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  • Writer's pictureTanya Beattie

How Trauma Shows Up in Our Adult Lives

9 Ways to Identify if You May Have Experienced Trauma

So, how does trauma show up in our adult lives?

This is a really interesting question because it can show up in all kinds of ways, yet at the same time it is often so similar that it is possible to recognize behaviours that are common amongst those who have experienced trauma.

The actual traumatic events can be quite different in duration, intensity, type, etc. and still have these common behaviours or ways of thinking about, or seeing ourselves. Some of us know that we have experienced trauma, while others don’t know and so the idea of having been impacted by trauma does not resonate with those individuals. But that doesn’t mean the trauma doesn’t show up in their adult lives.

It is worth noting that it is not so much the actual traumatic event itself that causes the trauma in us, it is what we make of the meaning behind that trauma, the story we tell ourselves. And in childhood that story always ends up being about what is wrong with me? I must have done something to deserve this. If only I tried harder to make them happy, or to keep them from being angry.

Some of the most common ways trauma can show up in our lives include:

  • people pleasing,

  • inability to say no,

  • never feeling angry or feeling angry all of the time,

  • being extremely hard on themselves, perfectionist, nothing is ever good enough,

  • difficulty in maintaining relationships or staying in unhealthy relationships,

  • difficulty in trusting others,

  • difficulty working within a hierarchical system,

  • feeling really strong emotions that after the fact seem like more than was necessary.

People also describe feeling scared a lot, easily startled. There can be physical chronic pain and illness. I frequently hear from my clients that they just want to feel safe and have peace.

What do I mean by trauma?

Trauma can come in different forms, it can be direct and indirect. Adversity can come from the circumstances in which you grew up. Trauma can be physical, usually easier to identify, but it can also be emotional or mental, which more often than not can be incredibly difficult to recognize and understand.

Trauma is a tricky thing to understand, because it is different for everyone. You might know you had a traumatic childhood or specific experience, whereas someone else might be unaware of the trauma experienced in their lives. This could be because they don’t remember it or because they didn’t even realize what happened was considered trauma. Either way, trauma can have a serious impact on our lives and our relationships. The good news is that the symptoms or responses from it can be treated in tailored ways that work best for the individual. Therapy helped me and so many others and as a trauma-informed therapist, it is important to me to help others unpack what has happened in their lives so they can finally feel that sense of safety, calmness and peace.

Interested in learning more about what trauma-informed therapy could do for you or a friend? Visit What’s Therapy Like? or my Frequently Asked Questions page to learn more and/or book a free 15 min consultation with me.


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