Complex Trauma

Trauma can result from any experience that is intense and disturbing enough to completely overwhelm you capacity to respond and integrate what’s happening. It might be a sudden event with a clear beginning and end, like an accident or disaster, or it might go on for many years. It might be physical and clearly violent, or the experience might be much more subtle and difficult to identify, like neglect or emotional abuse.

Children are especially vulnerable to adverse experiences because they are still developing, learning about the world and themselves. Neglect and abuse within the family are threats to a child’s survival because children are dependent on their adult caregivers for food, shelter, guidance and connection. Many children learn to blame themselves in order to have some sense of control, a strategy that preserves their life-sustaining connection to their caregivers at the expense of their own self-worth.

Not everyone who experiences distressing events or social circumstances develops a lasting trauma response, but for those who do, trauma can have implications in almost ever sphere of life: self, relationships, school, work, mental and physical health, spiritual connection, etc.

You may find yourself feeling disconnected, numb, lost and isolated. It might be hard to connect to your body or to feel safe alone or with others. You may be flooded by difficult emotions or memories that don’t make sense or don’t belong to the present. It might be hard to trust people. You might feel very anxious in relationships, or get angry and defensive in ways that are hard to understand or change. Your nervous system may stay on high alert all the time and make resting and relaxing feel impossible. You might bail on relationships as soon as the smallest thing goes wrong to avoid abandonment or risk of further hurt, or you might stay in relationships or work situations long after they’ve become destructive for you.

It’s possible to heal from these kinds of experiences, to repair attachment wounds, to learn the skills of connection that you were never taught, and to recalibrate your nervous system to be more flexible and responsive to the present moment. However, it’s extremely difficult to do these things alone. If you belong to a marginalized group, society often aggravates the negative impacts of traumatic experiences and reinforces the narrative of being defective, bad, undesirable, less-than, or otherwise unworthy of dignity, love and respect. Especially for those with multiple marginalized identities, oppression often feels like it’s surrounding you on all sides, which can make it difficult to imagine a life with hope, joy, connection or peace. There is more than this to life, though.

We heal from trauma by creating a secure base from which to regulate emotions, go out into the world, and come back to ourselves and our bodies. We learn to trust ourselves and be worthy of that trust, to feel things a little at a time in the company of someone compassionate and safe so that we get to have a different experience than the one that went with the trauma. When the trauma happened, you were alone, or maybe it was too dangerous to be vulnerable in any way, to even know that something wasn’t okay. In therapy, we build a relational container that holds those difficult feelings and honours them so you don’t have to feel them alone. You get to have a space for all your parts to be welcome and for a full range of feelings to show up and be seen and heard.

Most of complex trauma is formed in relationships, and that’s where it begins to heal. You don’t have to do this alone. Reach out for support, and we’ll see if working together might be a good fit for you.

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(778) 678-2293

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