August 23, 2023

3 Ways Trauma might be Blocking your Success.


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Consider for a moment that you might be carrying trauma.

Consider that you might even be carrying more trauma than you are even aware of.

Trauma is often seen as an issue that only applies to people who have experienced a major traumatic event, but newer research on trauma shows that trauma is not only linked to large traumatic events, but to small, unrecognized events too.

Trauma is now widely understood to fit into the categories of Big T trauma and Little T trauma. Big T traumas are the classically understood big traumatic events such as natural disasters, shootings, major injury, abuse, incarceration, and so on. Little T trauma, however, is experienced through ongoing consistently unmet needs. Little T trauma applies to emotional neglect, abandonment, disconnection, disengagement from your primary caregivers, not belonging, not feeling accepted, and so on.

The classification of trauma is not about the event itself that occurred, but the way the nervous system perceives the event. Any experience that happened too fast or too soon for your nervous system to be able to regulate its response is stored as a trauma.

Perhaps you have a collection of Little T traumas. Perhaps you have one or two (or even more) Big T traumas. Perhaps you have a combination of both, but regardless of where your trauma originates from, any trauma that is created in the nervous system becomes a trauma trigger in the brain.

Trauma triggers are formed when you experience any perceived traumatic event and your brain has overridden that experience, applied an emotion to it, and is now not able to process that experience and store it away correctly.

Whenever you experience an emotion or an event that shares a similarity to the original trauma or its emotion, the trauma trigger will activate and will push you into a nervous system trauma response. Most often, we will move into fight, flight, freeze, or fawn. These four classic nervous system responses that are activated in a trauma trigger determine how we behave and feel in every situation that shares similarities with the original traumatic experience.

The question is, how much are these trauma triggers influencing the experience that you are having in your life?

For those people who are pursuing any journey towards success, whether that is in career, business, money, relationships, or even health, the road to success is marked with a necessary journey of failure, rejection, and experimentation. These are three key aspects of the journey to success.

But what happens when failure, rejection, and fear were part of your original trauma and they activate your trauma trigger? This means that when you undertake a journey dedicated to succeeding where you need to fail, you need to be rejected, and you need to experiment in unknown areas that induce fear and uncertainty, your journey to success is going to activate your trauma triggers.

How do you know whether your trauma triggers are actually the things that are getting in the way of your success?

Let’s look at three key ways you can tell whether it’s trauma that is running the show for you.

1. When you fail, you panic, and you stop experimenting because that failure feels so bad.

When you feel you have failed, you feel a racing heart rate, clammy hands, shortness of breath, a headache, an inability to focus, and a general overall feeling of fear. From there, you refuse to ever try experimenting with that method again, even though we need to try things hundreds of times before we master them.

People who experience a trauma trigger around failure will try it once and then never try it again. This is your trauma trigger seeing failure as danger. Your trauma trigger is trying to keep you safe and surviving by not going near the thing that activated that trauma trigger. You need to identify that trauma trigger for what it is and soothe it so that you can go back into your process of experimentation, knowing that you will need to fail many times before you are able to master what you need to master on your road to success.

2. You think that everyone is judging your timeline to success and your failures as much as you are judging yourself, so you keep your journey quiet.

You keep your goals a secret and criticize yourself for every way that you behave that doesn’t measure up to perfection. This is a trauma trigger schema story, where the emotion attached to your trauma trigger has generated a story for you in a bid to understand it. The story tells you that other people must be judging you for your lack of success and that therefore you need to also judge yourself in secret and keep your journey quiet in order to avoid further judgment from others.

Pay attention to the story. Most people are not judging you anywhere near as much as you are judging yourself. Most people are too busy paying attention to their own journey to be paying any attention to you.

3. Whenever you experience any success, you worry that it will all go away too soon, so instead of celebrating, you knuckle down to work harder.

This is a nervous system response to a trauma trigger. Your nervous system is a primal system that operates on a simplistic model. It says: what is familiar is safe, and what is unfamiliar is unsafe. Your nervous system will experience success as unfamiliar and therefore tell you it is unsafe.

On the surface, success may seem easy to receive because it is the one thing that you have been pushing toward, but it may actually be the one thing that your nervous system does not have capacity to hold once it does receive it. This is where we see the birth of self-sabotaging behaviors—people who are able to obtain great success only to lose said success.

The key to fixing this is to rewire and regulate your nervous system to receive the unfamiliar as safe. Learn the methods involved in regulating and soothing your nervous system so that when the time comes that you do succeed, you are able to receive it.

Experimentation, time, and celebrating the wins are the necessary parts for success in any area. Regardless of whether you are trying to succeed in your career, your business, your health, obtaining wealth, or even in your relationships, you need to be able to experiment, you need to be able to take your time, and you need to be able to celebrate the wins along the way. But if you have trauma triggers that are running the show and directing your behavior, these experiences are not going to be great moments on your road to success.

Perhaps your trauma is what needs a spotlight on it for a moment or two. Perhaps your trauma is in the driver’s seat when it no longer needs to be.

Consider investigating what trauma triggers you may have and work on deactivating those so that you can experience success in profoundly exhilarating and expansive new ways.


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