“Unhealed trauma is like cancer. It lives hidden in the body, often for a long period of time before being uncovered. Unhealed trauma lingers—secretly—while pervasively weaving its way through our lives. It penetrates our innermost being; silently causing chaos that will eventually disrupt our outer world.”Aprill Edwards
Much like cancer, sometimes unhealed trauma goes into remission—for days, weeks, months, or years. Unless it receives treatment powerful enough to kill it at its core, it continues to grow. Eventually it shows up again. Stronger. Faster. More powerful.
Trust me. I know firsthand.
Unhealed trauma is like cancer. It lives hidden in the body, often for a long period of time before being uncovered.
Never would I have considered myself a person whose life had been shaped by unhealed trauma. I had great parents who loved me. I, and everyone around me, knew how much they adored me. Yet here I am. At 47 years old I am still unraveling a tangled web weaved by a lifetime of unhealed trauma. Trauma that rancidly spread throughout the intricacies of my life. Ironically, I thought I was born like ‘this.’ I thought God designed me to be this strong, resilient woman who could bounce back from almost anything. I thought He designed me to be the sacrificial lamb that would do whatever it took to make sure my loved ones were good. I was strong. Territorial. Defensive. Protective. On guard. READY. All the things that helped me blaze the trails of life. However, in actuality, my life was less like trailblazing and more like bootstrapping.
Bootstrapping isn’t necessarily bad, but it can only take you so far. After a while, recycling the same resources while trying to get different results will be fruitless. That was me and my unhealed trauma. While I was celebrating wins in many areas of my life, I still found myself recycling unwelcome situations repeatedly.
Perhaps you can relate. Think about it. (Unhealed Trauma)
Many women, just like me, have many amazing things to be grateful for. Perhaps it’s career, family, or kids. Or maybe it’s good health or amazing relationships. Yet, in other areas of our lives, we continue to experience difficulties:
- Attracting unhealthy relationships
- Fear taking new risks
- Lack of confidence or low self-esteem
- Causing drama or chaos
- Food or alcohol addiction
- Depression, anxiety, or other stress-related conditions
And no matter how much we pray about it, surrender it to God, encourage ourselves, fast, or even call our prayer warriors, we find ourselves feeling the same frustrations. But what if I told you that unhealed trauma may be the cause? Yes! Unhealed trauma exists in many of our lives—the residual effects—and we don’t even realize it.
And why is that? Allow me to share a few reasons. (Unhealed trauma)
- Many of us don’t know how to properly define trauma. I was one of those people. Before I began doing deep inner work, I had a warped perception of what trauma was. Consequently, I didn’t think the discussions around trauma applied to me.
- We’ve been living with the residual effects of trauma in our lives for so long that we think it’s our personality. We believe it’s the way God designed us to be. That was my belief. My strong personality. My defensiveness. Shutting people down. Putting people in their place. I assumed this was just part of my DNA, my personality. Finally, I realized there were underlying root issues (trauma) that needed to be unpacked and processed to integrate true change into my life. Powerful.
- We don’t recognize trauma in our lives because many things have been normalized in our society, our families, our race, or our culture. For example, there are things that may have happened to you and when you tried to express the way you felt, you were shut down. “Girl, put your big girl panties on.” “Be strong.” “Nobody has time for that.” Subsequently, we suppress those feelings and keep moving. We become so busy accepting the status quo that we normalize trauma in our lives.
- Many women carry so much masculine energy that we are disconnected from the way we feel. I, personally, was always busy being strong, resilient, independent, and wearing my superwoman cape. I didn’t give myself the chance or opportunity to process many of my emotions and recognize some of the trauma that was living in my body.
Those are a few reasons we may not recognize unhealed trauma in our lives. But, let’s take a few steps back and align on what trauma is.
So, what is trauma? (Unhealed trauma)
Trauma was first introduced in military combat. That’s a very common association even today. Many of us think of war veterans and the trauma they experienced when they came home from war, often with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder.) The word trauma traces back to the Greek word “wound.” This is significant to understand because trauma is NOT about the event that happened. It’s more about how an individual EXPERIENCES the event. It’s about the wound that is left after the event.
A definition of trauma that I really love is that trauma is a distressing or disturbing event that hasn’t been adequately or properly processed, unpacked, or understood. And through that neglect, it has been able to cause an undeserved shadow over different areas of our life.
Think about it. Something happens in our life, and we stick a band-aid on it.
- Instead of processing it, we push it down.
- We keep moving.
- We don’t properly process it, unpack it, or understand it.
- Subconsciously, we give our own meaning to it without ever being aware of it.
Many of the traumas in our lives derived from childhood. We never processed, unpacked, or even acknowledged these events. Thus, they secretly lived in our bodies and impacted how we think, see, and process the world.
Important to note: Although we typically think of trauma as big incidents like abuse or the death of a loved one, trauma can originate as micro-traumas. Micro-traumas are smaller incidents that, alone, can seem insignificant. Thus, we ignore them. However, these smaller traumas can accumulate over time, having a compound effect that can later result in insecurity, low self-worth, exaggerated state of fear, etc.
Here’s a practical example of trauma that can occur in our early years and take root in our body:
An eight-year-old child gets a bad grade on a test at school. When they get home, they tell their parent. Perhaps that parent has had a long stressful day from working long hours, has narcissistic parenting tendencies, is intoxicated, or is just overwhelmed with life issues. The parent is angry and starts yelling at the child, slamming doors, blaming the child for the failure, and then walks out. The child is left to process this event alone. They feel terrible—like their world is about to end. They can’t make sense of what just happened, so they blame themselves.
A trauma (micro-trauma) wound develops around making mistakes. That unhealed trauma remains there and impacts how the brain processes future events. The brain is continually triggered in similar incidents, sending the child into fight, flight, or freeze anytime they feel like they messed up.
Through this example, we can see how an unresolved event becomes unhealed trauma. This trauma can cast a shadow on our lives, become embodied in who we are, and move with us into adulthood. Over time, we believe it’s just our personality to respond to mistakes with anxiety. Powerful, huh? It becomes ingrained in our subconscious without us even realizing it; we relive the unhealed trauma repeatedly. It originates with the seemingly insignificant primary event that multiplies through the years. We subsequently universalize that trauma in our brain. And, eventually, this unhealed trauma shows up in different areas of our life.
5 Ways Unhealed Trauma May Be Showing Up In Your Life
- Parenting – Whether we realize it or not, many of our habits as parents may be shaped by trauma. And although we may not be demonstrating overtly ‘bad’ parenting behavior, we can still impact our children through our unhealed trauma. I love sharing real-life examples, so I’ll use a personal experience. By most standards, I’m considered a really good parent. I have two amazing, well-loved, well-respected children. My daughter is a Pharmacist, a homeowner, an amazing mom, and has a great family. My son is a smart, extremely wise, talented Division 1 Basketball player at UCF. However, being that I grew up with abandonment and rejection issues, I weaponized fear to push them to success. I treated everything as if the future were contingent upon X, Y, or Z. The anxiety I created for them shows up in their lives today. See how that works?
- Intimate Relationships – How we show up in relationships can be highly impacted by unhealed trauma. Are you clingy? Are you constantly blaming yourself for relationship issues? Perhaps you fear being alone? Or do you feel responsible for your partner’s emotions? Maybe you shut down quickly? Do you pursue emotionally unavailable men? Settle for less than you are worth? Do you have trouble setting boundaries or putting your needs first? Perhaps you cut people off quickly? Many of these actions may be tried to unhealed trauma from your past.
Example: I repeatedly found myself in relationships where I sacrificed and put myself last. Some of those men were abusive. Some were emotionally unavailable. Others were just having a good time. I spent many years in toxic, codependent relationships. Low self-esteem, fear of abandonment, and fear of rejection were root causes.
- Career – Unhealed trauma can impact us in our professional endeavors. Some examples:
- being afraid to negotiate your salary
- not having the confidence to pivot in your career or pursue a promotion
- being sensitive or easily offended by criticism or being challenged
- feeling unseen or unheard in business environments
- letting your last failure limit your future success.
- Health– Do you find yourself challenged to get healthy even though you know it’s imperative to do so? Perhaps you keep starting a diet but find yourself stress eating consistently? Or perhaps you experience full-on binge sessions and can’t figure out why. Maybe no matter how hard you try you can’t stick to a healthy regimen. Unhealed trauma may be the culprit.
- Friendships – Are you one of those ‘I don’t get along with women’ women? Do you find yourself struggling within female relationships? Perhaps you disappear and go into isolation whenever you feel disconnected? Or maybe you shut down during conflict? Are you distrustful? Suspicious? Do you feel excluded if left out of an event? Are you territorial or clingy? Unhealed trauma may be showing up and impacting these relationships.
When we are infected by unhealed trauma, it shows up in many areas of our lives. It quietly spreads, like cancer. Disrupting. Dislodging. Displacing. Diminishing. It has the potential to kill our relationships, joy, peace, or our opportunities. It causes unwarranted chaos and confusion. We can go through life feeling like the victim when all along the power to change was within us.
One of my mentors says that the world is being run by a bunch of adult 7-year-olds with unhealed trauma dictating how they see, experience, and respond to the world. If you really think about it, there’s much truth in that statement. In some areas of our lives, we are as young as our oldest unhealed trauma. After years of deep inner work, I realize how much of my life was being guided by the little unsettled girl inside. She spent her early years watching cancer kill her mother, brothers who were in and out of prison, and an emotionally unavailable truck driver as her father.
Sidenote: Acknowledging dysfunction in your family is NOT blaming anyone for anything. Most people are too busy navigating their own wounds to even identify how their actions impact the lives of others.
The unhealed trauma in my life left me with extreme abandonment and rejection issues. Subsequently, the abuse to myself was far more impactful than any of my other experiences.
Heal yourself. Heal the world.
Eventually, the flame burned out and I hit rock bottom. I was forced to face my own ugly truth. Behind the accolades, the perceived success, and forced smiles, I was unhappy. I couldn’t fake it anymore. I wouldn’t fake it anymore.
That’s one of God’s promises to me. I want to experience THAT in all areas of my life. However, I realized that the first step toward this life was to face and fix my unhealed trauma. Thus, I surrendered to the process. For the first time in my life, I found peace in not knowing what was next and in developing trust so deep that sometimes I cried (and still do) because of the discomfort.
Can I tell you a not-so-secret secret? You get to….
- experience the fullness of life and all God has for you.
- feel safe, protected, and secure.
- experience agape love.
- feel the favor of God.
- declare and decree God’s power in your life.
The first step, however, isn’t about anyone else. It’s about YOU. Are you willing to take a long, honest look in the mirror and see where you need to surrender? Discover where you need to release control? Uncover where you need to heal, evolve and grow? One step at a time.
Being able to unpack, process, and understand the unhealed trauma in your life positions you to reclaim your power and create the life you truly desire. But, you cannot fix what you are unwilling to see. Once we give ourselves a chance to become aware, we can make powerful shifts in our life to elevate to new levels.
“You will never know how bound you are until you are set free.”Unknown
Be a willing participant in your own rescue. Heal your trauma.
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My mission is to help women overcome so that they can become. We possess the power to overcome anything that stands in the way of us living our best, most bold, most intentional life and becoming everything that we’ve ever desired for our lives. That comes with doing some work, but the work is where the magic happens. You have to show up, do the work and allow the magic to happen.
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Until next time, I leave you with light, love, and high vibrations! Toodles. Talk soon.