“There is something wrong with me!”

Depending upon the nature of the trauma and the age of the person, trauma doesn’t just impact the person’s physiology. It can also impact her sense of self.

This is where the deep negative stories and beliefs arise. As a result of attachment injuries, and in an attempt to re-gain a sense of control, make meaning of traumatic events, and to preserve the attachment relationship, the child develops negative beliefs about herself.

In childhood trauma, children need an adult brain to help them make meaning of uncomfortable sensations, feelings, and overwhelming events. That way the child can experience a sense of being held in the face of adversity.

In the absence of an adult who helps the child interpret negative events, feelings, and thoughts, the child has no way of accessing inner calm. Instead, she automatically makes negative assumptions about herself.

Those negative assumptions about the self turn into negative beliefs in the form of ongoing self-hatred, self-judgment, and self-criticism.

As adults, when we find ourselves in a state of distress that in any way, even slightly resembles a childhood experience, our unprocessed feelings will re-stimulate these same negative stories and beliefs. The nervous system will be overwhelmed and will trigger similar defensive strategies of childhood.

By understanding the relationship between trauma and meaning making, we will gain a broader and more accurate perspective that offers us new possibilities for healing. Internal stories like “there’s something wrong with me” will give way to more complex, nuanced, and compassionate inner narratives.