The 3 Types of Trauma (& How we can Find Light in the Darkness)
There is a unifying and often unrecognized feature within all of life: all humans go through trauma, burden, challenge, and pain.
You’ve gone through pain, I’ve gone through pain, and anyone else yet to come will go through some kind of burden that weighs heavy on their shoulders, and deep down it will try to manifest itself in their life.
Resolving past trauma can itself be traumatic, so most won’t bother to go there. Reaching down into our past and pulling out that painful memory or experience will bring that monster to light and reveal itself yet again to our eyes, and that revelatory process is often what’s needed in order to slay that dragon.
If it slumbers deep down inside of us, we can’t get to it, and those slow-releasing poisons will continue to seep into our spirit.
Over the years, I’ve been able to whittle down all trauma into three categories so that we can begin to identify what happened to us. Using this information will give us the key to unpack the past, expose it to light, and package it all up nice and neat to use as a teaching tool later on down the road.
As I’ve often said to my friends and clients, we don’t go through trauma just for ourselves; we eventually realize that we experienced horror so that we may one day help and bring relief to someone on a similar path.
Genetic trauma refers to what we think we are born with. Somehow in our lineage, there was a gene passed down that comes through as a trait characteristic, and, by God, it changes how the hell we react to smokers. Or the classic, “I’m just an angry person, my father had it, and his father…all the way down the Jones pipeline.”
Genetic trauma will be a support for anyone not understanding their real nature, tendencies, and strengths. We can simply pass the blame to our genes so it isn’t our fault, but the problem with that method of reasoning is that it gives all the power to the lineage of genes and leave us powerless.
Psychic trauma means that which came from our parents. Mom, dad, uncle, and everyone else who helped raise us also hurt us badly. This is where trauma gets tragic, because, unlike genetic trauma, we can remember the hurt and pain. Those memories are real, maybe recent, and the emotion truly changes the way we act and react to our daily surroundings.
The hurt that our parents did to us can directly influence our current-day relationships, our behavior regarding social events, the way we treat drugs and alcohol, or how close we let loved ones get to us.
I’ve noticed some clients in my work don’t even want children due to the fear of doing to the child what their parents did to them. The hurt and trauma that our parents inflicted on us is carried around like snake poison, coursing through the veins without knowing why we are the way we are.
Slaying this dragon is particularly painful compared to the other types of trauma.
Society tends to play a role in our development, whether we like it or not. Our teachers, fellow students, friends, coaches, TV shows — all of it gets packed into environmental trauma, and some of it can be quite influential.
For example, I’ll never forget the moment I started to dread school. A fellow student with the same first name as me put someone’s boot in the water fountain one winter day. The eyewitnesses simply used the first name of the rabble-rouser, and, without much thought, the teacher pulled me out of my class and forced me to apologize in front of an entire class of older kids. I cried and felt humiliated.
Seems trivial, but what soon developed was a hatred for school. I made a vow at that moment that no teacher would ever be able to hurt me, and I became an angry, hateful student who would never make an attempt to get any grade above a C.
We all have been affected by society in one way or another, especially by politics. These influences divide us rather than create solidarity, and distinct lines in the sand are drawn and new morals are affirmed only to then become internalized.
The unfortunate part of environmental trauma is that it tends to happen slowly. Before long, you realize you have different principles now than you did five years ago, you spend more time around your circle that validates the same thinking, and your novel experiences of growth and development have come to a halt. It’s safest around your “tribe,” and you can’t really say why. Nothing challenges your opinion too much, and you don’t have to always argue your point.
Eventually, we realize that we create our own safe society right around our aura — one that doesn’t hurt, judge, or incorrectly blame us for someone else’s mistakes.
Determine versus Influence
The one factor that helps relieve each of the three types of trauma is the choice of words we use to describe them. No one doubts that these painful situations exist and influence our future — but do they determine us? Does our past actually solidify our future, making us in the exact image of our father?
We know that the brain can change based on thought, and we know that thought can change how we feel about a given thing. The challenge with trauma is the fact that it happened to me, and I’m helpless of that fact.
Yes, the trauma did happen to you when it happened, but you are not helpless for the way you decide to change your future. From this moment on, you can actually change the way your brain perceives the past, present, and future. We don’t deny the pain exists, but we also can’t deny that we have the power to choose our own response in dealing with it.
Your father may have been an angry drunk who beat you, but that doesn’t mean you will be the same monster. Your parents might have punished you in cruel and unusual ways, but that doesn’t mean you will do the same to your children. So long as you choose to be different and better than anyone before you, you can suck out that poison from your veins and be healed. The only one keeping the poison flowing through your veins is you.
Slaying the Dragon of Chaos with Fire
The most painful solution to our trauma is to reveal it to the world of light. When a memory sits inside of us and remains hidden and dark, we cannot do much with it, and it forever remains out of our reach. But when we act as the hero of our lives, reveal the experience to our current mind, and dare to stare it in the face without fear of death, we can conquer, we can slay, and we can begin to understand that those painful memories don’t determine our character so long as we don’t allow it to.
Write down the experience on paper and burn the paper. Show your mind that you aren’t afraid to see the experience again, and now show it that you’ve moved on and can burn it up in fire, never to be seen again. More painful experiences will need to be written down repeatedly, but the experience will eventually lose the strong emotion behind it, and the color of the situation will diminish in your mind as a faint memory.
Handling past trauma is no easy matter, and it shouldn’t be. Our lives are filled with unresolved experiences, hurt, and pain that have been packed away, deep in the mind, nowhere to be found. Unlabeled boxes in the basement of the mind can’t be easily found again, and the wisdom of the experience doesn’t get extracted.
We go through pain, hurt, terror, and anguish so that we can one day brandish it as a battle scar, help others coming back from war and patch up their wounds so they can do the same.
I ask that you find what makes up the contents of your mind, reveal them for you to see once again, and turn the chaos and pain of your past into order, love, understanding, and strength.