Confront your Traumas

The Wandering Engineer
7 min readJan 31, 2024

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Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.

— Carl Jung

Lately, as I’ve been diving deeper into personal development and psychology, I realized an uncomfortable truth — Most people in the world today live with some form of trauma.

I repeatedly discussed in this blog that mental health right now is at an all-time low, and gave advice on how to improve your mental health.

Of course, many people have traumatic experiences in their childhood, whether it’s bad parenting, bullying, abuse, poverty, or repeated negative experiences such as failure and rejection. Due to our survival instinct, humans tend to remember negative experiences much more than positive ones and will do whatever it takes to avoid such situations.

However, a lot of trauma doesn’t just manifest in the surface-level anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues that we see today in individuals. It is deep in people’s unconscious behaviors, and often, deeply ingrained into cultural beliefs and customs.

Many normalized customs, whether it is parenting styles, conflict resolution, or communication strategies, are actually trauma responses or defense/coping mechanisms from generations of trauma.

As parents raise their children in a certain way, and the children mimic their parents’ behaviors, this stuff gets passed down through generations and becomes ingrained in cultures. This is why you often see the same behavioral patterns of parents in the children they raise, and people of certain cultures normalizing certain behaviors.

A lot of cultures encourage abusive and unhealthy behavior and people either don’t realize it or try to justify it. From traditional Asian cultures to Western Christian or orthodox/conservative cultures, behaviors such as controlling and emotional abuse of children, shaming, avoiding/suppressing emotions, being overly independent, and strict obedience/unquestioning of authority are all examples of that.

Back in the day, most people were fighting for survival. The average person had to endure tough conditions and experience countless life-and-death situations. It is only in the recent hundred years or so that survival is no longer the top priority for the average person as human civilization reaches a certain level of material wealth.

However, these survival instincts or behaviors still get carried over to the present day. Whereas in the past, if one failed to perform a task, disobeyed a rule, or became too emotional and displayed weakness, they could be faced with death; in the present day, these behaviors are mostly inconsequential. Yet, most people today still live by these outdated mechanisms or survival instincts to avoid such situations. And through parenting and social customs, it continues to get passed down.

I understand that most of this behavior is unconscious. But if you truly want to understand yourself, improve yourself, and own your life, you need to face the unconscious — you need to confront your traumas and break free of your unconscious mind. You have to be the one in control.

Psychology is a very novel field, and I do agree that modern psychology has a problem of over-diagnosing and classifying every abnormal behavior into an issue or disorder, from mental health to personality to neurological and attachment styles. However, it has given us a lens to analyze human behaviors, and more importantly, understand yourself.

Let’s start by looking at some common behaviors that can be symptoms or responses to trauma. Whether it is conscious or unconscious, you need to recognize these signs. Ask other people for feedback if you have to since it is not always easy to notice your own behaviors.

  • Chronic anxiety/overthinking, burnout/depression, or lack of energy
  • Lack of self-identity or purpose and low self-esteem
  • Unstable or lack of emotions, or actively avoiding/suppressing emotions
  • People pleasing / Lack of boundaries / No self-respect
  • Avoidance of stressful situations and conflicts
  • Always starting needless drama/conflicts
  • Inability to initiate, take action, or take risks; Fear of rejection
  • Unhealthy interpersonal relationships (e.g., lots of one-sided relationships, chasing other mentally unhealthy people, savior complex)
  • Being overly independent or overly needy / attention-seeking
  • Being overly narcissistic and self-centered
  • Lack of self-control and prone to addictions or substance abuse, always seeking out pleasure
  • Always keeping yourself busy / Extreme discipline and workaholism

Having one or two of these signs alone may not be a cause for concern. Everyone is unique and quirky in some ways. However, if you notice yourself checking several of these boxes, you may be compensating for your traumas and probably want to dive deeper.

Notice a lot of these are healthy behaviors if moderated, but become unhealthy when put to the extreme. It is healthy to have normal interpersonal boundaries, emotions, conflicts, self-perception, and self-discipline. Many personality traits exist on a spectrum, and I believe at the end of the day, you want to have a healthy balance of traits.

Now, you can get into why these behavioral patterns are developed, whether it’s cultural upbringing, bad parenting, abuse, or failures. You can do your research on emotional trauma, Attachment Styles, and so on.

However, don’t spend too much time dwelling on the past. It is not productive. You want to focus on what you can change in the present.

Many people endlessly complain about their “tragic” past and cannot move beyond it. It is a victim mentality. You are not a special snowflake — Trauma is a part of being human. We all need it to grow. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

I believe in order to start healing, you need to first change the way how you see the world. I understand there is a lot of negativity in the world right now, but if your entire worldview is always grim and doomer, it will subconsciously affect you, and change your behaviors. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy. You experience what you see.

Healing is about changing your mindset to not be personally affected by things that have happened in the past, or what could happen in the future. It’s about making peace with yourself and becoming a positive light.

I understand it all goes back to improving your self-esteem, and as social creatures, it is difficult to do so without external validation. Humans love to compare to each other.

But in order to take control of your life, you need to recognize that you are not defined by things you cannot control — your past, your traumas, your accomplishments or failures, and how others think of you, etc. You are who you believe you are. You should not let a failure or rejection get into your head.

At the end of the day, you have to be a bit “selfish” — Only you can save yourself. You are the source of your troubles and you cannot expect someone else to fix your problems. Your family, friends, therapists, or drugs cannot fix you. They may guide you or offer you support, but ultimately, it is up to you to take the necessary actions.

You have to fight your unconscious and internal thoughts — Don’t bottle it up or let it affect you. Find out why these thoughts are coming up — talk to your family, friends, or a therapist. Journalling and meditation help a lot. Don’t let yourself be consumed by these thoughts. Think before you act upon a thought — is it a trauma response, or is it what I truly want to do?

However, do not trauma dump on people — you’ll end up spreading that negativity, and most people will not sympathize with you (even if they appear to be nice). The world doesn’t need to hear about all your problems. If you have trouble with trauma dumping, go see a therapist. Some things should be kept to yourself only. You need to become the positive light yourself.

You also need to be more emotionally open — don’t bottle up or dismiss your emotions and avoid conflicts (not the same as emotional weakness or trauma dumping). You need to voice your concerns and learn how to seek help when needed (but not excessively). Get into an engineering mindset (problem-solving mentality) — stop complaining, dismissing, or avoiding — the problems won’t go away. Instead, try to find solutions and act on them.

Furthermore, you need to go out and get what you want. Whether it’s something as small as a task or as big as dating, don’t wait for things to fall into place — be proactive. Don’t let other people step all over you and interfere with your progress — set healthy interpersonal boundaries. Prioritize yourself first. Distance yourself from toxic or unproductive people, and surround yourself with positive and like-minded individuals.

Finally, have some gratitude. If you’re reading this post right now, you are fortunate. Appreciate what you have, and recognize that there are many less fortunate people in the world right now. You are lucky to be alive and have time to read and reflect on yourself. Spread positivity and help other people along the way (once you’ve prioritized yourself).

Healing is a long journey, and so is improving your mental health. It won’t happen overnight, and the growth is not always linear, but you have to be persistent in your effort and watch your progress. You need to build good habits that improve your mental well-being (such as journalling, exercise, mindfulness meditation, and self-care), and be consistent.

Although trauma is a part of being human, it is a means for us to grow. The Buddha is right that life in many ways is suffering, but life is also a blessing. You cannot change the world, but you can be the best version of yourself, set a positive example for those around you, and help do a part in breaking free of our generational and cultural traumas.

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