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Yellowbrick Blog

Monthly Archives: November 2016

5 Signs That You May Be Minimizing Trauma

trauma

We all have a tendency to minimize traumatic events. We tell ourselves, “That’s in the past. I should be over that by now.” It’s certainly a healthy response to want to let go and move on. But trauma doesn’t typically resolve on its own, and eventually our bodies and minds will let us know when something needs to be addressed.

“No one wants to say ‘I’ve been traumatized,’” says Robbie Bogard, Director of Integrative and Group Services at Yellowbrick. “You may not define your symptoms as trauma-related. You just know something is wrong.”

Ironically, one of the reasons trauma becomes minimized is that there is such a broad variety of experiences that qualify as traumatic. Serious physical injury is one obvious cause of trauma, but any event that leaves you feeling frightened, alone and interferes with your life going forward can be considered traumatic. It can be the result of a powerful one-time event, or come from a series of unpleasant experiences that leads to long-term problems, such as growing up with an alcoholic parent, being shamed about being overweight, being date raped or being in an abusive relationship, or many other scenarios.

Traumatic experiences overwhelm the mind and body’s ability to integrate the experience into memory and store it as you would other life experiences. For that reason, it keeps showing up in many ways, including those described below.

So how do you know if you are suffering from something you’ve told yourself was “no big deal”?

Signs You’ve Experienced Trauma

  1. You feel overwhelmed
    Did something happen unexpectedly? Were you unprepared for it? Did you feel helpless to prevent it? Do you feel you can’t talk to anyone about it because no one else can understand? Feeling that you have no control over your life or no one to turn to is a sign of trauma.
  1. You have flashbacks
    Are you being triggered by certain sights, sounds, or smells that remind you of the incident? Is your life being interrupted by intrusive symptoms, whether in the form of upsetting images, memories, nightmares, crying, or sudden anger? Any strong emotional or physical reaction that doesn’t seem to be connected to the present situation can be the result of a buried trauma.
  1. You often “space out”
    Feeling numb or having flat emotions is a common result of trauma. Maybe you have difficulty staying present, or find yourself disconnecting from others. This desire to isolate or zone out could mean that you haven’t processed a painful memory.
  1. You overreact or respond inappropriately
    Do you startle easily? Does the slightest stress send you into panic mode? Bogard calls this a “hyper-aroused response” and says it’s another sign that you may be minimizing a trauma.
  1. You feel ashamed
    Do you sometimes feel that you can’t do anything right? Do you find yourself thinking, “If only I hadn’t done that, this never would have happened”? One of the most common types of trauma is interpersonal trauma, which includes physical or sexual abuse, or bullying. Shame plays a big part in this kind of trauma, as well as a tendency to blame yourself.

These five signs of trauma can be your mind know you have important emotions that need to be processed. If you’ve been denying or ignoring any of them, know that there are steps you can take to begin to truly move past trauma.

Steps to Recover From Trauma

  • Seek out someone who is experienced in helping others.
  • Tell a trusted friend.
  • Join a group for survivors of trauma.

Bogard says that the goal is to be supported as you connect your feelings to your memories. Integrating the two will allow you to release self-blame, sadness, anger, and fear. You’ll minimize not the trauma itself, but the ability it has to affect your life.

For more information on Yellowbrick’s trauma recovery treatment, click here.

It’s a Shame: The symptoms of shame and how to combat it

symptoms of shame

Shame is one of the most powerful emotions that we feel. It can cause us to sever relationships, sink into depression, fuel addictions and eating disorders, and even lead to suicide.

“Shame has to do with the negative feeling about ourselves, which can get activated anytime we are frustrated or get challenged,” explains Dr. Bryn Jessup, Director of Family Services at Yellowbrick.

“Shame is an existential feeling of unworthiness,” Jessup says. “When people feel shame, they believe that they are ultimately an inadequate person or an unworthy person.”

For many people, shame is an emotion you feel to a varying degree almost every day. Anytime you think you’ve done something wrong, don’t know something, or just feel uncomfortable in a social situation you may be feeling a version of shame.

How Shame Affects Young Adults

It’s also an emotion that is especially potent for young adults, who are in a stage of life where they are constantly learning new things. For example, young adults who are taking a challenging college class, doing an internship, or starting a new job will face many things they don’t know. They may feel shame asking for help, but that is the only way they’ll be able to learn.

“You have to have face-to-face interactions where you’re seeking someone’s assistance and support and asking for help. For many people, that is a recipe for activating shame,” Jessup says.

Plus, young adults are also in a life stage where they are making new friendships and forging new romantic relationships — both of which are ripe for feeling inadequate, insecure or unloveable.

Since feelings of shame are so prevalent in early adulthood, it’s especially important for young adults to learn to identify feelings of shame and know how to deal with them.

What Are the Symptoms of Shame?

Shame is an emotion that can take many forms. Here are some common symptoms of shame:

  • Wanting to Disappear
    Most often, shame causes people to want to bury their heads and disappear — anything to pull out of connection with another person. If you’ve ever wanted to avoid returning a phone call, back out of a date, or call in sick for a job interview, you probably were feeling some amount of shame.
  • Anger
    Another common way people react to shame is by feeling anger. Often it’s easier to blame someone else than to think you may have done something wrong, and the anger helps mitigate your own feelings of shame.For example, when a parent yells at a teenager and the teenager runs to his room and slams the door, the teenager’s anger is really covering up his own feelings of shame.
  • Self-Blame
    Shame can also cause people to heap blame onto themselves. For example, when a teacher corrects you or gives you criticism, if you respond by thinking, “I am such an Why did I even take this class? I should quit,” you are feeling shame.
  • Addiction
    When you’re feeling shame, you may want to use something (alcohol, drugs, food, sex etc.) to give you temporary relief from those negative feelings. However, if those substances get in the way of your life, you may feel ever more shame for using them, causing a vicious cycle.

How to Combat Shame

Ironically, sharing your negative, self-critical thoughts with another person is one of the best ways to combat shame.

Dr. Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston’s Graduate School of Social Work who has studied topics such as shame, vulnerability and worthiness, has been a strong proponent of sharing your vulnerability, essentially admitting your feelings of shame so you can be more connected to others.

For example, if you go on a date and say, “I’m really afraid you’re not going to like me,” the other person will most likely respond to your authenticity and give you a positive affirmation.

That’s why going to individual or group therapy can be immensely helpful in rewriting the shame messages in your head.

“If a client begins to have an experience of the therapist who knows the worst truths about them and is still willing to be in a relationship with them, they can often start to let go of some of their core shame,” Jessup says.

Plus, therapists can help you identify certain situations that tend to provoke feelings of shame in you.

“Therapists can help by providing insight into your shame dynamics,” Jessup says. “Once you track what’s going on inside you, then you have options.”

To learn more about how shame impacts young adults and contributes to self-destructive behaviors, come to our upcoming seminar entitled, “Shame Resilience: Hiding in Plain Sight,” taking place at our Evanston headquarters on Dec. 9.