Does Your Past Feel Too Painful to Even Think About?
Is there an experience from your past that prevents you from being able to focus on the present moment and live life the way you want to live it? Do you feel like you’re always on guard or on the lookout for something bad to happen? Are you wrestling with feelings of shame and guilt, as if you are at fault for what happened to you?
In addition to causing physical symptoms like nightmares, shortness of breath, or a rapid heartbeat, trauma can lead to depression, shame, anger, and loneliness. If you suffered from abuse, you may be afraid to let other people into your life because you feel like you can’t trust anyone. You may feel like other people just can’t understand how heavily your trauma weighs on you. It’s as if they have nothing to complain about, and you would trade your troubles for theirs in a heartbeat.
The paradox of coping with trauma is that the harder you try to fight it, the worse you generally feel. Trying to brush all your symptoms under the rug prevents you from being able to process and resolve them. That’s why trauma and PTSD therapy is so essential. It’s a chance to work through your stressors and address feelings of shame and anger in a safe, non-triggering, and empowering manner.
Most Forms of Trauma Happen Over Long Periods of Time and Are Hard to Recognize
Trauma is much more common than we usually imagine. Most people think of trauma as the result of a single event such as an assault or a bad car accident. But more often than not, trauma stems from a series of smaller events that occur over long stretches of time.
Many of these experiences take place in our childhood. As children, however, we usually don’t recognize when something is traumatic because it seems so “normal” to us. If our parents call us names, throw things, slam doors, or hit, we tend to see it as “just how things are.” In the long run, though, such experiences can have damaging effects on our self-esteem and make it hard to trust other people.
Childhood trauma can stem from having drug-addicted or alcoholic parents, verbally, sexually or emotionally abusive parents, and even parents who are unavailable to care for you. Trauma can manifest in adult relationships, too, when there is abuse, manipulation, gaslighting, or name-calling.
Sadly, our society still has a tendency to blame the victim when there is abuse. If someone is assaulted while drunk or dressed in a certain way, people may tell them “It’s your fault” or “You asked for it.” Over time, trauma survivors often grow to internalize these statements: It is my fault. I brought this on myself. I should’ve been able to do something different.
Little wonder, then, that so many people are afraid to come forward about their trauma. Being told that it’s their fault makes them feel guilty, ashamed, and afraid to seek help. Therapy provides a chance to overcome these feelings and get support from someone who understands that trauma is real and knows how to effectively process and resolve it.
Trauma Therapy Can Help You Break Down Barriers of Fear and Shame
In the wake of trauma, the body and brain learn to be in protective mode and stay on the lookout for bad things to happen. These protective reactions may not be very helpful, but they are automatic, and you can’t just “stop” them. Here at the Boston Center for Health Psychology and Biofeedback, located in downtown Boston, MA, our goal is to help you step out of this protective mode—but do so in a way that won’t retraumatize you. While we want you to process and resolve your trauma, we aim to move at whatever pace is comfortable for you, and we focus on teaching you helpful skills for responding to your thoughts and emotions along the way.
One of our core approaches to trauma and PTSD treatment is called Biofeedback. The goal of this approach is to regulate your physiological response to daily events and situations, training your nervous system to activate the right balance of relaxation and alertness. After all, one of the hardest parts of living with trauma is the feeling of physical agitation that follows you around. Biofeedback helps reduce this agitation by giving you skills to relax, let go of your need for control, and increase your feeling of safety.
Additionally, because so much of struggling with trauma comes down to trying to control the uncontrollable, our practice focuses on changing your response to trauma rather than the experience itself. Mindfulness training is a technique that can help you respond to shame, fear, sadness, and anger without getting stuck in unproductive efforts to control these symptoms. This can be done through validating your experience, expanding your awareness, and choosing to act based on what you value instead of what you fear.
Finally, we want to help you be kinder to yourself. Instead of blaming yourself for your past and telling yourself that you could have acted differently, you will learn self-compassion skills and recognize that you are not at fault for what happened. Self-compassion skills are the best tools for overcoming anger and shame. They will allow you to treat yourself lovingly, the way you would a dear friend. They can also help you feel safer and more grounded in your own shoes, making it easier to open up to others and form trusting connections.
Feeling angry and ashamed is a typical response to trauma. But with the right help and support, it is possible to disengage from these unhelpful reactions. By working together, we can help you break down barriers of fear, treat yourself with kindness rather than blame, and enjoy healthy relationships again.
You may still be wondering if trauma and PTSD counseling is right for you…
I feel like I really am at fault for what happened.
You are not at fault. It does not matter what you said, did, or wore—it is not okay for another person to hurt you. You did not cause another person’s actions. Over the course of treatment, we will work on diminishing self-blame by reframing how you see yourself in the light of your past. Whether you dealt with sexual, emotional, or verbal abuse, counseling can help you take back the freedom and self-empowerment that your experience robbed you of.
I don’t want to talk about what my trauma; I just want to forget it ever happened.
Oftentimes, the more you try to push away your feelings, the more you end up getting stuck in them. This is because without processing trauma, it’s impossible to resolve it. And while processing trauma may seem overwhelming, our therapists are trained to make sure you feel safe, grounded, and non-retraumatized. We will go in small steps that allow you to accept your feelings and talk about what happened in a way that is comfortable for you.
This all happened such a long time ago. Isn’t it time for me to move on?
Your body and mind learned to protect you the best way they could a long time ago, and you’ve been using those reactions ever since. Long-standing habits are difficult to change. It will take time to change reactions that used to be adaptive but are no longer helpful. That’s why we encourage you to treat yourself with grace and compassion. You’re not at fault for living in protective mode, but with the right support, you can find healthier, more empowering ways to live.
Our Boston, MA Therapists Will Help You Learn to Release Your Need for Control And Put the Past Behind You
Right now, the mere thought of dwelling on the past may seem overwhelming. But at the Boston Center for Health Psychology and Biofeedback, we are confident that we can help you work through your pain in a way that allows you to feel safe and at ease with yourself. To get started, you can email us, use the contact page, or call our Boston, MA offices at 617-231-0011 for a free, 15-minute phone consultation.