Specializing in Family Counseling, Men's Issues, & Trauma

What are the kinds of trauma?

What is Trauma

Types of Trauma

Trauma of Omission– the lack of or absence of what was needed.  Generally, trauma is thought of as an act of commission, but it exists in the form of profound absence.  Many sex addicts have significant issues of childhood neglect or abandonment.

  • Neglect– simply put, the person, frequently a child, does not have their needs attended to adequately.  They may experience physical neglect, such as an absence of food or shelter, but more often takes the form of emotional/relational neglect.  The child is given only a portion of the attention they need while being ignored at other times.  Often times, a parent is unwilling or unable, to give the child the kind of support and nurturing they require.  If we used the example of food in place of relational/emotional needs, these individuals would have been the equivalent of malnourished children.
  • Abandonment– a significant individual or caregiver is suddenly unavailable, or, perhaps, has never been there.  This can include the sudden absence of those we depend upon and are attached to.  It may also be the unrealized desire to attach to a individual (perhaps a parent) that causes a significant emotional disruption.  One type of abandonment would involve a person pulling away from or leaving another by choice.  This is classic abandonment.  It is the child whose mother goes away to live in substance abuse, or to be with another man and start a new family.  However, abandonment is often more confusing than this.  Imagine the parent who never leaves because they were never really there.  The child grows-up with a parent who is there sometimes and at other moments abandons the youth.  It is a kind of cruel, teasing dance, keeping the child in a state of hope they might get what they need “this time.”

*Most sexual addicts excel in continually ensuring they will be abandoned or neglected as adults.  They expertly, though, not consciously, seek out or create relationships in which abandonment and neglect will occur.

 

Trauma of Commission– Direct actions or events which significantly impact an individual’s understanding of themselves and their environment.  This would include physical, sexual, and emotional abuse.

What incidents can be called trauma?

Types of Trauma

In an effort to answer the question, “Is what I went through trauma?”, people look for a list which classifies incidents as trauma or non-traumatic.  However, there is no such comprehensive list.  Given the intimate nature of trauma’s impact, we cannot simply create a list of what could be traumatic, thus determining if a person’s experience is or is not on the list.  Instead, trauma is a singular or recurrent incident which significantly shapes a person’s understanding of themselves and their environment in a dysfunctional way.

1st:  Trauma may be a one time incident, such as a car wreck or sexual assault.  Trauma may also occur repeatedly, such as sexual abuse by a family member over the course of years or hurtful, ongoing teasing of peers.

2nd:  Trauma impacts the way a person views themselves.  An example of this would be the person who has been assaulted struggling with persistent feelings of being unsafe after the incident.  The child who is sexually abused by a relative may struggle as an adult with the belief they are “dirty” or “shameful.”  In both cases, though the person may logically know what they are struggling with is not true, part of them still believes it.

3rd:  Trauma impacts the way a person views the world.  Using the examples above, the individual who has been assaulted may feel the world around them is not safe, that others will possibly victimize them, even though prior to the trauma they felt secure.  Additionally, the victim of sexual abuse, may expect to be harmed by others in relationships, leading them to either avoid intimacy or seek out relationships in which they will be hurt.  The latter of these confirms their view that love hurts because people are not safe.

Here are some questions to ask in determining whether an incident could be described as traumatic:

  • Was the person’s sense of self damaged?
  • Is the individual impaired in their ability to accurately assess and respond to their environment (hypervigilence, fight, flight or freeze)? 
  • Are the memories of the event held as re-experiences rather than a narrative?

What do I do about my trauma?- Common Mistakes People Make

Trauma's Effects

If you are struggling with trauma and its difficult impact on your life, you likely have one question: “What can I do to about it?”  Left with the long-term consequences, most individuals want to regain some sense of normalcy.  Trauma, at its core, steals something precious, most of us falsely believe we possess- Control.  Our attempts to regain a sense of mastery over our lives vary.  Some common mistakes people make in trying to cope with their trauma include:

 

Mistakes People Make Coping with Trauma

1- “What happened is in the past and there is nothing I can do about it.”  Logically, it makes sense.  After all, time machines haven’t been invented yet.  A person cannot go back and prevent what happened from ever taking place.  However, this is an articulate, seemingly responsible way of avoiding.  In other words, by surrendering what has occurred, the individual hopes to regain control.  The problem is that wounds do not heal simply by our acknowledging they are there.  Think of a person who has been stabbed in the chest.  Standing there bleeding, they tell you they know they have been stabbed and accept it.  You are concerned for their well-being, but they calmly tell you the stabbing occurred in the past, so there is really nothing that can or needs to be done.  They are quite well, ready to move on with their life, while you try to get them to go to the hospital.

Impact of Trauma

favicon 2- “Telling my story over and over again will heal my wound.”  Borrowing from a work-out mentality, completing a particular activity over and over again leaves the person stronger and feeling healthier.  Additionally, isn’t sharing with others recommended?  When sharing, the opportunity to help them with their own hurts might occur.  It appears to be a kind of “win-win.”  Within this strategy, two problems arise, desensitization and avoidance.  The first is simply desensitization.  In other words, as a person tells and retells their trauma, they become less connected to their own emotions and mistake this for healing.  Using the previous example of the person who has been stabbed, they are open to talking about their wound and even telling about how it occurred.  Their talking about it leaves others confused, as the person is communicating, which seems healthy.  On the other hand, they still have a bleeding wound which has not healed.  What’s more, the person talks about the wound, which looks very painful, as if they don’t even feel it anymore.  Again, if the wound was healed, that would make sense, but it hasn’t.  The second issue is a kind of avoidance via helping others.  The stab victim decides, rather than getting help for their wound, to go work at a hospital treating other people with stab wounds.  They are able get close to treatment, empathize with others’ pain, while not fully dealing with their own.

Trauma Hurts

3- “I know about what happened to me and how I should feel about it.  I will simply reason with my emotions until they come in line with this correct thinking.”  Like a parent reasoning with an overwhelmed, emotional child, we seek to calm the wounded part of ourselves.  Using logic, the hope is a feeling of control will be restored.  Using the prior example of a stab wound, the individual seeks to explain to themselves and others that the injury should no longer hurt.  Again, its a very confusing behavior, given the person has a serious injury, the “logical” result of which is actually significant pain.

 

If you or someone you know is struggling with the effects of trauma, there is help!  At The Relationship Center, our counselors are experienced and hold advanced training in working with trauma.  Give us a call today.  One of our counselors will speak with you personally.