Woman talking to her therapist about what to do when trauma resurfaces.When trauma resurfaces, this may be a sign that you now need to heal at a deeper level. Trauma comes up in stages. This is a good thing, since if it came up all at once it might overwhelm your nervous system. You may have dealt with trauma at one level already, and when trauma resurfaces, it is now time to get to know your true self and evolve into the next version of you.

Trauma will lie in wait until it is safe to come out. It can start to come up after you are an independent, stable, strong, successful person, leading a satisfying life. That is when it is safe for all these feelings to finally express themselves. Now that you have created a better life, you are ready to heal your past.  When trauma resurfaces, it means it’s time to find out more about yourself and grow as a person.

When Trauma Resurfaces You Need To Deal With What Happened In Your Past

Often, clients will come to me trying to “get rid of” these feelings. Anger, despair, sleeplessness, fear and anxiety are understandably unwelcome. However, this is a part of ourselves that needs to be recognized and honored.

You have better coping skills as an adult, and this will help you deal with what happened in your past. In other words, you are strong enough now to deal with being vulnerable. When the abuse happened, you were too terrified to face it. So, that is why you feel so scared now. But that terror is old fear and you survived! So, you don’t have to be so scared anymore. It’s time to tell yourself that it is ok, you are safe now.

Healing from past trauma requires working out the feelings that you somehow kept in a box. As a child, you may have done this because you had to (it wasn’t safe, you didn’t have anyone you could trust to talk to etc.) but, as an adult, letting go of the past by accepting what happened and making sense of it through your adult eyes is a requirement for letting it go.

The goal here is not to retell your story simply to talk about it. Instead, we want to focus on why the story has so much meaning to you now and how to release the pain and suffering you’re feeling as you remember your past.

How Did You Cope With Trauma When You Were A Kid? You Developed A False Self

Let me start by saying that most people who experienced trauma as a child have to develop what’s called “a false sense of self” to get through their everyday life. Why do people do this? They do this because their home environment is not safe.

If this was your story, you experienced something that caused you to feel, believe or simply know that you could not be your true self and get your needs met.

You had to hide your real self from others in order to be safe. This is the root of trauma and the trauma experience.

As a result, you go through life showing the world a different version of yourself than you feel on the inside. This leaves you feeling things like anger, betrayal, shame, inadequacy, and overall unhappiness. Because you never fully get the opportunity to become who you are on the inside, you learn to be inauthentic with yourself and others so that you can get your most basic needs met.

Inside you is a very hurt, scared and sad part of yourself that needs attention and love in order to heal. It can be very difficult to face this part of who you are, after all, you’ve probably been avoiding it for some time.  When trauma resurfaces, it is an opportunity for self growth.

To understand this better, let’s do an exercise. Ask yourself how old the traumatized child inside of you is.

Let’s say the answer is 9 years old.

Your experience is that in your life, no one has ever paid attention to that 9 year old. Today, he/she is demanding to be heard.

This can show up in your life as a voice inside that tells you “things are not fair”. Or, in general black and white or “all or nothing” kinds of thoughts. It also shows up in deep fears of the unknown or fears around change of any kind. Other people feel deep anxiety that that things will be this bad forever; that hope is a dirty 4-letter word.

Some people also experience a deep feeling of impatience, as if they have been waiting FOREVER for something to go their way. They become demanding and unreasonable like a child having a fit or temper tantrum that you cannot avoid or get away from.

If you have a 9 year old in your life, imagine how they solve problems. If your thoughts and behaviors mirror those kids, you can see the child inside of you coming to life and in some cases, running your life.

The irrational hope of the 9 year old is that IF they are good enough, smart enough, pretty enough etc, then their parents will love them and meet their needs. This irrational hope of a child translates into this: if I somehow miraculously or magically do the right thing, my parent or loved one will stop abusing me.

When Trauma Resurfaces, You Realize You Were Living In Fear

If you have the life experience of avoiding a part of yourself that is now demanding your attention, you probably experienced a lot of fear as a child. If you experienced fear and terror, you had to develop ways to cope. This often involves trying to get away from what you were afraid of, by escaping.hiding, denying or somehow avoiding the pain.

If you coped by hiding the fear deep within yourself and never letting it out, it can be shocking when those feelings start coming out, unbidden. When trauma resurfaces, it is often very scary.

As an adult, you may no longer be in those scary situations, but it can still feel like you are right back in your childhood. If you felt fear often enough, the level of fear begins to pile up, increasing over the years. It sits in your nervous system and starts to feel huge. No wonder it feels so big now, and you still want to run away from it.

Fear often shows up as anxiety.   Anxiety manifests in many different symptoms, such as your stomach feels upset, your chest feels tight, and you feel panicky.  You might worry and your mind just can’t stop thinking and thinking.

Living In Fear Can Cause Depression

Living in fear is very stressful and all-consuming. This can cause depression, since trying to ignore what happened is the same as ignoring and rejecting a part of yourself.  This means that you aren’t loving and caring for yourself, giving yourself the attention you need. If you do this for a long time, you can start feeling despair, shame and hopeless about ever getting better.

If you couldn’t escape the situation you were in, children start feeling hopeless and helpless. You can get down on yourself for not ‘fixing it’ or being able to do something about it. Even though you were just a kid! What were you suppose to do?

Maybe you tried everything that was available to you at the time. But, children are dependent on adults, and if adults act in ways that create fear and terror, children just don’t know what to do and are often helpless to do anything.

How To Take Care Of Yourself Now

You don’t have to overwhelm yourself with all these feelings, either. It’s important to take a break and do something nice for yourself. Take a bath or a walk, see a friend, read a good book, or participate in your favorite hobby. It’s important to balance painful feelings with good self care and love.  When trauma resurfaces, take good care of yourself.

There are many positive affirmation videos on youtube. This will help you develop the positive and loving messages that you may not know how to give yourself yet. Even though this might feel awkward at first, listening to these can be empowering.

If you are dealing with another layer of trauma, you may also want to try EMDR and/or neurofeedback to help you become more resilient. If you would like the help of a therapist during this difficult time, feel free to call me at 310-314-6933 or email me at mfoxmft@yahoo.com