Sometimes when people have a history of trauma, they view it as 'in the past' and think they've dealt with it. Sometimes, that's the case. But sometimes these same people struggle with anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances, or strange flashbacks or nightmares, and they don't know where it's coming from. That's a sign that the trauma is not as resolved as they would like. However, that instinct to avoid exploring the trauma in gross detail makes perfect sense -- research suggests that going over the details of trauma can re-traumatize and deepen the neural pathways to that trauma. This is why I am very careful when working with trauma.
People often don’t realize how trauma impacts them — there’s a reason for this. When something traumatic happens, the rational reasoning part of our brain (the prefrontal cortex) goes offline to leave room for the survival part of our brain to take over (the amygdala). This is why our trauma memories are often not as clear and coherent as other memories. For this reason, we may not even realize when a trauma memory is being triggered. Trauma memories can be stored in negative beliefs we form about ourselves about our self-worth or safety, sensations in the body, emotions, even images. Often when trauma is triggered, our trauma reaction is confusing because we don’t know where it’s coming from -- we are just reacting strongly when perhaps the current situation doesn't warrant it.
Helping clients understand the impact of trauma on their lives and processing unresolved trauma can be life changing for clients with a history of trauma. I am extremely mindful when working with trauma and I often utilize EMDR which studies indicate can be very effective in treating symptoms of trauma .