Dealing with past trauma


#1

I guess most people who have social anxiety have traumas from the past and can resonate with this.

The therapy suggests that when the past comes to simply remind ourselves not to dwell on it (attitudes handout) and to remember that it is over and the present is where we should be (more ANT stopping phrases handout).

I do however find myself dwelling very often on events from childhood which were pretty scary and traumatic (not necessarily social anxiety situations) and I feel that simply dismissing them like that is not enough. I feel like I need to again through them in my mind and try to now - with my adult mind - explain them rationally so they can be put at peace.

Should I do that or should I instead continue to dismiss them as the therapy suggests? Because it does not seem like I am ever going to forget them.

Thanks for your input guys!


#2

This is an important topic.

I would guess that many (most?) of us with social anxiety do have trauma in the past. It’s a real thing that affects our present. I do not feel that the therapy suggests dismissing this, although you may prove me wrong with quotes from the audio or the handouts. I feel more that the therapy tries to first get us over social anxiety, at least more to a place where we can effectively deal with such an issue.

This is the same for some of the other “issues” like perfectionism, assertiveness, outlook on life (negative vs positive), self-acceptance, fear, and, as you point out, letting to of the negative past. Letting go does not mean dismissing, but we don’t want to be held prisoner by it just as we don’t want to be held prisoner by ANTs.

There is a difference there, though. Perhaps one is simpler, perhaps trauma is deeper and more complex. So while getting over the majority of our social anxiety, we don’t want to be hindered by dwelling on the past. We work on getting stronger mentally, rationally, before we can process something more complex. You seem to echo my feelings on this as you say that you now go through the events in your mind, with an adult mind, explaining them rationally so that can be put at peace. You can do that when you become more rational, not when social anxiety is still in control. And, from my experience, I do think it helped me to go through rationally dealing with traumatic events.

Perhaps you are now at a place where you can benefit from letting that out, talking through it, being rational with it. I don’t think dealing with past trauma means that we forget it. I don’t think it means that we cannot be still angered or troubled by it if we let ourselves feel that, if we dwell on it. Therein lies also the downside of simply dwelling in it. To stay in talk therapy forever without coming to terms with the issue - I for one am dubious as to where that gets a person. But to work through it, being rational with it/the trauma, allowing for the fact that it was perhaps and very likely not fair, not justified, allowing for your feelings to play out - that is good. Then allowing for yourself to also carry on, using a self-talk out loud that also brings you back to “what now?”…“what rational choices would I like to make for myself and my way of thinking about this now for my present and future?”.

Dr. Richards discusses that the act of letting go of the past does not need to involve reliving the specifics. You may find that you want to go through the specifics at least once (it’s hard not to, really), let them have their time, and also let yourself off the hook that you don’t even deserve to be on. I’ve thought very clearly and specifically about past events, and still can - and they can still bring up a natural feeling of pain that I don’t think is negative. But I also follow the strategy of letting go of the past, through my self-talk, so that I don’t dwell on it. Things did happen. I feel I have applied a healtheir mind to those things now. I feel also, past that point, it doesn’t do me much good to continue dwelling there.

You won’t ever forget them. I won’t forget mine. The goal doesn’t have to be, nor will it be to forget. But you can remember without the full surge of negative emotion that could be there.

These are real issues, deeper ones that I do think each person will deal with. I hope the therapy gets each person to the place where dealing with them effectively is possible. This is also why most of these issues aren’t touched upon until the last 4 sessions, peace zone themes, which need a longer, calmer time to work through.


#3

Hi Mateo, thanks for the detailed answer!

I guess “dismissing” was wrong choice of word, “let go” would probably be better.

I guess I also have to agree that they are not going to be completely forgotten, but maybe they can be accepted and we can move on.

Nice to know the therapy deals specifically with that as well!


#4

That’s an awesome response. It helps me a bunch. Thanks Mateo.

It’s something I struggle with too. Thank you for bringing it up savvas.


#5

Past trauma is definitely my reason for having social anxiety.

I have been reading a self esteem help book, as my self esteem is also pretty low. There was an exercise where you write down a list of all of the people that you feel have hurt you, then you write a letter to all of them or even talk to them in person (you don’t have to send the letter) detailing how they have hurt you and later on you reword the hurtful events by suggesting that the person that hurt you had their own personal or mental issues etc.

I haven’t finished the book or exercises. But I found that as I began writing some things that I thought had scarred me actually didn’t make it on the paper and some things that seemed insignificant had a big affect on me. I also found that I started feeling more forgiving and after every exercise I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. It’s definitely a working progress. But I’ve found it helpful as I’m not a person who lets my anger or emotions out so writing them down has really helped.


#6

Hello Jojo,

I certainly agree that repairing, building self-esteem is part of the therapy process for overcoming social anxiety disorder. This is a part of the series and comes out of the step-by-step process, as well - as we make progress, as we build confidence, as we reinforce what is rational at each step. And, for most of us, the process involves dealing with past trauma / letting go of some negative (and/or perceived negative) past.

Thank you for sharing this exercise which helps you. It could help others here, I’m sure.

These are the types of themes/issues that may run deeper, take time for all of us, and the exercises we find to help us in these areas might vary from person to person, beyond what is suggested in the therapy. I like that you have found something that works for YOU! And you tried this out, perhaps realized or stayed open to understanding your own challenges with respect to this, and customized/added to your progress an activity which helps you get at it.