Silenced by trauma? It doesn't have to stay that way.
Traumatic memories stay in your mind and body long after the incident has happened. But you don't need to suffer in silent - you can get help and break free.
As a therapist, I’ve seen many clients who’ve gone through traumatic experiences when they were young: some were raped or sexually harassed by figures of authority, friends or even members of their own family; some were physically abused, emotionally abused or neglected by their parents, grandparents, care givers etc.
To be really honest, before I embarked the journey of being a therapist, I thought trauma was quite rare in Malaysia. While I was growing up, no one talked about being abused or sexually assaulted, no one talked about how they were badly treated at home, and I assumed we were far away from the complexities of what we watch on Hollywood dramas. But as my knowledge in this area grew, I began to realise how trauma is way more common than it appears to be.
We often think about trauma as the devastating things that happen, like hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, rape, mass shootings or murders. But what we often overlook are traumatic experiences like physical abuse, emotional abuse, fights, witness of fights and assaults, public humiliations, bully – these experiences are everywhere. But although they are everywhere, we don’t hear them often, due to a few reasons. One, is that this is still a taboo in the society, people are afraid that they would be judged or looked down upon if they openly talk about their experiences.
Two, is that many of them couldn’t find words to speak about their experiences. When a person goes through trauma, many things happen to their mind and body in the split second – most people get a freeze response, which means they couldn’t fight nor flee the situation, and they had to go through the experience being completely helpless. Research has shown that many trauma victims are muted even years after the trauma experience – they “lose their tongues” and are unable to describe what has happened to them. Brain scans of victims show that the Broca’s area in their brain (one of the speech centers in the brain) shows a lack of activity when they recall the event that happened to them. That means that most people who goes through trauma – are literally living with the pain, in silent.
Three, which makes it worse, is the fact that they don’t feel safe to talk about the experiences to even the people closest to them; and while some of them may muster the courage to speak of their experiences to those whom they trust, like their parents, grandparents, siblings, hoping to get some comfort and justice, they were either ignored; brushed off - “you think too much”, “I’m sure it’s not that bad, stop making such a fuss” or even silenced - “don’t you dare tell your dad about this”, “don’t tell anyone or you’ll get more from me!”.
It’s heart breaking to hear how they had to go through these terrible experiences, keep all their experiences to themselves, live in fear of another assault, cry in the corner of their rooms, cut themselves or intentionally run into danger in order to feel alive, some even tried killing themselves as they see no hope in healing the pain that is hurting them every single night.
So I guess this piece today is to spread awareness to those in need. If you are silently suffering from any form of trauma, you don’t need to go through this alone. There are many proven ways to help a person cope with the past experiences, and help you rebuild strength, love and trust. My team and I are passionate in helping – so do reach out to us! We use a variety of tools: hypnotherapy, eye movement desensitising and reprocessing therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy, solution focussed therapy and more to help our clients move on from the shadows of their past.
And for those who might know someone who may be silently struggling, I’d appreciate if you can share this along and save a life!