Prior personal psychological trauma can have a complex ongoing influence on our relationships and is often at the heart of why people read each other stereotypically and negatively. Trauma can have an especially significant impact if it occurred when we were young, before a well-developed understanding was formed. If one was so young when originally stress-exposed that verbal patterns weren’t yet developed, trauma memories might only emerge in physical pain responses; or someone may cry uncontrollably like a small child or young baby, finding no words to express their upset, only ‘feeling’ sudden loss of trust, support or love. Sometimes we can’t even properly recall what has caused our traumatised responses.
Our past experiences and complex psychological responses become absorbed and imprinted when young and at all human developmental stages. Our original family, previous generations’ patterns of parenting, and the reactions we observed in adults or older siblings may all have impacted us. The result is both emotional and physical at times, due to overstimulation or understimulation of our senses and emotions, especially if trauma occurred at crucial moments or milestones in life.
As a result, instead of relating to everyone individually, we ‘other’ those who remind us of those ‘others’ who have hurt us in the past. Some even prefer to be around people who they can at least predict will treat them in a certain way. Most of the nastier, jolting, distressing, suddenly upsetting experiences in our human relationships overlap with these unconscious and previously learned trauma patterns. Our responses often happen automatically, are not always logical and can surprise our partners and even ourselves.
It usually isn’t enough to just learn about and understand how trauma impacts us. Healing from trauma, and the pain that negative imprinting can cause, has to be an ‘inside job’ and a courageous personal undertaking. With the support of your psychologist, however, you can gradually address the impact of trauma with therapy and concerted practice. It is possible to change ingrained patterns and responses and support is available to help you.
Re-processing our own traumatic experiences also helps us better understand the ways trauma impacts others. Preventing and reducing overall psychological distress between all people could also be seen as everyone’s collective community responsibility. Ultimately, less distress in communities helps make all individuals less overtly stressed in their interactions with others. Interpersonal and community life may begin to feel more genuine, full, connected and satisfying.