Every day, we all balance certain social expectations, agreements, and dynamics that we naturally adopt as we move throughout the world. Unspoken rules that we learn and limitations we place on ourselves to not break those rules. It's part of navigating daily life, though it can be a bit bothersome at times.
This is even more true for those who have experienced trauma, their brains are affected in such a way that they place even more rules on themselves so they can avoid their fears and not live through such a period of pain again.
It doesn't have to stay that way, as there are tools that can help you create a plan for overcoming those barriers so you can live a happier life. This free quiz will aid you in identifying the roots of your trauma, and once you know where these struggles stem from, you'll be able to cut them off at the source.
For those who have never experienced deep, life-altering trauma, it can sometimes be hard to understand just how that trauma can affect someone years down the line, especially since the symptoms vary greatly from victim to victim. This becomes even more difficult when a victim appears to be relatively 'high-functioning,' able to hide the full effects of their symptoms from the public eye.
Still, there are some common behaviors that any high-functioning trauma survivor will know intimately, ones that prove just how much they fight to make it through the day.
To be hypervigilant means constantly being aware of one's surroundings, often looking for potential sources of danger or routes of escape if necessary. This behavior is born from having survived a time where they were in constant danger, or always had to be aware of someone's behavior so they could see potential harm coming their way.
Being hypervigilant means they make a lot of assumptions, but it's not because they want to. They simply learned to as a means of survival. They would rather be careful and wrong than slack and be punished for it.
2. Striving For Perfection
Speaking of always being under watch or looking out for danger, trauma survivors often grow up to be staunch perfectionists. When you're made to suffer consequences for every little thing during some point in your life, you'll learn to avoid triggering any negative emotion in others lest they also want to punish you, even if the reason why they're upset isn't your doing.
So they shoulder the burden of other peoples' feelings and force themselves to overachieve, to over-accommodate, to burn themselves out for others lest someone feel sad or, god forbid, disappointed, even angry at them.
3. Dissociating To Appear Calm
Calmness, even when discussing or facing traumas, doesn't mean that the survivor in question is unaffected by those events. They've had to spend years probably steeling themselves so they could face those memories. Survivors aren't required to burst into sobbing tears every time they recount something. If that was the case, they'd be crying all the time, as memories of trauma are pervasive and haunting.
However, they'll adopt a calm demeanor so others don't see them as weak, often needing to dissociate entirely in order to achieve this state. They won't want people to think they're still affected lest someone wants to take advantage of that.
This point is similar to striving for perfection, but with an added element. While trauma survivors will be perfectionists in order to prevent others from feeling negatively about them, they'll reach even further and try to overachieve to encourage others to feel positively about them.
They'll convince themselves that the only way people can come to like them is if they offer some sort of usefulness or value in their lives. They'll stretch themselves thin trying to help everyone else, putting others' needs above their own, all with the hope that this will mean people will want them around.
5. Personality Fragmentation
To fragment one's personality means you're showing different sides of yourself to different people depending on the context, sometimes even crafting completely fake personalities in order to cope with environments like work or family gatherings. Depending on the severity, this can also be seen as a form of dissociation.
This doesn't mean this person is lying to you, as often they don't want to be doing this, they want to be their true selves around people, but it's hard for them to feel safe and comfortable enough to do so. When you feel like you're in constant danger, you can never let those walls down.
6. Just Wanting To Survive
For trauma survivors, minor tasks become major feats. It saps them of all their energy, meaning they generally can't do as much in a day as those with more unburdened minds. This can sometimes lead to criticism, calling that person lazy or antisocial, when really, they're just trying to make it through the day with the least amount of struggle possible.
From an outside perspective, it may not seem like this person is trying to get better at all, but you can never know just how much effort it takes for someone to do something like take a shower. Even if they're not living life to its fullest extent (as judged by others, everyone has different desires), they're still fighting to survive, and that's enough.
A Stranger's Struggle
Again, to those who haven't experienced trauma and thus don't jump through these social hoops on the daily, they might not understand just how draining these traits can be, but let's remember that these survivors balancing all of these acts on top of other symptoms, on top of the mental exhaustion, on top of keeping a job and maintaining their home, it all starts to become very heavy.
You don't have to know someone's trauma or even know that they're a survivor to extend some empathy to someone you see who's struggling. Whenever someone's falling behind or seeming tired, remember that you don't know what they're fighting against in their personal lives. They could do with a little kindness.
The heart of a trauma survivor is often already kind, already gentle, wanting to open up but facing endless doubts when doing so. But being emotionally closed off for survival doesn't have to be a symptom that lasts forever.
Take this free quiz to help single out the root causes of the trauma you faced. See where they begin and treat it at its source, feel your heart open up as you treat your younger self with sympathy and healing, see what your life can become once you've opened those doors. Click here to get started today and say goodbye to the social struggles that pain you.