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Stop Minimizing Your Trauma to Start Healing from PTSD

2018, December 20 Traci Powell

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Most people have a tendency to minimize traumatic life events that continue to be distressing well after the event has occurred. We shame ourselves and think, "I should be over this by now," or "it wasn't that bad." Adding even more shame, family and friends may say "Why can't you just let it go?" The problem is, trauma often doesn't go away on its own and no amount of trying to convince ourselves we should be over it will change that. 

For decades, I was a master minimizer. I think part of it for me was a defense mechanism. I was not ready to deal with my sexual abuse, and I most definitely didn't want it to be real. So, I pretended what happened to me was really not a big deal and constantly told myself, "Just let it go already!"

It didn't help that when I tried to talk to family members about events that still bothered me, I was left feeling like there was something seriously wrong with me. They seemed to think I was just attention-seeking and being stubborn by continuing to bring up something they thought I should have forgotten long ago. 

In addition, even when I am dealing with my trauma, I tend to minimize the progress I've made.  

But I have learned the more I fight to "just move on" the more my traumatic memories fight to be processed and resolved. 

How Minimization Could Be Stalling PTSD Healing

Comparing Traumas

The most common form of minimization among survivors of trauma is minimizing trauma itself. You may compare what happened to you to the experiences of others and think, "What I went through was nothing compared to what he or she went through." You may think because it only happened a few times or what happened to you wasn't as extreme as someone else's trauma that you have no right to even call what happened to you trauma. 

The truth is, however, that while your story is important, it's what you're dealing with today that is the true measure of whether or not you are living with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I've talked to many sexual abuse survivors who tell me their abuse was minimal, and yet almost all of the survivors I've talked to deal with the same after effects regardless of the degree of the abuse. You have to understand that healing from PTSD is not about healing the traumatic event. Nothing is going to take it away. Healing PTSD is about healing the effects of it that you live with today, and if you take a look around at other survivors of any sized trauma, you will find you have much more in common than you think. 

Minimizing Your Progress

As a trauma survivor, you can get stuck in constant self-defeating talk. Often, this comes from shame that we've carried since the trauma, and the negative thoughts that have about yourself may be very difficult to fight, so you continue working on your PTSD but feel like you've gotten nowhere. It's important to allow yourself to celebrate little and big wins. As you learn to manage flashbacks, calm yourself, and understand the effects of PTSD on your body you are making progress. It's okay to give yourself credit for it.

One of my greatest challenges in accepting my progress is when I am faced with yet another emotional flashback. I've come a long way in healing, but emotional flashbacks are still my greatest challenge. I have to be careful because sometimes, it's so easy for me to start negative self-talk and beat myself up for the flashback. I begin believing I haven't made any progress and want to quit even trying. That isn't the truth, though. The truth is that I've come a very long way since starting to face my PTSD.

Stop Minimizing to Start Healing from PTSD

In order to heal from your trauma, you need to call it what it is. Even though others may tell you that you are making too much out of it, and you may want to tell yourself the same because it's scary to face, until you admit the truth to yourself that you were abused, you will stay stuck. It doesn't matter what other people think. You know what you live with and how the abuse affects you. You have every right to reach out for support and healing. It may be, however, your family is not where you reach out for help. A trauma-informed therapist is a great place to start.

Also, it's a good idea to write down positive steps you've taken towards healing. This gives you tangible evidence during periods of sadness or flashbacks to show you that you really are making progress. Unfortunately, when you live with PTSD, there is a good chance you will find yourself taking a step or two back, but overall you've taken many steps forward. Having compassion for yourself during the hard times and remembering that overall you are moving forward will help you to handle a hard time and get back to moving forward.

Finally, make sticking up for yourself part of your daily routine. It will help break the habit of constant self-defeating thoughts and behaviors. No one has the right to tell you how to heal from a traumatic event and you don't need permission from anyone to accept what happened to you was traumatic and that you need help with dealing with it. We all have the right to heal and when you stop listening to the voices of those around you that try to minimize how you feel and start listening to your own voice that knows the truth, healing can truly begin.

APA Reference
Powell, T. (2018, December 20). Stop Minimizing Your Trauma to Start Healing from PTSD, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, May 19 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/traumaptsdblog/2018/12/stop-minimizing-your-trauma-to-start-healing-from-ptsd



Author: Traci Powell

Find Traci on TwitterFacebook and on her blog.

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