We all have a sense of self, who we think we are and the values we believe in. This sense of self is central to our identity. As Erik Erikson put forward identity is shaped throughout our life and can be disrupted heavily due to the experience of any traumatic event. Although the effect of trauma on the person may depend on what kind of trauma it is. If it is a car accident, then it does not have much relation to the sense of self of a person, hence it would be less likely for such an event to disrupt the way the person sees themselves and the world around them.
The Power of Identity
Identity is developed through many stages in our lives and becomes stronger and more coherent as we gain achievement. We develop our identity through many stages in our lives and strengthen it, making it more coherent as we achieve success. It is seen through studies that identity formation can get disrupted.
Trauma not only disrupts identity in a one-way relationship, but also influences how it affects a person and to what extent, as seen in the two-way dynamic.
Empowering Identity, Growth
Different traumas have different effects with sexual violence and assault having the most probability to disrupt one’s identity. When a traumatic experience of this order takes place, it changes the way a person thinks for themselves. The thoughts they have for themselves, including their beliefs and values change. Due to this, they have a lot of negative affiliations built for themselves and their identity development doesn’t take place.
For identity development to take place, one needs to understand the strengths and weaknesses of oneself and needs to see themselves observationally. Once they understand themselves. They can thus work on themselves and build a sense of purpose in their life which they can strive to achieve.
It is stated that identity development is considerably easier to achieve when one has a good outlook on oneself. We can observe ourselves objectively without any fear. This can only happen when our self-concept is intact and does not have any negative beliefs, thoughts, or ideas about ourselves. When we suffer through trauma, then that hurts who we are. And we are not able to build a strong sense of self for ourselves.
As a result, we are unable to develop a feeling of purpose and our identity is diluted. To get back on track and have growth, healing ourselves from our trauma is one technique that helps us achieve who we are. Thus. Understanding how trauma is affecting our identity and working towards building a safe self-concept is extremely important in recovering from it. Trauma does not affect many people who possess a trauma-proof sense of self in a similar fashion or manner.
Trauma usually affects people, causing lower self-esteem and making them more temperamental to negative thoughts and beliefs compared to those who do not develop trauma easily. This could be due to certain genetic factors that are intrinsic to us when we are born.
Trauma and Trust
Losing trust is a frequent occurrence among those who have been touched by trauma on a large scale. Since their own sense of self is not that well developed. They have problems gaining to trust of other people in this process because they do not feel safe themselves. As a result, they are extremely afraid of developing long-lasting relationships with other people and tend to isolate themselves or stay alone. They struggle to form relationships because they feel threatened and their sense of self is being tested, just like when their trauma was forced upon them. They have a tendency to understand other people well.
The Journey of Self-Discovery
Trauma also leads to compartmentalization of thoughts, feelings, behaviours, and memories such that it does not affect them. They tend to dissociate themselves and not feel those emotions or experience the feelings associated with their trauma. The result is that their trauma ruptures their identity, and they have to develop several defenses against their anxieties.
Trauma also impairs a person’s ability to control their emotions, making them more prone to becoming readily aroused or scared of commonplace situations. They become hyper-vigilant of other people’s motives, emotions and behaviors and sometimes react in a harsh or harmful manner to avoid a perceived attack on their sense of self. As a result, shame and guilt are very much attached to themselves, which causes significant trouble in themselves in accepting them.
It is important to know that trauma can have a significant impact on one’s identity, but it does not control one’s entire being. With significant support and healing through one’s trauma, one can regain control over themselves and can have a sense of self which is robust and expressive in relation to a ruptured identity. We tend to understand who we are and then significantly work on our traits to achieve the goals we want to achieve.