Why Some People Never Heal From Trauma

Trauma is The New Religion

20.06.24

I still remember the sensation I had when I first learned about trauma.

This mysterious word seemed to be the reason why I felt like there was something wrong with me, why my relationships were terrible, and why I had zero motivation to work on my goals, which were also nonexistent.

But an interesting phenomenon happened because the more I learned about it, the worse I felt. Instead of this new knowledge empowering me, it made me feel even worse and hopeless.

When I researched the common symptoms of trauma I could see myself in almost all of them, it was very interesting and weird at the same time because every day I’d find new ones to add to my “special list of traumas”.

If you don’t have one of those lists, they’re great! You should get one… Just kidding, haha.

Anyway!

Trauma Collectors

Fast-forward to today, after 6 years of working as a therapist, I found that people who never heal are collectors of traumas, just like I once was.

They tend to get a weird rise when they can talk about every single terrible moment in their childhoods, and how their mom and dad made them suffer, and that one time when someone got them the wrong Christmas present.

In summary, they get absolutely enmeshed and in love with their traumas and they become their whole identity. Not only that, they refuse any chance to get better and shame you when you present valid solutions.

This puzzled me for a very long time, sure I learned about repetition compulsion and also the death drive postulated by Freud at the end of his life, which he kinda copied from Jung but I’ll let this one pass.

Anyway, learning about this didn’t seem to get to the bottom of it, but everything changed when I read Carl Jung exploring the religious function of the psyche.

Calm down, I’m not gonna preach anything to you.

It’s important to understand that when Jung talks about god, he’s not referring to a real existent metaphysical being, but to the psychic image of what constitutes the greatest amount of libido, the highest value operative in a human soul, the imago Dei.

Someone’s god is what structures their whole psyche and consequently, their whole lives. As Jung says in Volume 6, “There are men “whose God is the belly” (Phil. 3 : 19), and others for whom God is money, science, power, sex, etc.” (C. G. Jung – V6 – §67). And I add, work, a political movement, and even a relationship can be gods.

If you’ve been following the thread, nowadays many people worship their traumas as gods and they allow them to rule their entire lives. This “new religion” becomes the reason for their existence as it provides a twisted sense of meaning to their lives.

Workaholism

Psychologically speaking, when something is your god you filter your whole existence through these lenses, and this obviously impacts all of your behaviors and outcomes in life.

Let’s take a simple example, when someone is a workaholic their whole lives revolve around work. Their sense of self-worth is usually attached to how productive they can be to the point that they can’t even sit down for a few minutes without feeling useless.

This tends to impact their relationships because work is always more important, and instead of making time for their partners, they’re constantly thinking about making more money and working more hours. Not only that, they apply this work mentality to everything they do.

Suddenly, a relationship is about meeting goals, doing something productive with your partner, and following a tight script. There’s no room to have fun and just hang out. The same thing happens with their hobbies, they don’t know how to make something just for fun.

Instead of just learning how to play music, for instance, they’ll transform that into another project, with goals, metrics, and a lot of pressure to perform and become the next Bach or something. With this example, I hope you can see how someone’s god affects every decision and shapes someone’s life.

The Religion of Trauma

Now, applying what we’ve learned to traumas, people start creating their whole lives to accommodate and perpetuate their traumas. But let me stop for a moment and say that I’m not here to discuss if traumas are real or not, or even if they’re valid. I’m interested in exploring why some people never seem to let go of them and truly heal.

As with everything nowadays, the psychological field is divided between people who treat this condition solely from a psychological perspective and people who treat it only as a biological and neurological condition. The problem is that every time you adopt a unilateral perspective, you create blind spots, and again psychological approaches also become gods to many people.

However, I learned something very important from Carl Jung, truth emerges from sustaining the paradoxes. I could only heal from CPTSD and severe realization when I combined both the psychodynamic and the modern approaches. And that’s what I seek to apply with all of my clients.

But for this article, I want to explore the mentality of someone who never overcomes their traumas and I noticed a few important traits over these years. The first thing that happens is the adoption of a fatalistic and victimistic mentality.

It doesn’t matter how many solutions you provide, they create objections to all of them and constantly sabotage their process. They “want it to work” but it has a lot of conditions, like that person who wants to lose weight BUT they don’t want to change their diet or do any exercise.

If they manage to commit to anything, as soon as they see something actually working they immediately stop and go back to their old ways.

They love to say that they’re beyond salvation and for a while, I thought that this was true, but then I became a therapist and started talking with people who have this mentality.

Every time you investigate you verify that they constantly half-ass everything. When they say that they’ve tried something they didn’t really try. They never go all in and if something requires a little effort they will create a bunch of excuses.

Moral Confrontation

Furthermore, I’ve found that every time someone hangs on to their traumas is because they’re avoiding something Jung calls moral confrontation and taking some form of responsibility.

As you might have noticed, many people treat their traumas as a “get out of jail free card”. In other words, they remain in this position to avoid taking real responsibility for their lives and truly growing up.

They exert something called “control from the bottom”, which is basically playing the victim card and emotionally manipulating others to give them everything they want.

When you meet someone like this, you’re constantly anxious around them and feel like you’re walking on eggshells. You overthink everything you’re gonna say because you don’t want to upset them and wake up the beast. They’re basically a giant narcissistic baby constantly making demands.

On a deeper layer, trauma becomes their whole sense of identity and I might get some hate for saying this, but to many people, this happens because they want to feel special. They want their suffering to be unique and impossible to understand and cure. They want to have a rare mental disease never seen on the face of the earth.

Again, many people adopt this mentality because there’s nothing else going on in their lives. They don’t want to put any real effort into bettering themselves, learning a real skill, and being in service of other people, because this would make them just a normal person like everyone else. They want the easy way out and to be worshipped for the little effort they put in.

An interesting thing to mention here is that Jung discovered that megalomaniac fantasies had the function of compensating for people’s inferiority complexes. When you don’t face things in real life, you start living in a fantasy world to compensate for your lack of results and bad choices.

If you’re familiar with the works of Von Franz, you might have noticed that all of this perfectly encapsulates someone identified with the Puer and Puella Aeternus archetype.

Another important factor to discuss is that when someone has a victim mentality, they’ll adopt the unconscious behavior of constantly look for a perpetrator. In other words, everyone who challenges their perceptions is against them.

But this doesn’t stop there, because in severe cases, they’ll unconsciously seek for people who really don’t have their best interests at heart to perpetuate this narrative in their minds. A perfect example of all of this is the new series by Netflix called Baby Reindeer, despite the guy having several chances to change his life, he constantly chose to remain a victim and in the end, he even went back to his abuser. I know that hearing this can be triggering for some people, so before you accuse me of anything, watch this show and take your own conclusions.

Traumas Don’t Exist

Lastly, I’d like to explore something extremely interesting. Traumas don’t exist, however, this doesn’t make them any less real.

When we study Freud and Jung we learn that both of them let go of the trauma theory very early on, precisely because they understood that they couldn’t rely on a cause-and-effect formula. In other words, people might go through the exact same experience and react in very different ways.

This is nothing new, but what’s traumatic to some people isn’t for others. This happens because of something called conscious attitude, which is basically our psychological pre-dispositions and modus operandi.

A modern way of saying this is that it’s the subjective value we attribute to something that creates trauma. Someone who operates with a victim mentality will find obstacles to everything while someone who constantly seeks agency will be interested in how he can overcome it.

On a deeper layer, we have the notion of psychic reality. This is a concept postulated by Freud that Jung expanded, which basically dictates that all of our experiences are mediated through the psyche and therefore our subjectivity constantly trumps the objective reality.

It’s very easy to see this in action. Let’s say you have a fear of cockroaches and you’re just hanging out watching some Netflix. It’s kinda dark so you can’t see really well, but you have the impression that a black spot is moving and then you hear a weird flapping sound.

Suddenly your heart is beating and you have a flip flop in your hand ready to kill that flying bastard, but after a few seconds, you realize that it was just a weird shadow and the wind blowing. Even though there was no cockroach, you experienced a deep fear as if it were real.

That’s why traumas aren’t real, however, it doesn’t make them any less real, because when we believe in something this affects us. And I’m obviously not here to invalidate someone’s experience and be the judge of what is considered traumatic or not, I just want to offer a perspective that was very freeing for me. Because we can’t ever change the past, however, we can always work on our subjective perceptions and change in the present moment.

This reminds me of Jacques Lacan because one of his ideas about healing is the ability to symbolize and bring into words what is traumatic, and retroactively, it is possible to transform our perception of the past and have more agency in the present moment.

I just witnessed that happening with a client. To put it very simply, he’s been dealing with a tendency to never give himself credit for anything he accomplishes and consequently never feeling good enough. Every time he accomplishes a goal he just thinks that this is what was expected of him and moves on to the next thing.

The problem is that this attitude gives no room to recognize his own talents, abilities, his agency in all of that because you’re constantly trying to fulfill the expectations of others, and also you can’t just breathe and relax. After we explored all of that in a few sessions, he finally stopped to appreciate everything he went through, all the abilities he developed in the process, and how he’s able to make his own decisions now.

What’s interesting is that when he adopted a new perspective, he could also look at his past differently. Suddenly, mistakes and regrets don’t seem as heavy, and in all of those moments he felt like he was not good enough he could finally realize how smart he was, how difficult were all of the challenges he surpassed, and how much agency he had all of this time.

He was like, “Wow, you’re right. Look at everything I was able to accomplish, I was so smart!”.

These new perspectives change the way the past affects us and give us new tools to appreciate the present moment and create the life we want. Plus, you notice how people change the way they talk about their pasts, it’s not heavy and full of guilt and shame anymore, and they finally stop carrying all of this baggage.

Healing As A Religious Problem

After everything we discussed, Jung says that healing is a “religious problem“, not because he’s trying to create a new religion, but because on a deeper level, healing from trauma requires that we craft our own cosmovision.

You see, traumas replace a real sense of meaning and it’s only when we strive to confront why we’ve been enmeshed with our traumas that we’re free to look at ourselves and the world in a new light. We have to question ourselves as to why we keep repeating the same patterns over and over again, if this keeps happening is because there’s an unconscious part of ourselves fueling these dynamics and narratives.

We must choose the perspectives that give us the most agency because ultimately, to heal from trauma we must craft our own values and create a new and unique sense of meaning. We must stop allowing fear and shame to dictate our entire lives and finally start creating our audacious lives.

You get to choose what or who will be your god, as Jung says, ultimately anything inescapable can be called God, “Man is free to decide whether “God” shall be a “spirit” or a natural phenomenon like the craving of a morphine addict, and hence whether “God” shall act as a beneficent or a destructive force” (C.G. Jung – V11 – §142).

Lastly, the unconscious parts I mentioned are called complexes, I’ll address this in future articles, however, everything we discussed here including the puer and puella aeternus, can be found in my accessible course called Katabasis – The Shadow Integration Manual, or you can come directly to the Audacity University and access all of my courses and receive my guidance in live meetings.

Rafael Krüger – Live an Audacious Life


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