Trauma

Why someone can always feel ill at ease

Why someone can always feel ill at ease

There are many people who despite outward appearance are always struggling inside with feeling ill at ease. It could be that they thought if they achieved a level of success as defined by society that they would feel the contentment they – and everyone – needs.

But even when they get excellent status and first-rate material wealth, there remains a familiar but progressively uncomfortable feeling of being ill at ease. Or it could be that someone figures the uneasy feeling they always seem to have carried will ease as they get older.

But in fact it only keeps growing inside them – and can be behind sleep problems,  depression, stress and anxiety. It can reach the point where it is so excruciatingly painful that they turn to drink, drugs or develop a behavioral addiction in an attempt to stop the bad feeling. 

This can sometimes seem to give short-term relief. But it is never the real solution – and it often becomes the first and most obvious problem to deal with for someone seeking recovery.

Not why the addiction but why the pain

Not why the addiction but why the pain

Frequently, addiction to alcohol, drugs or an unhealthy behavior is the reason someone seeks help in the first place. But to fully recover from an addiction, the reason for the pain needs to be explored and resolved.

Indeed, this is one of the key reasons for someone feeling always ill at ease. It is to do with an unresolved history.

It can be from a trauma in adult life. But most often it is from a childhood trauma.

The reason is that we are forming so quickly when we are children. All children need to have their needs met – we all need to feel loved and valued – and yet sometimes due to many different reasons this doesn’t happen.

As we are all different, everyone will experience trauma in a different manner. Someone may see problems start immediately after the trauma, yet others may not be aware of being affected until years later.

If there’s a trauma that’s not been resolved, it can put the person that it remains inside at risk for nearly every sort of physical, mental or emotional health problem.

Toxic trauma

Toxic trauma

Unresolved trauma is toxic. It will in nearly every case haunt someone for the rest of their lives – yet often in a manner that doesn’t seem connected.

For years after a trauma and deep into adulthood somebody might try to mask over or forget their past. Many people go through their entire life believing it cannot adversely affect them in any way.

Actually it is most often behind most of the way they live and many of what they and others believe are their character traits. These are in fact coping mechanisms.

Somebody might think: “My childhood wasn’t great, but many people had it much worse” or “It wasn’t really that bad when I think about my childhood.” This is known as idealization – when a person persuades themselves that someone or something that happened was okay.

To mask the real pain they might go completely the other way and convince themselves that it was actually totally fine or even good. So such as: “My father was a great man” when the reality that they do not feel they can face is that he regularly abused them.

So idealization is a survival technique to avoid overwhelming pain if the truth is admitted. It seems the better – and perhaps easier – option than looking at the severe wound that’s been left inside them.

But trauma derives from a Greek word meaning “wound” – and as with a severe physical wound, if left untreated it will fester. So it will get increasingly more painful as time goes on.

Hysterical historical  

Most people do not make the connection that old untreated wounds will have all manner of adverse mental and physical consequences. But something that happened years before can subconsciously trigger a response in us such as shame, fear, self-pity, anger or guilt.

There’s a phrase used in therapy: if it’s hysterical it’s historical. This is when sometimes a reaction seems to be entirely inappropriate to what is actually happening.

For instance, a 50-year-old man gets extremely angry and clearly upset as well because he is waiting to pay a restaurant bill and it seems the waiter has served someone else ahead of him. The reaction of extreme anger that this man shows might be due to the man getting a similar feeling that he got as a child when he was regularly ignored by his mother who was an alcoholic.

In some ways it is the child in this man who is reacting, and he’s reacting to his mother rather than the waiter. He wants to deal with the waiter in the manner he wished he had dealt with his mother.

It is why everyone in the restaurant is looking over wondering just what’s going on. When the man leaves the restaurant he is similarly shocked as to why he reacted in the manner that he just did. The truth is he hasn’t made the connection, so he has no idea and he is now distraught at that.

Ill at ease to disease

It is not just what happens to us that affects us. We are also affected by how sensitive we are and to what extent we have been unable to feel the pain caused by something traumatic.

As well, that means to what extent we have been able to make any sense of what happened. This means because we have not made any sense of it that we will still be carrying it deep inside and it will be negatively impacting on us in myriad ways.

Until traumas are looked at they will strongly influence what relationships we have, how we are as parents, how we think and feel, our belief systems – and basically how we are in this world.

For the vast majority it will leave an almost continual feeling of being ill at ease, whatever they do or achieve in life. It is no wonder so many mental and physical health problems are called a disease. 

Break down that word: “dis-” is a prefix denoting reversal or absence of an action or state. So disease is because we are not at ease.

Facing our traumas is certainly not easy, but it is the key to healing. When we heal and understand ourselves, then we can start to become our true selves. This means we will feel at ease.

An abnormal culture

There is another aspect to why some people feel ill at ease. That is cultural and family expectations.

For instance, far too many people become someone they are not comfortable with due to family pressure – such as: “Our family has always worked in law.”

It might be that someone climbs this ladder of success and everyone around them is saying how well they’ve done. Indeed by Western society’s values, this person is a success – with all the material evidence such as brand-new cars and a big house not to mention the status of being a high career achiever.

But deep inside the person knows it is not really them… There is another calling, and not answering it leaves them feeling constantly ill at ease.

They may well have climbed the ladder of success. But it is planted firmly against the wrong building.

Because of this feeling of being continually ill at ease, this person might turn to drink, drugs or succumb to a behavioral addiction in an attempt to ease it. They might develop depression, stress or anxiety.

“So much of what we call abnormality in this culture is actually normal responses to an abnormal culture,” says addiction expert Dr Gabor Maté, author of some of the world’s bestselling recovery books, including In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts. “The abnormality does not reside in the pathology of individuals, but in the very culture that drives people into suffering and dysfunction.”

So his belief is that the way in which our society is set up doesn’t work for many if not most people. In fact, our culture is made to keep people away from discovering and being their true self.

There are also a great many people who are ill at ease because of both an unresolved trauma combined with society’s and/or family expectations. Indeed, somebody who has a trauma that’s not been resolved is quite possibly more likely to follow what they are told because they are seeking love and approval so desperately, because they are urgently searching for a way to stop their pain.

In both instances, help from a person with expertise in these matters is undoubtedly needed. Our friendly experienced team has treated people for decades with all emotional and mental health problems.

Get in touch with us today to hear how we can help you or someone you care about to move into recovery.

Why childhood traumas can affect us for the rest of our lives

Why childhood traumas can affect us for the rest of our lives

If someone suffers from a childhood trauma it will, unless they seek treatment, affect them to some degree for the rest of their life. It is behind many mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety and various addictions.

This is not just an addiction to alcohol or drugs, but certain behavioral addictions too. These are to such as exercise, shopping, gambling, sex, work and money.

One of the world’s leading addiction experts is physician and author Dr Gabor Maté. His mantra is: “The question is not why the addiction, but why the pain.” 

Maté, now aged 77, says everybody he has ever treated with an addiction in his long career had suffered terrible trauma, usually during their childhood. Their addiction was an attempt to cope with the overwhelming pain of what had happened by masking or numbing that pain.

Maté speaks about how addictive urges start in areas of our brain that control the ability to feel and receive love. Human babies are born far earlier in developmental terms than most other animals.

Consequently our brains are still growing tremendously when we are born. In fact a human brain doubles in size in the first year.

How our environment shapes us

How our environment shapes us

So it makes sense that the brain’s development will be influenced by its environment. There will be detrimental consequences, for instance, if a baby witnesses lots of trauma in their household.

This could be that they live in a house that resembles a war zone much more than the sanctuary it needs to be. Our brain circuits develop healthily if they are under the influence of a nurturing environment throughout early life.

But if the environment is belligerent and traumatic – in the way that many dysfunctional family homes are – the brain doesn’t develop as it should. This is believed by many mental health experts to contribute to various mental health conditions in later life.

As we grow up too, especially in the first eight to ten years of our life, we are being strongly shaped, taught how to navigate the world around us. You could say our brains are being programmed – but sometimes they are wired completely incorrectly.

The family blueprint

The family blueprint

This is not necessarily because the parents or caregivers are doing this consciously to be malicious. It is because all of us to an extent imitate our parents as we grow up.

People are handed what can be called a “family blueprint”. It shows various ways to respond to certain situations – and these have often been handed down to the newest generation in that family for generations.

So if on hearing something someone doesn’t like, getting angry or going into a sulk are ways that have been taught in a particular family for years – it’s more than likely this is how a child will grow up responding too. They will then take that into adulthood, frequently not realizing there are alternative ways to respond – despite much distress and the problems that following the family blueprint might be causing them.

Also there’s the fact that parents might adopt “coping mechanisms” for their own traumas, that are frequently from their own childhood. These are then, usually unknowingly, forced on to their children.

These ways of coping are not healthy, sometimes they are utterly dysfunctional and even abusive. In some form they have often been going on for generations.

Compressed torment of generations

It’s what Dr Maté describes as “the compressed torment of generations”. That’s what he says we are often witnessing and dealing with when somebody is an addict.

Addiction and other mental health problems can occur for other reasons, including a trauma happening in adult life. Trauma derives from a Greek word meaning “wound”, so it’s anything that leaves an internal wound.

Until this is looked at in treatment, that internal wound will usually get more painful as it festers. This is why mental health problems get progressively worse unless they are treated.

But a great deal if not the vast majority of mental health issues start in childhood. They are often the result of trauma and toxic shame that can be seen as a failure of love to some extent.

Healing the shame that binds you

Healing The Shame That Binds You

Toxic shame is when someone is carrying shame that does not belong to them. Most often it has been pushed on them by parents or another caregiver. It is, for instance, behind the fact that many abusers were previously abused themselves.

“If our primary caregivers are shame-based, they will act shameless and pass their toxic shame onto us,” explained counselor John Bradshaw, author of one of the world’s bestselling recovery books Healing The Shame That Binds You. “There is no way to teach self-value if one does not value oneself. Toxic shame is multigenerational.”

Some people will say or observe that one sibling seems worse affected by growing up, say, with an alcoholic mother, than the other sibling. This is because we are all different and some people are simply more sensitive than others.

Then there are others who think that because someone might not have been living with their parents for years or decades that they should just be able to get over whatever happened and get on with life. But it is absolutely not that simple.

Internal wounds

An internal wound is just like a terrible open wound on our skin. If it is not looked at and treated, it will most nearly always get worse, the infection spreading and so making it even more painful.

So trauma and toxic shame is like this. They are like having a wound that’s inside us or some poison. The passage of time alone doesn’t heal.

Thankfully there are proven antidotes. Treatment such as talking therapy has successfully helped a great many people.

Our professional Tikvah Lake team has great experience in treating people who are suffering from trauma and toxic shame as well as any co-occurring disorders. Get in touch today to speak about how we can help you or someone you love.

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