columnOur mental health has never been this bad. Experience expert Eva Breda, also a journalist for Libelle, investigates in her columns how this can be improved. This week: getting attached to trauma.
If my trauma was a child, it was going to study now. They get old so fast, huh? If my trauma was a child, I became her mother when I was eight. Yes, it’s a bit young, but trauma always comes unplanned. If my trauma had been a child, it would have been a worry child. One that often causes unrest, chaos, but which is so part of me that I still care about her.
Of course I knew that one day I had to show that child, my trauma, the door. But I struggled with that. Partly out of fear of going to therapy, but also partly out of fear of letting go of the story I had carried with me for years. Even though it wasn’t good for me, my trauma had shaped me into who I was, was imperceptibly intertwined with my life. It was the baby of my sorrow, but all mine. It was the reason people called me strong, the reason I had become a go-getter. Funnily enough, my trauma gave me an identity to cling to, in years of much uncertainty. What was left of me if I let that go?
Attaching to sadness is not crazy
It is not at all strange to become attached to something that mainly causes pain and sadness, according to Vivi Luijckx. As a health care psychologist and registered EMDR practitioner, she specializes in trauma processing. “Having traumatic experiences at a young age shapes your self-image, identity and behavioral patterns much more than later in life,” she explains. As a result, you become, as it were, fused with your trauma. You have become accustomed to chaos, unrest and worry. That can be so bad that you keep looking for those elements in the rest of your life, friends and partners. You are attached to the uncomfortable comfort zone of pain and sadness.
You can start to behave according to the story you tell yourself and become fused with your own beliefs without realizing it
“At a later age, trauma can be much more separate from your identity and personality. But it can still be difficult to say goodbye to your trauma,” says Luijckx. You can have certain beliefs that guide your life. For example: I am worthless. I am a broken person. I am my trauma. Luijckx: ,,You can start to behave according to the story you tell yourself and without realizing it you become fused with your own convictions.”
Get rid of your story
I had that too. Feeling that my trauma belonged to me as a child, that that was what made me strong and shaped my identity, made it difficult to let go of my past, work on my problems and move forward. How do you take the step to process trauma if you find it difficult to detach from your story? Luijckx: ,,If you are fused with your own convictions, defusion is necessary. This is breaking free from the story we keep telling ourselves.” According to Luijckx, this can be done with a simple exercise. ,,Put the words ‘I have the thought that…’ in front of the beliefs you have. You will notice that the strength of that conviction diminishes.”
It was only a year ago that I realized that I had the thought that my trauma was shaping my identity, that it was my thought that without my strength and identity I would lose. I finally dared to send my 16-year-old trauma child out of the house thanks to EMDR therapy. That cleared up. But every now and then I catch myself missing her. And I vicariously worry about anything and everything. Just to feel a little bit of her chaos.
Extra tip from Vivi Luijckx: ,,There is a proliferation of EMDR therapists and coaches who do not have a good previous education. Through www.emdr.nl you can find a therapist list per region of well-trained EMDR therapists for trauma therapy.” The basic insurance reimburses the therapy in most cases. See Independer for more information.
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