Psychic traumas: concept, realities … and some myths

Imagine a frozen lake. Yes, like those in American movies, in which children skate and play ice hockey. Or rather, like those on which the heroes walk very slowly so that their surface does not crack. Better like the latter.

We rarely imagine that this lake can look like our mind, let alone our happiness. Maybe we live in a reality where our well-being, instead of being this lake, is a compact glacier, where it’s hard to scratch the surface, and we haven’t even considered the possibility of sinking .

But what if it was possible? What if the ice sheet that separated us from the dark depths was as thin as smoking paper and made us feel like we were on the verge of bankruptcy. Can you imagine the constant stress and panic we would be subjected to?

This (note the literary licenses), in addition to a lot of other things, is what shapes the reality of someone traumatized, or in other words, suffering from typical symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. And yet, he’s still alive; he does not die of fear, just as we think would happen to us if we lived the metaphor of ice.

What is trauma and what really happens?

the trauma it has been used by all artistic disciplines to generally illustrate madness. Soldiers who abuse their spouses, traumatized children who become abusers, abused teens who become serial killers … And we could go on and on.

But, in an effort to avoid the clichés, let’s start with the real meaning of this label in clinical practice. Post-traumatic stress disorder is a diagnostic label that encompasses symptoms that may arise when you have witnessed a life-threatening event or integrity (Physical or psychological), responding to this with reactions of intense fear, helplessness or horror.

Symptoms of psychological trauma

Now basically these symptoms collected in the label would involve:

  • Persistent re-experimentation of the traumatic event. The person begins to go through times when uncontrolled memories of the trauma spring to mind, emotions he experienced at the time, and intense discomfort when coming into contact with anything that reminds him of the trauma. For example, if one of the things related to the event is sweating, it is possible that it came from this re-experimentation while sweating.
  • Avoidance of stimuli associated with trauma. All kinds of strategies are generated that can help prevent something that is trauma-related, even if not explicitly. In the previous example, sport might be something to be avoided.
  • Symptoms of hyperactivation such as inability to fall asleep, Outbursts of anger, difficulty concentrating, hypervigilance or exaggerated alarm response. In other words, the means by which the mind becomes aware of fear in the face of the situation being experienced.
  • general disturbances and disruption of the person’s normal functioning in all important respects. The trauma may also generate depressive or anxious symptoms; feelings of guilt or shame that jeopardize a person’s self-esteem and self-concept.
  • dissociative amnesia, Caused by shock or feelings of guilt, shame or anger. It has many negative effects, such as the inability to express what happened in the trauma or to reassess it. Instinctively, this may seem useful, for if you forget about evil, it is “as if it does not exist”, but nothing could be further from the truth; releasing the emotions that arose at that time and rewriting or reinterpreting what happened is essential to recovery.

“Back” to be the same

It is important to point out that like the rest of the diagnostic labels, this one in particular it’s just a way to call out a bunch of symptoms, problems, to speak clearly. Only that. “Post-traumatic stress” does not mean “to have a bunch of problems and also to be crazed for a tie”. Although this is a popular way to use labels, we do believe in respect.

However, why the ferocity with this in particular? Maybe it is because of the illness that can cause mental illness and because of the way it has been sold for so many years. The myth has been generated that traumatized people are broken forever, and this is wrong. “He’s traumatized. He’ll never be the same again.” No, this is not the case. Psychic trauma does not imply a chronic situation of discomfort and disorder without turning back.

Beyond recovery, which is quite possible and for which there are a wide variety of treatments (narrative therapy, biofeedback, or the applications of cognitive behavioral therapies and rational emotional therapy, to name a few some), we must tackle the dichotomous approach that society offers us today with regard to these matters.


The doubt of being “the same again”, although it is logical, it ends up being more of one of those fears of the movie than a sentence with real meaning. In humans, learning is continuous and, therefore, being the same as before necessarily implies “not moving forward” or “not living”. It would be unfair and illogical to require anyone (with or without trauma) to be exactly the same as before. We are constantly evolving, constantly building.

And in this issue, going back to where it was before can be a very harsh cliché. An impossible test if we remember the stress and panic of getting lost in the depths. We can give the option of being “the one before” and “something more”.

And it is in this “something more” that everyone has the freedom to live or move forward. But always both at the same time.

Leave a Comment