PTSD and trauma; awareness about them is increasing in our society. However, stereotypes about trauma survivors continue to perpetuate. These, at best, have the effect of causing confusion. At worst, people who have trauma believe these stereotypes to be true.
But it doesn’t have to be. I’ve witnessed that time and time again in my work as a trauma therapist.
If you have experienced trauma, or perhaps struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder or C-PTSD, it’s important to understand what these stereotypes are. And, to know that they don’t have to be your reality.
Then, you can focus on what works for overcoming PTSD and trauma and concentrate on living your life. Here’s how you can overcome these stereotypes.
That You are Somehow “Broken”
A common stereotype of trauma is that it “breaks” you. But what does that even mean? Oftentimes, there is an image of someone who stays at home in bed overcome by grief. Or, it might be the image of a veteran who is down-on-their-luck. They are depicted as shabby, unkempt, and haunted by what they have experienced.
Yet, the reality is that people who go through a trauma have many different kinds of reactions to it. Probably every day you might see someone on the street, or talk with someone at work, who has lived through trauma. But you probably wouldn’t know it. Their outward appearance would not indicate it at all. Yet, inside, they may still be struggling with certain issues related to PTSD. But even if they suffer on the inside, they can hold down a job and have a loving family. Just because you struggle with symptoms of PTSD, or symptoms of C-PTSD, doesn’t mean that you are broken at your core. In fact, some of the highest functioning people people I’ve worked with have survived some of the most extreme trauma.
You Don’t Want to Talk About It
Another myth is that people struggling with trauma don’t want to talk about it. That’s because any reference to those memories is just too painful to deal with. This isn’t always the case. Granted, for some, the pain of having lived through trauma may be too great, and they won’t want to talk about it. However, for others, they are perfectly willing to discuss their experiences. It really all depends on the person and their comfort level. While many of the trauma patients struggled silently for years, most of them longed to talk with someone they felt could understand and deal with their history.
The Weakness Myth
A common myth is that people who have lived through trauma are somehow weaker than other people. If only they had the emotional or moral strength, they wouldn’t be struggling right now. But how you respond to trauma has nothing to do with your character at all. We know that PTSD is how the brain and the nervous system respond to traumatic events. It’s clearly evident in brain scans or through the use of diagnostic tools such as eeg neurofeedback therapy. But that doesn’t mean that those effects reveal anything about whether someone is mentally or morally strong. Again, my experience as a trauma therapist has revealed to me just how strong trauma survivors are. It takes courage and strength to share your very human vulnerability with your trauma therapist.
The Damage is Permanent
Just because you experienced either one or many traumatic events, that doesn’t mean that nothing can be done about it. Nor does it mean the effect of what happened is permanent. Yes, it is a lived experience that you will carry with you for the rest of your life. But it doesn’t have to be a driving source of pain or anguish either. There are ways that we can resolve the trauma. Cutting edge trauma treatment affords your brain the opportunity to fully process those experiences. Treatment of PTSD and C-PTSD help to resolve trauma and to help memories come to a peaceful resolution as your brain stores them in your long-term memory. In fact, PTSD can be thought of as a symptom cluster; a way that your brain acknowledges that something is wrong and needs to be addressed. The good news is that a qualified and experienced trauma specialist will be able to help you resolve your trauma symptoms.
Therapy is Just a Bunch of Talking
Even when it comes to trauma treatment, myths persist. For instance, one false notion is that in therapy, all you do is talk. Or, that it is another example that you are weak and cannot handle these issues yourself. Good therapy is definitely not all about talking. Nor does it mean you are weak. However, there is one kernel of truth: trauma is something that you can’t or shouldn’t have to bear alone. In trauma therapy, you have the opportunity to work with a supportive guide. He or she will employ techniques that will help to close the loop on your trauma. That helps lighten the burden of your memories, and the painful feelings that accompany them.
Coping with trauma is hard enough without having to also deal with these inaccurate myths too. However, in therapy, you will find a place where you can resolve your trauma and heal. Reach out today to learn more about how trauma counseling can help.