The Impact of Trauma on your Personality
We’re taught so little about adult life in school and from popular culture. Things aren’t simple or even easy to identify. This can leave us confused. It can also lead us to self-blame as black-and-white thinking divides us into winners and losers.
For adults, the fusion and confusion regarding love, longing, and fear is a known and felt reality. We desire closeness and connection. But, internal conflicts get in the way. Most often, this disconnect is the result of childhood experiences. We lack trust in others and fear their rejection. As a result, we struggle with self-esteem and intimacy issues.
The Impact of Trauma
Traumas endured at a very young age — even infancy — set the stage for our patterns as adults. As children, we’re not capable of processing or expressing what’s happening. Rest assured, though, that our entire bodies are absorbing the experiences. Unprocessed childhood trauma can leave without the skills necessary to:
- Soothe ourselves in times of stress
- Regular our emotions
- Form secure attachments
- Speak freely and openly about ourselves
We created coping mechanisms in times of crisis. Letting go of these now obsolete skills is a daunting task. In such an emotional environment, it’s not surprising that we might lack confidence. This means confidence in our capabilities and also in our ability to interact with others. Intimacy can feel like crossing a minefield.
Personality acts as a map and helps individuals find their bearings, orient themselves, and navigate their lives. But what if your personality has been shaped by negative external forces before you were old enough to understand?
Consider the constellation of ingredients that make up your personality. Here’s a small sampling:
- Ways of coping and defending
- Characteristic patterns of thinking and feeling
- How we experience ourselves and others
- Our values, intentions, strengths, feelings, and beliefs
Where do we begin to address the endless ways this can manifest? When viewed through a medical lens, personality is usually viewed through potential disorders. This is helpful in the clinic but not helpful for the person in the real world. It can add stigma, shame, sadness, and helplessness to the already frustrating mix.
This approach downplays the main point: personality about who you are. A way to blend both approaches is to not look for what is flawed about an individual. Rather, the goal would be to find out what issues they might be more vulnerable to experiencing.
The Path to Healing and Recovery
It is true some personality dynamics become fixed over time. However, it is still fully possible to:
- Modulate emotion
- Make transformative connections between one state of mind and another
- Expand one’s capacities and choices when it comes to intimacy and relationships, internal experience and identity, and resilience
- To see where your grief resides; what needs to be grieved; what you wish for and how you currently aim to receive it
In many ways, personality is at the heart of psychodynamic therapy. Through therapy, this conscious and unconscious content becomes known and allows for the
- Freedom to change and to manage
- Cultivation of compassion for long-held struggles
- Self-efficacy and self-agency in managing discomfort and major life transitions
Such therapy is truly an intimate journey. This brings us back to intimacy issues and self-esteem. To work on these concerns, we’ll take a deep dive into how they’re structured in your mind. It’s essential to learn how one makes sense of intimacy, defends against a loss of intimacy, expresses intimacy, and more.
Healing is available. I’d love to help guide you on that journey. Take a look at my Trauma Therapy page and let’s set up a consultation and get started!