Because people don’t often have the tools to deal with traumatic events, they protect and defend themselves by separating themselves from the event. This causes them to hold onto the stress in their bodies that shows up in the forms of nervousness, anxiety, hypersensitivity, etc.

This nervousness or anxiousness (or other response) is the activation of the energy you experienced when the original traumatic event happened. When you are threatened, your body goes into a stress state, which releases a lot of energy so that you may defend yourself against this threat. This puts you into a fight, flight, or freeze state. Years later, when you are reminded of that event, you can then go back into that same stress state and that same energy is released in your body. For trauma to heal, it is this energy that needs to be transformed.

One way people cope with living with unresolved trauma is get out of their bodies and start living in their heads.

Traumatized people often retreat into their heads as a way of escaping life which they see as as a dangerous, scary place to be.

What does it look like – living inside of your head? Here are some examples:

Daydreaming while at meetings, in a classroom, at church services, etc.

Zoning out in social situations. Physically, you are in a room full of people, but you are not really there.

Creating fantasy worlds in your head that you expand upon day after day, month after month, year after year.

It’s as if you are on a going on a solitary retreat to any place, at any time, but instead of it being at an actual resort, you are creating your own little world inside your head, playing out tightly controlled scenarios that you make up.

What are the consequences of living inside your head?

Your relationships suffer. Not actively listening to and participating in conversations with friends and family can frustrate other people. Hello? Are you there? Did you hear what I said? Over time, people stop trying to connect.

You go into self-chosen isolation. This may lead to depression and self-pity, which may then lead to bitterness. All of this may cause you to falsely believe that no one cares about you, which can then lead to more depression, self-pity, bitterness…You can, and must, break this pattern.

Time seems to stand still. It’s as if you are in a movie scene where everyone and everything around you freezes, or fades, or goes to black and white while you go into a soliloquy, but instead of speaking your thoughts aloud, they are thought out in your head. If you want to move forward in your life, time also must move forward.

You become clumsy and absent-minded. You drop and break things. You cut yourself while cooking. Burn your hand taking something out of the oven. Trip and fall up the steps. (I’ve done this many, many times.) All of this causes you to appear to be accident-prone, when, in reality, you are only distracted and not paying attention.

Your personal growth is stunted. You can’t learn new things and grow as a person if you are not conscious and awake enough to be continuously taking in new information and taking advantage of new experiences.

You hide your light under a bushel. You are put here on earth for a purpose. There is no one else on earth who has the same collection of insights, talents, and wisdom that you have, all of which come from your own unique personality and experiences. It is important that you take part in the universal conversation in order to add value to other people’s lives and to make a difference within your sphere of influence.

It is during the difficult times in your life that you may be the most tempted to escape into your head, but it is imperative that you stay engaged and awake during these times, because these times hold the greatest potential for obtaining wisdom, character, and resilience.

If you continue to live your life in your head then, over time, perhaps after many, many years, you may wake up one day and realize that you have wasted your life. You’ve squandered all your time. You’ve wasted countless opportunities to improve your life. You didn’t value people enough or take advantage of all the opportunities that could have made your life more meaningful and brought greater joy. This is the greatest tragedy of all.

So, where are your living: inside of your head or outside in your life?

There is hope!

How do you heal from trauma? One word – EMBODIMENT. Get out of your head and back into your body. I will show you how in a future post.

People who suffer from trauma need compassion and support. I am here to offer both. I have been through a great deal of trauma in my own life, so I know how isolating, confusing, and sad it can be. If you would like to talk about your own experiences with someone who understands, I am only a click away. Click the link below to schedule a call.