How Trauma Effects your Identity – My Perspective

TraumaI remember in psychology learning about trauma and its effect on behaviour and it was always that word I held onto - behaviour.

I remember thinking how certain people around me showed signs of past trauma affecting their behaviour, such as: their lack of self-worth, their struggle to control emotion and their inability to connect with their true identity.

I also remember how people were discussed, as if the trauma was attached to their identity, even my psychology teachers blurred that line between identity and behaviour. Misleading the class to think trauma affects who you are rather than how you behave.

I remember someone in particular, someone in my past that taught me so much more about trauma than any psychology class ever did.

Like many, this person turned to drugs for release, I remember meeting this person at their worst and getting a glimpse of who they are at their best. Probably the most difficult friend I’ve ever had. Not difficult in the sense of dealing with their addiction; it was just difficult trying to meet the person hidden behind the drugs and trauma.

This person really helped me understand inner conflict and the negative impact it has on one’s life. Escape, even though just for a moment was the only peace this person could experience. To escape from trauma and becoming numb to their identity.

I learned a lot about how trauma works through my interactions with this person.

Please note, anything I mention in this post is my own perspective.

I started seeing trauma differently after this person opened up to me about their experiences.

Traditionally I feel people still think that trauma shapes a person’s identity, as if the trauma is well and truly embedded into who they are. However, I couldn’t help hold onto the word 'behaviour', and through my interactions with this person, the distinction between behaviour and identity became much clearer.

This person was often led to believe that change and breaking through trauma was near impossible, because they too were understanding that it was their identity the trauma had affected; believing something was wrong with them and not understanding that the person they actually are is just hidden.

This person believed that they are who they are and that’s it. I felt their Shrink decided to focus more on the trauma itself rather than spending equal amounts of time nurturing and speaking to the true identity hidden beneath it.

The more I interacted with this person, I began to understand that trauma is like a dark cloud over their identity, the drugs acted like an umbrella protecting them from the downpour of emotion.

When I saw this person engage in their passions and tap into their talent (which is how we crossed paths), and work towards things that made them feel alive, I saw no sign that this person was suffering from trauma. I saw this person for who they actually are without the negative effects of their past.

It was after meeting this person I discovered that very wide line between identity and behaviour. I understood that trauma does not reflect someone’s identity. Unfortunately my friend was led to believe that the trauma they had faced was a part of who they were and that there is no escaping it. Yes it will be forever a part of their life but by no means should anyone be led to believe it’s a part of who they are.

One day I hope to obtain the necessary skills and funds to investigate this further, get the education and conduct professional research of my own. For now, I hope my message will help others dealing with trauma, or have people in their lives suffering from it, understand that underneath the trauma is an individual trying to clear away the clouds and roam free to pursue life as the person they truly are.

Vancouver Relationship and Life Coach

Terry Sidhu

VanCity Life Coach, Vancouver, BC, Canada