When people come into my office and tell me, very early in a conversation, that they are ‘intuitive’ and ‘can see into people’ I often wonder if they have had trauma. The longer I do this for a living the more I realize that some of us developed our insights into humanity as a protection mechanism. We never knew, when dad or mom walked into the room, whether we were safe or in danger. We had to develop the skill for knowing how to react around instability. We constantly had our radar on. To this day, when we walk into a room, we are keenly aware of how people are feeling and reacting. We have a ‘bead’ on people and think it’s a gift. For some people a gift born out of a curse.
Trauma does weird things to people. Some other day I will talk about the link between trauma and hoarding, or people who can’t seem to finish projects, or those who go from romantic relationship to romantic relationship and consistently make bad decisions. People with trauma often repaint their house too often, or have spending or drug addictions, or have difficulty making decisions. Most trauma survivors become control freaks. Trauma has a way of twisting us emotionally and relationally, of creating fear and insecurity.
A few days ago I went to Swiss Chalet with a close friend who is a 6th Dan Master at his martial art. As we walked to the restaurant I was not worried about being jumped or attacked. I was hoping. When I’m with my martial arts buddies there is little danger of violation. My radar is turned off. The world is a safe place and I am not even remotely worried. Most people grow up in a world that is safe, and therefore have no pressing need to become discerning when they are at home or on the playground. For them the world is a safe place and they have no need for emotional radar.
A few years ago, in a trauma group I was leading, a woman shared about her afternoon and the fearful event she had endured just prior to group. She was in a McDonalds parking lot when two men in hoodies, with the hoods up, approached her in the twilight. As a victim of trauma she was keenly aware of danger and had struggled all her life to trust men, especially strangers. Some time in her past she had been attacked by men, beaten and raped. That late afternoon in the parking lot her radar came on and the meter went through the roof. As she walked across the parking lot she felt her pulse quicken, she began to sweat. She started to panic. In her mind she imagined violations galore and began to catastophize and soon found herself running to the door of the restaurant, in a state of extreme duress. She grabbed the door, threw it open, and fled into the bright lights.
From where she was in the restaurant she watched in horror as the two predators entered the restaurant, pulled down their hoodies and…
… they were ten or eleven year old boys who were completely oblivious to her presence.
One the primary characteristics of PTSD and trauma is something called ‘hyper-vigilance’.
That night in group we talked at length about her fear, born in trauma and pain. It was the beginning of a journey for her, one that takes far longer than people want to admit, filled with counseling and discomfort and setbacks. A journey to freedom. As we say in counseling – trauma trumps everything. What that means is that if you have experienced severe trauma that depression or anxiety you are feeling may not just be because you have situational issues right now that are bringing you down. You need to deal with your emotional trauma, before it ruins the rest of your life. It is a difficult journey but a necessary one. Get help. Talk to a counselor who understands trauma and doesn’t suck.
You’re worth it.
- Why Reliving Your Trauma Only Goes So Far (psychologytoday.com)
- How Trauma Leads to Depression (everydayhealth.com)
- Depression: How To Feel Like A Loser (scott-williams.ca)
- Guest blogging for Scott WIlliams on Self Blame (and this on responsibility) (ruleofstupid.wordpress.com)