Adverse life events

At some point in their lives, everyone experiences suffering as a result of an adverse event. If we are lucky enough to be resilient, we can recover from most of this suffering, and it becomes a distant memory that no longer causes distress or a physical reminder.

But that’s not always the case. Adverse events can have ongoing impacts on our everyday life. The adverse event might have been bullying, a relationship breakup, parents separating when you were young, attachment traumas (multiple negative parent / child interaction events creating insecure attachment), natural disasters (earthquakes, pandemics and terrorist attacks etc), car accidents, violence, death of a loved one, or serious illness.

You don’t have to have posttraumatic stress disorder to have significant distress that interferes with everyday living and relationships. Sometimes the distress becomes so severe as to result in in PTSD, depression, anxiety or other mental health issues.

Pain is pain. Whether it’s because we have a broken heart, or because we were in a horrific accident or natural disaster, our bodies set off a warning signal that we are in danger and that we need to do something about it. Our bodies react to those events to protect us and to motivate us into fight or flight (and in some cases freeze) to increase our survival chances in a dangerous situation. Unfortunately, our unconscious mind hasn’t figured out that we are no longer in danger and has left the alarm system on. Hence, we still suffer from symptoms of the fight / flight (or freeze) response. If you think back to an emotional painful experience, and you still have a physical sensation popping up, chances are you have an unprocessed adverse event stuck in your brain that still thinks it’s in danger.

When we have distressing physical symptoms caused by our fight / flight response (such as heart racing, shortness of breath, stomach disturbance, chest pain, tightness of throat, headaches, nightmares, flashbacks of the distressing event etc) and we are no longer in danger, our mind tries to rationalise what is going on. It tries to come up with very unhelpful negative thoughts to reason why our body feels so bad. These thoughts can be “I am a bad person”, “I am not worthwhile”, “I am not loveable”, “I am weak”, “I deserve bad things”, “I am unsafe”, “I am broken” etc. These negative thoughts feel true, so then we end up believing that they must be true. This then adds to our distress. If this is occurring for you, please seek assistance to retrain your brain. Why would you want to continue believing something that is so interfering with your life? It really is a waste of time and energy.