“It happened a long time ago, I’ve put it behind me and I want to move forward.”
I can’t tell you how often I have heard this in my practice. It is nearly always said with passion because my client really wants to believe it – but just because we want to believe it, doesn’t make it true.
As Professor of Psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine, Bessel Van Der Kolk says in his best-selling book The Body Keeps The Score trauma does not disappear but gets stored in the body.
Many people can trace the original trauma back to their childhood or young adulthood.
It does not have to be something ‘big’ – like death of a parent, childhood sexual abuse or surviving a terrible accident or medical emergency – but some of the regular slings and arrows that fate throws at us: parents going bankrupt, persistent bullying, moving to another country or a toxic divorce.
These original traumas can lead onto further trauma and a series of misfortunes that build on each other.
Old trauma can be reawakened by something new. For example, discovering that your partner is unfaithful (especially if one of your parents was unfaithful) or a boss acting in the same way as your angry father.
A good example of how trauma sits on other trauma is my guest on my podcast The Meaningful Life with Andrew G Marshall.
Fenella Hansen brings her own life experiences of grief, loss, mental health and trauma to her counselling work.
After losing her mother to cancer, she made a dramatic career change from IT into counselling, and has since worked extensively with survivors of various forms of trauma.
Fenella has herself also suffered medical PTSD – when an operation went badly wrong. She believes gives her a unique perspective and level of empathy in her work with her clients.
Fenella worked in mental health for 7 years before moving to work with survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
She has worked with complex trauma clients and is also a trained expert in trauma sensitive yoga and mindfulness.
Andrew has answered many questions over the last decade in the Help & Advice section. Comments on those articles are now closed, but there are other ways you can receive help and join the conversation:
We believe that relationships run into problems because of poor communication but that good relationship skills can be taught.
We concentrate more on solving current problems than understanding what went wrong. Our approach is solutions-focused.