While many of us are lucky enough to escape major trauma in our lives, for others, trauma makes life difficult in ways we might not have imagined. Maybe you have experienced trauma; maybe in a small, seemingly insignificant way, or maybe in a very public, large scale circumstance. Either way, the trauma you experienced has stayed with you, looms over you and hurts you in ways that may seem unbearable.
For those that have been traumatized, especially by other people, there arises the difficulty to trust others. It’s not a stretch to think that if your fundamental trust in people has been broken in a traumatic event, it’s going to take some healing and time to learn to trust again.
Trauma and Self
Many of those who suffer from trauma and/or PTSD, whether in their childhood or their adult life, have a distorted look at the future and of themselves. They may:
- Feel hopeless
- Lack confidence in themselves and others
- Have a general negative outlook on the future and the world
In general, if you have suffered trauma, you may lack trust in the world around you. This is an incredibly daunting feeling. But what do you do when you try to reach out for help? How do survivors of trauma find comfort in another human being again?
The Challenge of Relationships for Trauma Survivors
As mentioned before, there is a good reason those who have experienced trauma have difficulty establishing trust and forming relationships. From their perspective, how can you connect deeply, share your innermost self, your thoughts and feelings, with another person, and stay safe?
Trauma survivors may self-isolate or feel they are “undeserving” of a relationship. On the flip side, survivors may become overprotective, controlling and dependent in an effort to establish a relationship that is stable and “safe.”
There are many ways in which those who have suffered from trauma react and deal with relationships. Just as everyone’s trauma is different, so is their reaction to relationships in their lives.
How to Learn to Trust and Heal Again
While the effects of trauma may seem overwhelming and the road to recovery long, there is hope. One of the fundamental keys to healing and learning to trust yourself, others, and the world around you is learning what it means to have healthy relationships again. Think about these steps:
- Learn to recognize how the past affects the present. Often, trauma causes us to project our past pains and fears onto the present. By learning how your trauma affected you and changed the way you see the world, you can begin to understand and sort out what fears and vulnerabilities are really about your trauma. Over time and with the right support you can begin to challenge these fears.
- In understanding your trauma, you can also learn to have a healthy relationship with yourself again. You can learn to recognize how your self-doubts and self-criticisms are not true but really a protective reaction from going through trauma. You can then begin to treat yourself with compassion and patience.
- As you learn to change yourself the next step is to gradually reestablish sincere relationships with friends, family, and others. You can begin to take small risks in building closeness to those who have provided you with support and love. But take your time and do this in small ways at first. Building relationships doesn’t require you to reveal your trauma. Just spending more time with others or even picking up the phone more often takes courage and can be a first step.
- Learning how to establish healthy relationships in a way that is comfortable for you builds safety and trust that will help you to continue on your healing journey.
As a psychologist, therapist and counselor, I can offer you a safe relationship for building trust and a sense of security. Let’s work together to reestablish meaning, hope and purpose so that you can begin reestablishing relationships with others and with yourself and engage more fully with life.