Trauma patterns are sneaky. They are usually unconscious because they are the messages and behaviors that we’ve learned for years from our families. It’s very common to not even know they’re occurring until it's pointed out to you or until you look back on a situation from afar. Trauma patterns can be described as patterns of thoughts, behaviors, and actions that occur not from free will, but because of the traumas that have occurred in our life.
The Centre for YouthAOD describes trauma patterns further:
"Trauma-based behavior, in general, serves important adaptive functions. It often makes sense in the context in which it first emerged however it can become counter-productive if it continues after the need for it has ceased.
Trauma-based behaviors can usually be identified as patterns or repetitive routines that play themselves out in the relationships and environments that children and young people are engaged in.
It can be a response to traumatic memory traces that are triggered externally by events or exchanges with others
It can be familiar strategies used to manage their internal states
It can be driven by change or unpredictability
It can be influenced by increasing levels of stress
It is very much influenced by the negative self-identity which children and young people believe to be true about themselves."
What Are Common Trauma Patterns?
If you find yourself fearful of being assertive based on your own needs, you might be people-pleasing. People pleasing usually stems from a chaotic household where asking for what you wanted or needed was either ignored, unacceptable, or met with anger/violence.
A string of abusive relationships
You may be wondering how you continue to end up in relationships that are emotionally, verbally, sexually, or physically abusive. When we observe the dynamics of our caregivers, the characteristics of their relationships are modeled for us. If you witnessed abuse in your home, it may subconsciously be something you seek out as it’s all you know.
Unhealthy coping skills
Unhealthy coping mechanisms are just ways that we survive a hard period of life. These can include using drugs, alcohol, self-harm, or food to escape. Unhealthy coping may be a sign that your emotions were not tended to when you were younger. It could also point to your caregivers not using healthy outlets for coping themselves. Either way, now emotions feel so uncomfortable that avoidance is needed.
Seeking emotionally unavailable relationships
This pattern again has to do with how your caregivers acknowledged your emotions when you were young. If you endured emotional or physical neglect in childhood, it’s likely that a partner who is emotionally unavailable will feel right for you.
Having poor self-worth
Poor self-worth can look like negative self-talk and a lack of compassion for yourself. If you grew up with caregivers who used criticism, contempt, or judgment towards you, you might have internalized these messages yourself. You might now criticize yourself for the same things your parents did. You might even have an inner critic that sounds like your caregiver.
Whenever a pattern is discovered, always approach it with curiosity and compassion. Question its existence and origin. And start to heal.
The Centre for YouthAOD Practice Development (n.d.). Trauma and Behaviour. Accessed from https://www.oohctoolbox.org.au/trauma-and-behaviour#:~:text=Trauma%2Dbased%20behaviours%20can%20usually,young%20people%20are%20engaged%20in.