I noticed a comment on social media, "Oh, I really can't stand the word trauma... It gets thrown around everywhere - such a buzzword these days." The comment stuck with me. At first, I didn't know what to say about it, but it stayed with me for days. I don't think there's ever enough talk about psychological trauma. I don't believe so trauma is a buzzword. To me, it's not a catchy term that sounds exemplary or trendy, or buzzwordy.
Physical pain for no apparent reason, frequent illnesses, mysterious diseases, accidents. Worry, pressure in the chest, panic attacks, depressive episodes, depression turning into hyper elevated moods. Brain fog, racing thoughts, obsessive thoughts, feelings of unreal. No desire for sex, hypersexuality. Avoiding others, clinging to others, controlling others, screaming, and blackmailing. Feeling lost, feeling like nothing make sense in this life, deep loneliness, and a sense of not belonging in this world.
These are all different attempts to balance the dysregulated body-mind-soul. They can all be the face of trauma. I say "can" because that's not necessarily true, but it's possible. The fact is that trauma shows up in our lives in highly unusual ways, but the prevailing medical paradigm has conditioned us to see them as symptoms that need a cure.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Solving symptoms without addressing the root causes is futile in the long run because well-being and overall health are a matter of balancing body, mind, and soul, so we need to look at our well-being holistically.
We're conditioned to think that our "symptoms" are wrong or bad. Still, we live in a society where mental health is observed and approached as a pathology; the leading frame of reference is the medical model, which always looks for signs of illness rather than health. After all, the definition of health is "the absence of disease."
Introducing the trauma model into mental health and psychospiritual growth is a significant step forward in normalizing the "abnormal." It's also about admitting that the psyche and mental health problems are complex, multi-layered phenomena. It's about stating that it makes no sense, in the long run, to cure symptoms without addressing the causes and complexity of a person and that one must always look for the cause of a symptom to determine it.
I. A fundamental consequence of trauma
Psychospiritually, I understand trauma as a vast morphogenetic field that's been present in humanity for centuries. I see it as a non-organic, non-natural mechanism that works like a massive program through individuals and collectives and finds its way into society. It becomes visible in any individual or collective process in which people are deprived of their basic human dignity or are shown something other than respect and love. That is a comprehensive view of trauma, including a woman being raped, a man being run over by a truck, or genocide.
Someone once said, "Trauma is a time traveler. Trauma is stronger than any mask; it cannot be buried, and it cannot be killed." Traumatic events are inherently physically, emotionally, or overall energetically overwhelming for an individual or community to consciously comprehend, reflect and integrate.
Traumatic energy reshapes our minds and souls. Traumatic energy gets locked in the body, eventually reshaping the neurophysiology and psyche. A missed opportunity to share the burden and therefore heal in real-time actively undermines the basic sense of human security and causes "symptoms" over time.
When the overwhelming event occurs, and these trauma codes are activated, complex energetic blocks and restrictions limit access to vital life energy. The mechanism of trauma causes the flow of vital life energy to be gradually interrupted and the interpersonal relationships that come from the heart to dissolve.
This is the energetic cause of people's physical, emotional, cognitive, and spiritual problems after trauma; the flow of life energy is the flow that keeps us alive and in the present. The body-mind becomes neurodysregulated, and the connection to our spiritual essence, the Soul, becomes more and more alienated.
When trauma happens or it happens very early in our lives, or later over extended periods in close relationships, it brings whole areas of natural psychological development to a halt. The constellation of unprocessed consequences not only energetically depletes the physical body but emotionally influences the ability to feel, give and receive human love.
It also inhibits the organic growth of human consciousness, which I believe is the most crucial part of why we collectively need to understand trauma and work toward implementing the trauma model in every area of society, not only in individual healing processes.
Trauma can seriously inhibit the organic growth of human consciousness.
One of the consequences of the stopped development of consciousness is that we become detached from our organic needs and desires. Organic needs and wants are extremely important than we usually think. They're the fuel for sustainable action, and they're intimately connected to our spiritual values, for which we're coded.
Our organic needs and desires spring from our Soul, spread through our cells, and enter our consciousness. They aren't something we "make up in our heads" and have willful control over. On the other hand, we can suppress them, but we cannot prevent them from seeping into our lives; they're mentally pre-programmed and usually come into our lives as a sense of something calling to us with an inexplicable, persistent urge. We know there's something we need to do or become. Organic needs and desires are summed up in the question when people ask them, what are the things in your life that call you?
Because trauma restricts the flow of life force, it also blocks awareness of our deepest callings, which is fundamentally a spiritual calling. Trauma alienates us more and more from our spiritual selves, which usually happens due to the changed neurobiology in our brains.
In addition, we often become alienated from close relationships as well, which means we lose more and more of the social support we need as human beings to live, grow, and create a life worth living.
Trauma is always about overwhelming emotions and emotional distress that has no witness. Traumatic energy anchors itself in our energy system through single or multiple experiences of energetic overwhelm that take place when we're unable to connect with people we love and trust.
As you can see, trauma is much about loss and losing the sense of connections all over. We can't connect, because after all, our ability to talk about our hurtful experiences is limited because we are young or so much impacted by traumatic events that we can't share what's been going on with us!
II. The unspeakable
It often takes a long way to recognize the unspeakable language of trauma as it always goes through the body. What's the body telling me? What's the body whispering to me? Our body is the one that calculates, says Bessel van der Kolk. Often, when saturated with unprocessed trauma, we don't understand strange pains or emotional and mental states in which we feel blocked, stopped, sluggish, anxious, suffering. Often we think it's because of the weather, lack of sleep, diet, or stress at work. Because we are weird and incapable of taking care of ourselves and this life. It usually doesn't even occur to us that it could be something deeper because we're used to feeling uncomfortable all the time somehow.
It's unpleasant yet expected to feel anxious or sluggish sometimes. But when we feel like that most of the time? I mean, can you imagine having foggy days forever? With temperatures just above freezing? That wet, razor cold that goes straight to our bones? I wouldn't exactly call that commonplace. But I'd acknowledge it as an unusual order of things. The same goes for endless anxieties and guilt-ridden days. They are canaries in coal mines, cardinal signs of ancient and buried psychic material held in the deeper layers of our psyche
The problem with traumatic energy is that it's self-perpetuating. We don't even know we've it inside of us most of the time. But that doesn't mean that it's not there.
When trauma has accumulated in our body-mind, disconnection becomes our way of life: first in relation to our body, our relationships, but also in relation to nature, the spirit, the universe as a breathing and living organism.
That shows in our attitudes, in how we behave. Some behaviors are culturally considered "normal," but when we look at them through the lens of trauma, we can question that "normal." Some of these are autonomy, caring for others, and overthinking.
Interdependence involves sovereignty and intimacy - it's the art of being autonomous and intimate at the same time. However, many people are highly self-reliant, self-sufficient, if you'll. People's autonomy is about being able to exist or exist independently, but also intimately. We recognize pseudo-autonomy as autonomy that lacks intimacy.
When we're pseudo-autonomous, intimacy is risky because it exposes us and requires attachment and emotionality, which we find difficult to maintain anyway when we've experienced significant trauma.
Pseudoautonomy is a woman with a corner office entering an empty house late at night and collapsing naked on the bathroom floor, crying in despair. Pseudoautonomy is a successful neurosurgeon who can't stay in a committed relationship. Pseudoautonomy is a girl who takes care of herself and her brothers at 16.
Pseudoautonomy also shows up on a cultural level. An example of this is the colossal self-help industry and its shades - many want to believe that personal change is about how one applies a particular skill, strategy, or "mindset." Parenting, Intimacy, Coaching - "15 Secrets to Great Sex" and "What Strategies Do I Need to Manifest a Godly Relationship with My Twin Flame?"
There's nothing wrong with the information, but we also can't expect a self-help approach to fix everything because that underestimates the medicine of a human connection. We all know that connection heals. As Sue Gerhardt explained in her 2004 book, love matters, and we need a loving relationship with others to survive, grow and thrive. Reading books, spiritual practices, nutritious foods, and supplements will help us, as long as we combine all of this with knowing our needs for connection and taking the necessary actions to make a difference.
The fact is that the vibration of our intimacy comes solely from our own rich, raw, and great depths. These depths rest in our bodies and depend on our connection at the soul level. But our ability to feel deep inside depends critically on how we can get emotionally closer to others.
Some people are amazingly good at attending to their own needs, wants, and desires. They've many ideas, gifts, and abilities and use them to build relationships. And then some people are amazingly inept at responding to their own needs, wants, and desires, and instead spend all their time working for others.
I hope overcaring isn't what Gandhi meant when he said the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in service to others. When we are over caring, our "service" to others isn't conscious and intentional but compulsive and obsessive. Overcaring is a way of living life unconsciously, which doesn't make us truly happy.
Once upon a time, we called this kind of relating co-dependence. Experience shows, when we're in a co-dependent role, which goes hand in hand with addictive behavior, we suffer a profound lack of awareness of who we are.
We can observe codependency on a scale from severe to mild. Still, it's good to keep in mind that severe cases of codependency are equivalent to addictive behavior because they put the individual's whole life at risk - emotionally, financially, socially, or literally at risk!
Mild cases can show up when we exert too much control in a relationship when we do for others what they're capable of doing themselves and feel bad when we don't, or when we're plagued by anxiety every time our loved one takes off in an airplane and struggle with worst-case scenarios about the plane crash.
I once had a client who couldn't get any progress with her project because she was unconsciously constantly sabotaging her success. Instead of caring about her own success, she cared about other people's projects - that's how much she'd unconsciously worked for others so that she felt unbothered by her success. And that's what people do - they sabotage themselves and take care of others instead, depriving themselves. Taking care of others, done through neglect or denial of our own needs, does classify as overcaring. And as humans, we've many conditions and needs! These range from basic needs like going to the bathroom without holding back a few hours, to creating something meaningful that impacts other people's lives! In therapy, people are often surprised at how many simple, soulful needs and desires they suddenly become aware of after years of being deprived and starved while literally or symbolically feeding others and leaving themselves out.
When we block our creativity and expression, and we block our soulful vision of life, we often do so because a certain amount of energy of the trauma is still present in our energy system; that's, it's unprocessed. When we hold things in isolation - such as our needs, creativity, knowledge, teachings, support, wisdom, love, etc.? And at the same time feel a deep need to have our needs met, to be alive and dynamic? We're sometimes unconsciously living out the isolation of a trauma that happened to us in another time, space or dimension. We shouldn't forget that trauma residues travel through time; they reside in morphogenetic fields, have origins in this and other lifetimes, and very often, they're ancestral.
What we know from somatic bodywork is that when traumatic energy accumulates in the body, and it's stored, unprocessed, people tend to retreat into their heads.
Whenever a situation overwhelms us, and we cannot process it consciously, there's a break in the connection happening between our mind and body. These disconnects accumulate over time. The younger we're, the more vulnerable we're; the longer trauma is happening, the more vulnerable we are. This is why so many of us grow up wholly alienated from our bodies and lose ourselves in drugs, sex, and other addictive behaviors before reaching adulthood.
Trauma, especially severe relational trauma, leads to harsh estrangement from the body.
The way how safely have we been attached to our childhood determines how we are able to process overwhelming experiences in life. When early attachment itself was traumatic by nature, this impacts our ability to process emotions, feelings, sensations.
Paradoxically, in such cases, we're often very good at using our bodies - and if we look more closely, we see that we even use them to the degree of abuse, sometimes resulting in numerous injuries and illnesses. This is a clear sign of a profound disconnection between body and mind and a lack of grounding.
When we withdraw very firmly into the head we are impulsive or operational. There's nothing wrong with reason and logic, just as there's nothing wrong with impulsiveness. The problem is when there's a lack of room to look at and reflect on decisions holistically, i.e., involving body, feelings, mind, spirit, and the people around us.
People who retread in their minds are sometimes very intelligent and successful go-getters because they needed their minds to help them survive in the harsh environment, plus they lead their bodies and reality with sheer will. Not only do they do this, but they're socially rewarded, encouraged, and idealized for it. The only problem is that this strategy eventually breaks down; life energy isn't infinitely renewable. That's a big surprise for them, who've invested heavenly in their mind, it is often experienced as a shock.
The other possibility is that the strategy of investing hard in the mental realms never actually worked. In this case, people suffered from mild to severe anxiety, panic attacks, and chronic overthinking, worsening over time if not addressed. I see the same pattern with the majority of intelligent, hard-working, compassionate women I work with; they spin endlessly in their thoughts. The not-so-funny thing is that they don't even realize how much they're doing this. Because it's so natural for them to think and think and think - and think even more!
When we tend to overthink, we naturally tend to delay action too. Automatically, we are in the freeze position. Thinking things through is often a prerequisite for meaningful action, but is overthinking conducive to activity?
We usually don't know why we're doing it. We think and think, and it hurts us inside; I mean, omg, that's such pressure to think so much! And then we don't even talk about how much we think... we keep silent, procrastinate and procrastinate! The truth is, his habit of overthinking can be a natural consequence of something uncomplicated. Not everything in our life is about trauma. Certain beliefs and values we've been growing within our family of origin may cause lots of dissonance for us.
For example, we often find that women grew up in families where family members were opinionated and not open to difference. Not available to diversity. Not open to individual expressions of the unique spiritual self - apart from their own, of course. In a case like this, a woman thinks and thinks and thinks because she's trying to find "the right answer" in a specific situation.
Suppose she's thinking of telling her partner that she doesn't want to go on vacation in the middle of summer because she's other plans. But she can't tell him that. And she doesn't understand why? She can't share it with him and mentally goes through many scenarios, but none fits. None is satisfying. Until she talks to her therapist and understands, she tries to make her situation comfortable for him.
But that's impossible. Part of her knows that what she needs doesn't match what he expects, and because she doesn't trust herself, because her "own head" and ideas, wishes, and desires have been labeled wrong too many times, she doesn't even dare say it. It's as if she unconsciously expects that her suggestion will have no effect. She assumes that anything she proposes will be rejected, dismissed, or condemned, or ridiculed. That's her expectation, and that's why she silently overthinks things.
If this woman was beaten, scolded, or oppressed as a child, the situation is different. She tends to find the correct response to avoid something terrible happening to her or someone hurting her, which is trauma imprinting.
III. The wisdom of trauma - really, a wisdom?!
We need to connect the physical, energetic-emotional, mental, spiritual, and social dots to heal trauma. That sounds very technical, but that's the technical essence of the work we do in our intimate healing process.
Healing trauma is about connecting the lost parts of our Soul, linking our adult ego with our inner parts, our intelligent mind with our heart, and our womb consciousness. This is our "vertical work". But equally important, we need to allow ourselves to connect with others. We need to fulfill our need to connect and bond, and honor our attachment needs. This is our "horizontal work."
Trauma healing is about reconnecting with our body, our ego, our soul, and the people around us. Feeling isolated is a major symptom of trauma, and connecting in safe relationships an essential step to healing.
The fact is, psychological trauma should be healed and can be restored. Often we need to address many layers holistically, combining bottom-up and top-down approaches: therapy, somatic work, and psychoeducation. This work takes time and space. It's process work. If we have a clear intention and work on it patiently and persistently in the safe space of a therapeutic relationship? We can peel away the layers of pain and come to a much deeper understanding of who we're, and more importantly, realize how to live our lives according to our deepest needs, wants, and desires. I think that's what people then call the "wisdom of trauma." The wisdom of trauma is a possibility, not a necessary outcome in the integration of trauma experiences.
There are better ways to gain wisdom than through painful experiences, and I don't think that learning through pain and fear is the only option in our lives. I believe that we can all learn equally through love and joy, and at the same time, the pain has been a part of the human experience for centuries. Pain affects our lives in unpredictable and painful ways until we deal with it and process it. It's good to take time and process traumatic experiences so that we can free ourselves, close the doors to the past, make room for the new, and continue on our soulful path.
In a nutshell
Pseudoautonomy, overcaring, and overthinking are three often overlooked signals of unprocessed psychological trauma. Being autonomous, caring, and reasonable is highly valued in this culture and considered good behavior. People with these qualities are often rewarded with praise and respect in society. But sometimes autonomy is a pseudo-autonomy, compassion is just a cover for deep denial of our own needs, and overthinking signifies our retreat into mental realms. This underlying psychological trauma can cause these behaviors.
Tina Bozic is a mom, wife, skilled practitioner, psychologist, and psychotherapist with more than two decades of experience in self-development. She helps women to own who they're on the level of their soul. Her approach is process-oriented, relational, holistic, non-pathologizing, trauma-informed, and neurodiversity-informed.