Does a history of trauma hide in the shadows?

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We are a collection of our past experiences, our genetic backgrounds, unique qualities and strengths as well as our weaknesses and liabilities.  In total, we are a collection of parts. For some people, there is a troubled past which is rife with abuse and maltreatment by others. This could be in the form of physical, psychological or sexual abuse or neglect which affected them deeply, although it has become a dim memory, it has remained with them in the form of ongoing psychological distress and a factor which infiltrates every aspect of their personality, behavior and relationships.

Currently the news is filled with stories of people coming forward with their personal histories of abuse. In some cases, it has been through the courts like in the Sandusky trial or the allegations of abuse by priests and religious figures or by school teachers. Abuse knows no economic or social bounds. It is not a problem exclusive to the underprivileged and probably exists equally in the middle and upper classes. It does not discriminate by gender or by age. It can happen in the family, in a marriage, at school, in a church, at a campground, at home or away. It simply happens and leaves a mark on the person which is much like their shadow. Many of stories involve others expressing guilt about not stopping it or not reporting it. They too, are caught up with a shadow of guilt.

Many people come to treatment with abuse histories as the cause of their current psychological distress. It may be a factor in a person seeking to lose themselves in drugs, alcohol or other addictive and destructive behaviors. It may take the form of suicidal thinking and attempts as the person tries to erase the pain of the past. It may be what forms the dark, deep and never ending depression which never really clears and only responds minimally to the arsenal of drugs that psychiatry can offer. A history of abuse can take many forms as the person struggles with dealing with their personal pain and suffering. It can taint every relationship by breeding distrust, fear and anxiety. It may be what turns them away from their relationship with God and making a spiritual home for themselves.

In our admission evaluations and in our spiritual assessments in the Renewal program, people come forward with their histories and begin the process of unburdening themselves. Psychological pain which has been born by a person for a lifetime is hard to unload. Often it’s hard to tell the story and begin the process of disclosing what has been one’s private pain. Sometimes it takes days, weeks, months or years to unravel this pain which has become part of the person. But, however long the process takes it always seems to begin with that first step of separating from the shadow.

 

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