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Common Beliefs After a Trauma

Our brains are meaning making machines. This means that when something unexpected or irregular happens, we are designed to logically think about why this event occurred. Unfortunately, this happens after trauma too. And because trauma is something that can hardly ever be explained or justified, this leads to us fusing our beliefs with previously held negative perceptions. When you were younger you may have learned that the world is unsafe or felt unworthy of your caregivers love. These beliefs integrate with the meaning we make of the trauma and leads to us solidifying our feelings of being unsafe, lack of control, mistrust, and more.

For example, a person may have dealt with physical and emotional neglect when they were younger. Their caregivers might have been incarcerated, emotionally distant, on and off with their love, or struggle with substance use or mental illness. This can lead to a person believing that the world is unsafe, they cannot get their needs met, and that they are unworthy of love. So when another type of traumatic event happens, say a sexual assault, people make sense of this abuse by confirming that the world is unsafe and they are not worthy of love or a safe sexual experience.

Core Belief Clusters

Again, it's helpful for us to make meaning of our experiences. We have beliefs that we have acquired throughout our life and they fit into certain 'clusters.' Knowing these clusters and what you particularly struggle with can be helpful in targeting what negative beliefs may need to be worked through. It can also help you show yourself more love and compassion when you're struggling with a certain concept.

  • If you say to yourself “the world isn’t safe, I can’t protect myself, I need to be on guard" you may struggle with safety.

  • If you say to yourself “I don’t trust anyone, I can’t trust my own judgment, I can never trust again” you may struggle with trust.

  • If you say to yourself “I have no control, I am powerless, I need control” you may struggle with power and control.

  • If you say to yourself “I shouldn’t get close to others, I will only get hurt, they will leave” you may struggle with intimacy.

  • If you say to yourself “It was my fault, I caused what happened, if I just…then it wouldn’t have happened” you may struggle with blame, guilt, & shame.

  • If you say to yourself “I am unloveable, I am damaged, I am not worthy” you may struggle with self-worth and esteem.

What cluster or clusters do you find yourself struggling with? Where could you give yourself more love?


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