Therapy with a trauma focus is about seeing that underlying presenting symptoms and problems there can be trauma. Trauma is about an overwhelm of the personality’s resources to cope and manage the traumatic event at the time.
Our personality has an ego which is that part that orients us to reality; it enables us to be functional to meet the world and respond appropriately; it gives us the ability to be open, flexible and learn; it builds defences to enable our protection; it mediates between what we know and the unknown, keeping our well-being and ensuring our adaptation and survival.
When we are traumatized, our ego has been hit and the severity of that depends on how overwhelming the event/situation has been. Our ego can be so badly hit that the damaged part can be so to speak cut off. We experience this when we suppress or even repress memories as if an event never happened. We also experience a degree of this when we numb to certain happenings in our life so that we don’t feel the pain or fear or shame or anger and be able to continue with life. The ego does this to ensure survival and the continuation of functionality.
Trauma can be about abuse, of whatever kind, about having suffered violence, witnessed any of this; it is anything that has broken into our defences, leaving us fragile and exposed. We lose our safety and trust. We are wounded and are in need of healing. A traumatic event can happen once, over a limited period and over years of our life. What psychotherapy seeks to do with trauma is create a safe container where trust can start to happen again and in that relationship of trust get in touch and express emotions, be in one’s vulnerability, build new defences, learn differently and keep creating new ways.
Wounds do heal with effort and steadfastness, one need not be conditioned all throughout life, but trauma does leave scars. Scars can be lived with especially if through trauma work you can create meaning and purpose for yourself.