Traumatic Events- Their Effect on Thinking Behavior

Alan Meyers, Ph.D., NBCFCH and Chaim B. Colen, MD, PhD

#metoo written on hand

Trauma victims disassociate or compartmentalize traumatic events in the subconscious mind. How can we unlock those sequestered trauma memories that reproduce negative or even life-threatening situations or activities? Years ago, I had a patient referred to me for self-harming; she was hitting herself in the face with a brush as well as abusing alcohol to the point of blacking out. During treatment, it was revealed that she had suffered from early childhood sexual abuse; and this memory had surfaced in adulthood to produce devastating consequences of self-mutilating behavior.

Trauma and traumatic experiences are common occurrences that may trigger negative perceptions and behavior patterns. Trauma may affect both the conscious and subconscious states of mind, producing perceptions that can be consciously recognized or subconsciously hidden. These perceptions constantly influence our thought. Traumatic events do not always have to be horrific to be considered life-changing events, although they certainly can be.

Examples of traumatic events are mostly mentally impactful but may include physical, sexual, emotional abuse, loss of loved one, automobile accident, etc. However, mental traumas may also be small, seemingly insignificant events that cause altered perception and thought. As the person matures, these events can manifest into unwanted or at least misunderstood behavior years later.

The family probably has the greatest potential for building confidence, creating positive self-esteem, feelings of self-worth and self-love within an individual. Conversely, they also have the greatest potential to produce traumatized, self-defeating individuals who later may develop drug, alcohol or psycho-emotional disorders, unable to cope with a trauma inflicted on them by a family member. Such dysfunctions may not necessarily be caused by family, rather, in certain cases, they’re traumatic events of self-created concepts embedded from their childhood or adolescent mind, conjured from statements made by friends, television, magazines, religion, misguided teachers, etc.

Some traumas are caused by catastrophic events. People deal with such traumatic events in various ways, both positive and negative. Unfortunately, many individuals do not have knowledge of therapeutic interventions that can help, neither do they have appropriate family support to seek out the correct therapeutic intervention. Without help, the result may be the use of easily accessible drugs, alcohol or psychiatric medications to cope with the emotional pain.

In the case of family-induced trauma, the same catastrophic results are reproduced. They may occur as a singular event or as a repeated trauma over an extended period of time. A one-time traumatic event might be, for instance, a sexual abuse episode, a physical beating, abandonment, divorce of parents, or even an illness. Insidious types of trauma may occur over and over again for years. Examples may even include repeated simple “harmless” abuse episodes or beatings and even being told, “you are not as smart as your brother”, “you are built just like your grandmother (who may be overweight)”, “you are bad”, “your sister got all the talent”, and more, by parents, siblings, grandparents, etc. While thought to be harmless by family members, these forms of verbal abuse can result in “life-altering” trauma that may result in lasting damage.

At Inspire Palm Beach, we see guests that present with problems of alcohol, drug abuse or emotional problems, but also suffer from feelings of low self-esteem and low sense of self-worth. Certain guests may relate how they as children, were told that they were “no good”, “worthless”, “dumb”, “not wanted”, “a pain”, etc. This led them to consciously try to “find an identity” through choices of friends, style of dress, hair, speech patterns (many times dysfunctional), or subconsciously view him/herself in negative terms that were directed at them. The result is an undesired lifestyle including; addiction, depression, anxiety, anti-social behavior, anger, dysfunctional relationships, and other emotional disorders; all confirming the negative perceptions and thinking patterns. These in turn, may contribute to addiction and/or other emotional dysfunction. Individual and group therapy treatment at Inspire Palm Beach Wellness Program, specifically address these cases of covert trauma, propelling the individual into a new state of mindfulness and reality recognition with ultimate mental healing.

Dr. Chaim B. Colen is a Neurosurgeon, Author, Educator, Eclectic Artist, Entrepreneur and Medical IT Guru. He is past national chair of the Young Physicians Representative Section of the Council of State Neurosurgical Societies (CSNS). He has very diverse talents; strong interest in entrepreneurship, medical device innovation, HIPAA compliance, medical advocacy and legislation, substance abuse detoxification, real estate investments and new business enterprise. He is an international speaker, has authored many books, journal articles, and held many TV interviews including the Today Show and Discovery Channel.

Dr. Alan Meyers is the Psychologist at Inspire Palm Beach and has been assisting those with substance and alcohol addictions for over 30 years. He is a Nationally Board-Certified Fellow in Clinical Hypnotherapy, Psycho-therapist, researcher, published author and developer of psycho-therapeutic techniques to add success to sobriety and recovery.  He utilizes techniques to resolve trauma and spirituality and spiritual healing to fortify recovery efforts.  

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