One of the most defining characteristics of being traumatised is feeling/being stuck. The frustration, powerlessness and helplessness that this causes can often retraumatise us, long after any traumatic experiences are over.
Feeling stuck feels awful, it is like being on a merry-go-round that you can’t get off. The harder you try to get off, the more stuck you feel. It’s excruciating.
It might sound counterintuitive, but the way to come unstuck is not to fight the stuckness and try to get rid of it, it’s to find out what has led to us being stuck so we can release those patterns.
In most cases, it’s because we haven’t learned how to process difficult emotions and complete any actions they inspired (if it were even possible). This overwhelms our capacity to cope and this is never more true than in developmental trauma. The developmental stage you are at when you experience something difficult is key to you being able to handle it. Babies in utero are extremely vulnerable to traumatic stress, as are infants and children in their early years.
Developmental trauma is repeated trauma, there’s rarely a let up. It changes how you develop (hence the name), your nervous system becomes wired to avoid even the slightest threat which in the long run exhausts your reserves and puts a massive strain on your health, both mental and physical.
Developmental trauma is quite different to single event traumatic experiences, which thankfully, are mostly one offs. This is not to minimise or maximise anyone’s experience, but if your very foundation is shaky, your resilience is compromised. If you’ve had a solid start, you’ll have more handling capacities for adversity even in really difficult circumstances. The importance of support cannot be overestimated when it comes to resolving trauma.
If you have the support of your caregivers, rather than they being the source of the trauma, traumatic experience might not even develop into trauma. If trauma does develop, your chances of overcoming it are very good.
It’s not that you can’t overcome developmental trauma, because you certainly can, but it’s usually a longer journey because you have to repair and/or build the foundations upon which you can stand and thrive.
Being kind and gentle with ourselves during this process is crucial. Watch out for any signs of desperation or urgency, this is not a sign to try/struggle more until you finally “fix” yourself. It is a sign to relax and take it easy, do nothing, rest, give your nervous system a well deserved break. You’re not broken, you’re learning a different way of being in the world, you’re finding out who you are and how to be true to that self, and that is a life journey, not a destination.