What is Emotional Trauma? How Can a Trauma Therapist Help You Heal?
by Mihaela Ivan Holtz, Psy.D., LMFT
Is the legacy of a traumatic experience interfering with your life?
All too often, trauma from your childhood and from your more recent experiences can affect your relationships, creativity, performance, or productivity.
Deep down, you can sense that the essence of who you are is hidden beneath layers of challenging emotional experiences. Old and painful emotions (which you may or may not be aware of) find their way into your present. It’s as if your past holds you hostage and makes you repeat unfulfilling or painful stories.
When you’re trapped in emotional trauma, you can’t show up in life. It interferes with your ability to connect, be you, express yourself, or offer the world your full presence and authenticity.
Underneath the trauma is the truth of all that you are – your own unique, imperfect human beauty. Sometimes, you see through the fog of past trauma and get a glimpse of who you really are and what you could be, but that sense of comfort within yourself is all too fleeting.
Can you find emotional freedom and live and create your life with all that you are? If you healed your past, what kind of connections could you have? What would you create or accomplish?
Many times people think of trauma as some difficult or frightening experience that results in hyper-vigilance, flashbacks, and nightmares. While these are symptoms of severe emotional trauma (generally referred to as PTSD), trauma comes in many shapes and forms. If you’re looking into trauma therapy in Los Angeles, we can help.
What is emotional trauma?
Emotional trauma is anything that happened to you in the past that keeps you from accessing your full self and creating a fulfilling life now in the present. Trauma traps you and interferes with your ability to act from a sense of agency, connect authentically, or get in touch with your creativity.
Trauma imprisons you in emotional pain and can take the form of depression, anxiety, or addictions.
Mental Health trauma comes in many shapes and forms, including emotional deprivation, rejection, to abandonment. Feeling unloved and carrying around a sense of “I’m not good enough,” “I’m not capable,” and “deep inside, I’m always scared…” compounds over time.
And then, there are more severe abusive experiences like emotional abuse, physical abuse, emotional neglect, being bullied, sexual abuse, and violence, all of which can result in what is called complex trauma.
You don’t have to have lived through a particularly horrific or tragic event to bear the imprint of trauma. Repeated experiences of being shamed or judged as a child are traumatic events. Ongoing feelings of being unseen or misunderstood can also be a cause of lingering emotional trauma. Maybe you were left alone without love or attention way too often. Being rejected over and over again as a child or having your feelings constantly dismissed, minimized, or mocked can stick with you today.
It’s traumatic to be raised by adults who couldn’t be emotionally attuned to you, who couldn’t be trusted to offer comfort, safety, and love. Being constantly invalidated, unseen, and silenced is a source of trauma. Feeling like you cannot safely engage with others and discover the world around you is mental health trauma, too.
Emotionally traumatic events can leave a long-term imprint on you. Such mental health issues and trauma are at the root of most cases of depression, anxiety, addiction, and social anxiety. Unresolved trauma can also be the cause of performance anxiety and creative blocks. If you’re interested in therapy in Los Angeles regarding your mental health and trauma, please give us a call.
What happens when you live with unresolved trauma?
Trauma causes emotional fragmentation and strained mental health.
When we experience abuse or neglect, humans have a tendency to repress the parts of the self that got hurt and deny the feelings associated with such pain. Over time, this repression keeps you from feeling like a whole and integrated human being.
When a part of your mental health gets left behind or feels broken as a result of this fragmentation, the core of what you are feels like it’s shattered in pieces.
If, for example, you didn’t feel loved in childhood, you may feel empty and unworthy of love as an adult. These feelings of “I am not loved” or “I am not worthy of love” are too much to be tolerated in your conscious mind, and, as a result, you repress them.
From that repressed place, you start behaving in unhealthy ways you might not fully understand or using defensive strategies, to avoid “feeling unloved.” But the harder you try to shove those emotions away and deny they exist, the more persistent and intrusive they can become. You will end up expressing feelings that emerge from the repressed part of your psyche. Your words and behavior may seem difficult, volatile, and even irrational. This is what many trauma therapy therapists call the language of emotional trauma.
As a therapist for trauma, I can promise you that the denied parts of you want to be heard, healed, and integrated into your whole self.
The Signs of Emotional Trauma
Signs that you’ve suffered past trauma and a suppressed part of you wants to be integrated into who you are might include:
- constantly seeking love
- feeling unable to love yourself
- self-destructive behaviors and thoughts
- being attracted to emotionally unavailable partners
- not letting in genuine love and sabotaging a healthy connection
- repeating self-defeating patterns and being unable to change them
- trying to fill in your emptiness with food, shopping, sex addiction, drinking addiction, or other addictive behaviors.
- All humans need authentic emotional connections. We all need to be heard, validated, seen, accepted, and to feel safe and able to trust.
All of our human emotional needs are connected and interrelated. There is a natural, synergetic relationship between them. The deprivation of one of these needs affects all other aspects of our lives. We cannot develop healthy relationships, develop our skills and creativity, or achieve greater productivity when we have experienced the kind of trauma that cuts us off from our sense of wholeness and integrity.
Are you struggling with emotional trauma?
You may wonder if you have suffered from emotional trauma because you have symptoms like anxiety, depression, addiction, acute stress disorder, or relationship struggles. You may recognize that you have trouble loving yourself or finding a partner who loves all of who you are. You may feel incomplete or a persistent sense of emptiness. Or, you may feel stuck in some aspects of your life.
Even if you cannot name big traumatic events that happened to you, it is important to look at the repeated hurtful moments that happened in the past and still impact you today. A series of repeated painful experiences or a history of abuse can leave you emotionally fragmented and cause a number of trauma responses that limit your ability to feel connected, satisfied, and successful in life.
Fortunately, trauma therapy can help you successfully heal from post-traumatic stress or old emotional trauma. Emotional trauma healing is possible.
Why Choose Trauma-Focused Therapy?
Psychotherapy is very effective in treating and healing trauma. You can work through the emotional trauma that has been limiting your relationships and creative growth and hindering your professional growth or performance.
There are different types of trauma therapy. If you want to see long-term, stable healing that comes from the inside out, then you need to see a trauma therapist who is experienced in a number of complementary approaches to trauma therapy.
In our trauma therapy sessions, we will dig into your history of trauma, both the big, difficult events and the experiences that might seem small in comparison. We’ll uncover how elements of your past blocking are you and work through the emotions and stories. I will help you heal from your past through proven techniques, including:
- neurobiology of trauma
- psychodynamic/psychoanalytic approaches
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
- EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)
A skilled trauma therapy therapist knows how to be attuned to your unique needs and your personal transformation journey in order to help you heal from the inside out. Healing trauma and personalized talk therapy is both a science and an art.
You May Have Some Concerns and Questions About Trauma Therapy…
I have been coping with difficult aspects of my childhood and my past for my whole life. Do I need a therapist who specializes in trauma if I just want to reduce something like anxiety?
When we commit to healing ourselves, we create a more beautiful, joy-filled world for ourselves and others. Healing needs to happen on every level, including childhood wounds and past traumas. Traumatic events can continue to repeat if we don’t address them. You may have been trying to deal with your trauma on your own, but ignoring it can often lead to hurting yourself and others. Unhealthy responses and coping mechanisms tend to perpetuate trauma, which also tends to be transferred to the next generation, perhaps to your own children. You can stop perpetuating trauma. You have a choice.
If you are an artist, you may feel: “If I go to see a therapist for mental health issues and we talk therapy treatment, I won’t be able to use my emotional pain to create or perform.”
What if, as successful as you are, you are actually stuck in emotional patterns that are stunting your creative growth and emotional growth? Imagine how much more creative and productive you could be if you took some steps toward healing. Or how having healthier relationships can change your life. You will never know what you’re capable of if you never give therapy a try. As you heal, you’ll have access to a more rich emotional life from which to create or tell your stories. Also, you can stop bringing emotional pain into your life and to those you love. As a result of healing your past trauma, your own long-lasting sense of well-being will imprint on those around you and the world. Living in pain to be an artist is an outdated myth.
Isn’t trauma treatment and trauma therapy expensive in the Los Angeles area?
It’s true that therapy can be an investment, but I invite you to think of it as an investment in both your personal and professional future. You can stop repeating self-defeating cycles and heal emotional pain. Reducing the symptoms of trauma and learning better coping mechanisms will lead to a happier, healthier inner life, which will, in turn, enhance your relationships, creativity, accomplishments, and performance. If you’re looking into therapy in Los Angeles, we’re just a phone call away.
If you are an artist with a history of trauma, I’d like you to know that psychotherapy for artists is one of my areas of expertise. A significant part of my practice is devoted to helping creatives and performers. Learn more about what I have to offer when it comes to Psychotherapy for Creatives, Performers, and Fine Artists.
Schedule Your Appointment For Trauma Therapy
If you are ready to begin the road to trauma therapy and recovery, I offer a free 15-minute consultation by phone to discuss and see what is the best therapy in Los Angeles for trauma and how it might be appropriate for you. I even offer online therapy options. You can reach me at 310-424-0292 or through the contact page.
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