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Beyond Words: The Silent Markers of Trauma

"Trauma is what happens inside you as a result of what happened to you."

In his book The Myth of Normal, Dr. Gabor Mate challenges the assumptions about what constitutes "normal" human behavior in the face of life's challenges. As humans, we have emotional reactions about what happens to us. Rather than judging our emotions by external factors solely, Mate underscores looking inside to see our emotions as meaningful information about our experiences and how they shape us.

From a developmental lens, trauma is often described as anything that is that is too much too soon, too much for too long, or too little for too long, especially in the absence of an attuned relationship. A child expected to regulate emotions at a developmentally impossible age; a child expected to perform for too long; or, a child left at home alone for too long without the care and safety of an adult. These are all overwhelming experiences that, if chronic, leave an indelible mark on a person's emotional, psychological, and physical well-being. Again, trauma, developmental or not, arise from a range of events, such as childhood neglect, accidents, abuse, loss, or natural disasters, and its impact extends far beyond the immediate moment of occurrence.

Some silent markers of trauma—of what happens inside of us—are below.


In the aftermath of trauma, the mind employs a survival strategy by fragmenting the overwhelming experience into smaller, more manageable pieces. This fragmentation serves as a protective mechanism, shielding a person from the full emotional, and oftentimes horrific, impact of the traumatic event. Consequently, seemingly innocuous life experiences may be minimized or dismissed as insignificant, hindering the ability to grasp the gravity of one's own history. Creating meaning in life becomes a daunting task as a fractured narrative challenges the formation of a coherent life story.


Trauma often triggers a profound sense of dissociation, where the fabric of reality appears frayed, and life feels less tangible. Consciousness seeks refuge elsewhere, detaching from the immediate surroundings to enable functionality in other aspects of life. This dissociative state compromises emotional regulation and present-moment awareness, making the navigation of daily challenges and the formulation of confident life decisions a formidable undertaking. The struggle to stay anchored in the present moment becomes a pervasive aspect of post-traumatic experiences.


Safety, once associated with human connection, becomes distorted in the aftermath of trauma, leading to a profound mistrust of others and oneself. Interpersonal interactions are tainted by shame and self-blame, as the body codes safety with others as threatening. The natural response becomes a retreat into emotional and physical isolation, where a person attempts to shield themselves from the potential harm lurking in social bonds. This isolation, fueled by an inability to trust, perpetuates a cycle of loneliness and reinforces the pervasive impact of trauma on one's perception of self and others.

Key Takeaway:

Trauma fractures one's sense of safety and security, shaking the very foundation of their understanding of the world. It is a deeply personal response to suffering. The good news is the mind wants to move out a place of survival to connection and thriving! A first step toward recovery can be identifying a trustworthy therapist who can walk with you into those painful places so that you can come through them more whole and safe.

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