September 18, 2023


Last week’s blog was about defining a traumatic event. This week we delve into what trauma resolution may look like.

I’ve been asked many times in my groups, “How do I know if my past trauma is resolved or not?”.  The only way for me to answer this question would be from my personal journey. I knew the moment I resolved my past life event (i.e., death of a loved one). It’s hard to explain other than saying the knot in my stomach was suddenly gone. I no longer emotionally reacted to flashbacks of my past traumatic event. I no longer felt the need to numb or escape the painful memory that haunted me for 4 years. I was finally at peace and felt it. So, I proceeded to document and build my Resolution Focused Therapy (RFT) treatment model based on my journey to trauma resolution.

Trauma resolution can be a very slippery slope. I can’t explain it without first saying what it isn’t. If you haven’t explored and completed work on self-awareness, or therapy, or self-education to discover how your pasts have impacted your current lives, then be careful when saying my past traumatic event has been resolved.

Without getting too clinical in this post, just know that time, or changes in your lives, does not mean you resolved your past event. For example, if you are currently struggling with trauma symptoms such as nightmares, flashbacks, depression, anxiety, etc., and suddenly you meet someone and start a relationship and this person seems to be the answer to all your prayers, and suddenly your symptoms are gone, think again. This person has simply provided you with a band aid that helps ground you from your symptoms in a healthier way. Albeit, it is a better outlet, but not one that will bring you to resolution.

I have treated too many clients that have hopped from one relationship to another just to avoid feeling alone. The temporary relief they felt was not trauma resolution. It was trauma escapism. If you are feeling lonely and restless in your alone time, address the reasons instead of camouflaging them. I speak from personal experience. I hated the feeling of being alone and often clung to another person to avoid it. Now I seek my alone time to regroup and use as a time to re-energize.

A couple of more examples of a healthy ground providing you a band aid from your past suffering would be structured sports program, new job, new location, and any person, place or thing introduced into your lives when suffering from past unresolved trauma that seems to have “cured you”. This new thing in your life can camouflage the trauma symptoms you were suffering. They are not a cure, nor is your trauma miraculously resolved. They are simply a temporary healthy ground that has replaced the unhealthy grounds like substances, isolation, cutting, suicidal thoughts and so on that you may have suffered when alone with the pain.

Once again, using myself as an example of trauma resolution. During my 4 years of tormenting myself with the past memory, I sought answers to what was causing me to be stuck in the past. I discovered I was holding myself to an impossible standard, “perfection”. I knew I was torturing myself with shoulda, coulda, woulda’s and had to come to terms with these distorted beliefs. My point is, do the work necessary to understand your present condition if you are unhappy or suffering from some of the previously mentioned symptoms. The answers are within you and not outside of you.

I have seen many people in my career seeking answers to their personal suffering by looking outside of themselves. I have seen people immerse themselves in other people’s problems just to avoid their own pain. If “alone time” is your demon, then going out all the time or clutching on to an unhealthy relationship isn’t the answer. It may temporarily soothe the pain, but it will not be a healthy outcome.

The insecurity that drives you to clutch another person or thing will just torment you further when that person or thing leaves or ends. You will then make that end your problem and be further lost from the answer to your loneliness. Instead, work on what that alone fear is telling you. Listen deep inside you and tune in to your mind and spirit to discover the possible fear of abandonment or what’s causing the insecurity in the first place.

I realize this blog may be more confusing for some than intended. But just know that if you are not feeling heathy and are constantly experiencing trauma symptoms mentioned earlier, do the work before complicating your lives further with more trauma. Know that if you experienced symptom relief without really doing any work, it’s a temporary relief. So, take advantage of the temporary relief to seek more permanent relief and don’t be fooled that you have now resolved a past trauma without any internal work.

Everyone’s journey to resolve past trauma/life events is different. You are the best judge of whether you all have resolved your pasts. There is no magical fix to trauma resolution.

Mind, Body, Spirit…Balance!

Vinnie Strumolo, CEO, CCO, LMFT