Understanding Trauma: Unhealed Wounds and Personal Narratives

Trauma, originating from the Greek word meaning “unhealed wound,” carries profound significance. I first encountered this definition on the very first day of my trauma certification. Mental trauma cannot be quantified or compared, for it is not solely about the event itself. It centers around the story one tells oneself as a result of that event. The varying degrees of healing from seemingly traumatic events arise from the narratives individuals construct. These narratives may include thoughts such as “I should have done something,” “I am unsafe,” “I am not good enough,” or “This was my fault.”

During trauma, these thoughts solidify within the emotional part of our brains, rather than the logical part. They become core beliefs, stuck points, or negative beliefs—different terms to describe the same phenomenon. Even when we logically understand that these beliefs are untrue, they can still resonate deeply within us. This is the essence of trauma. Moreover, this understanding extends to complex trauma, which occurs when individuals experience ongoing trauma throughout their lives. With each subsequent traumatic experience, even if it may appear “small,” these beliefs become further embedded in our minds.

Hence, when people share their experiences of trauma and mention that they simply push those memories aside and no longer think about them, I recognize the importance of identifying the underlying messages and how they manifest in other ways. You may not explicitly recall the specific traumatic event that instilled the belief that you are unsafe. However, you may subconsciously choose to sit with your back against the wall in crowded places, instinctively scout exits upon entering buildings, or take an extended period to establish trust in your relationships. It is not solely about the event itself, but rather the beliefs we develop based on those events, which significantly shape how we perceive ourselves and the world around us.

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