Etiology of Unresolved Trauma

In the narrative that I will discuss later, Suzanne (not her real name) suffered from unresolved trauma. Her trauma was rooted in trauma to her mind and emotions that had emerged from a severely distressing event.  The resulting wound was beyond her capacity to cope with and resolve.

Her response to the unresolved trauma integrated her mental and emotional faculties that were originally involved in the trauma.

Due to the severity of the trauma and her inability to cope with it, the wound remained dormant deep in her soul.

Suzanne’s mental and emotional capacities had tucked the event deep inside the soul where her mind couldn’t find it.

She probably never thought of it again; however, emotions never forget a trauma. Thus, Suzanne probably had unexplainable emotional responses to seemingly benign triggers throughout her life.

Because they were relatively minor responses, she dismissed them or pushed them back in her mind.

Due to her lack of the mental awareness, Suzanne didn’t recognize that the uncommon trauma response was rooted her past traumatic events.

Response to Unresolved Trauma

When her unresolved trauma was eventually triggered by an event that is reminiscent of the original trauma, Suzanne lost her ability to rationally respond to her pain.

The overwhelming stress of the event exceeded her ability to cope.

It came out of nowhere and gave no warning.

While the trauma occurred years after her original trauma, the past burst out of her soul, and sounded an alarm to her entire being.

That alarm put Suzanne on notice that self-protection demanded every available personal defense.

Suzanne’s response to her unresolved trauma was extreme, unpredictable, and explosive.

Suzanne took on a stance of vigilance. No one around her could be trusted. Past trauma had taught her that even those who seemed to love her, could fail to protect her. In fact, they were the perpetrators of the trauma.

Trauma Response in the Making

Richard (not his real name) and Suzanne met and married in their late-20s. Their marriage was good. Their love was strong. They were thriving vocationally. They had built a good life together and they were happy.

They were a couple of years into the marriage before Suzanne’s past trauma emerged. It struck like a cobra and neither saw it coming. Neither had ever suspected the threat of the sleeping giant in the depths of Suzanne’s soul.

Their Early Years

Richard’s (not his real name)  family was fairly wealthy. His father was an attorney and his mother didn’t work. Richard attended private schools. His parents were nurturing and gave him their undivided attention. He knew that he was loved.

The family had a hot-tub in the backyard where many fond memories were made.

As an adult, Richard became an attorney, like his father.

Suzanne’s parents divorced when she was 3. After the divorce, her 2 older brothers lived with their father, while she lived with her mother.

Suzanne’s mother was an addict. She entertained  friends outside of her apartment in the hot-tub area. Suzanne was not protected from her mother’s lifestyle.

Her mother was too high to realize that Suzanne had been sexually abused multiple times by her male friends. Suzanne often cried herself to sleep.

Suzanne’s father regained custody of her when she was 7. He worked hard to provide for and protect his children.

Suzanne’s brother’s sexually violated her in the backyard hot-tub, on more than one occasion. They made Suzanne keep their secret. There were many nights that Suzanne cried herself to sleep.

As an adult Suzanne became a well-respected teen therapist in her community. She met Richard while they were collaborating on a child abuse case. They were married that year.

The Sleeping Giant Awakens

After they were married, Suzanne went out of town to gain a higher certification for her practice. Richard wanted to do something special for her while she was gone.

The day she left, Richard contracted a company to install a hot-tub in their backyard. He was was extremely excited and talked about the surprise all the way home from the airport.

Richard’s excitement peaked when walked Suzanne into the back yard and revealed his masterpiece

The sight of the hot-tub horrified Suzanne. She felt betrayed and burst into tears.

Suzanne screamed and lashed out at Richard with her fists. Twenty- years of pent up rage were released on Richard that afternoon. He was horrified and baffled by her response.

An Abnormal Response to Trauma is Normal

Knowing her background, Suzann’s response to past trauma in her current situation was very normal. Without a clue, Richard triggered the pain of the many past traumas she had endured.

Nothing in her mind could relate a hot-tub to family fun and fond memories. She connect the hot-tub to her unresolved trauma. It came from some one she deeply loved.  She was traumatized again by someone she trusted to protect her.

The hot-tub scenario is one of many that can trigger pain from the past. The victim usually doesn’t consciously remember the original trauma; however the pain is very real at the  subconscious level.

The reaction is always disproportionately larger than the trigger. A fight usually ensues, and a breach in relationship takes over. As Richard and Suzanne demonstrated, the impact of her response to her unresolved trauma, could not  have been predicted

Richard & Suzanne’s Response to Unresolved Trauma

During this traumatic reaction, Richard did not react in kind. He found a way to allow the love of Christ to be displayed to Suzanne in a tangible way.

He was  willing to march into hell for a heavenly cause. He realized that  Suzanne did not need to be accused. She needed to be rescued from her past.

Both Richard and Suzanne had recognized that they were in a spiritual battle. It looked intimidating and felt very personal.

Their faith helped them to know that what had been been released from the recesses of Suzanne’s soul, wasn’t greater than the finished work of Christ.

The mental and emotional components to the trauma intensified the battle. These were eventually addressed by the renewing of the Suzanne’s mind, with daily declarations and meditations on the Word of God.

The Word introduced her to her new Identity in Christ. With pastoral support and Christian counsel, she found her footing in her spirit walk and she was able to move beyond the pain of her past traumas.

Richard and Suzanne’s victory over her unresolved trauma gave them a healing testimony that set other victims of trauma on the path to healing and wholeness in life.

She is no longer traumatized for her past. He is grateful for the testimony of healing that has resulted from it.




Categories: Marriage and Family

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