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How Do We Become Desensitized to Trauma?

When we experience something traumatic, we are usually deeply impacted by it, and sometimes there is considerable damage done to our mental, emotional and physical health. Over time, we can become desensitized to trauma in various ways. We start to forget and even trivialize just how traumatized we’ve actually been, and we therefore don’t take the necessary measures to help ourselves heal. We suppress our pain, we block out memories, we deny the trauma ever occurred, and we avoid thinking about it. We keep our traumatic experiences from the people who care about us and who could potentially help us to address them. What are some of the ways in which we become desensitized to trauma?

One of the most prevalent ways is in how normalized, glamorized and glorified violence and trauma have become in our everyday, mainstream culture. We see constant depictions of traumatic experiences in movies, television and video games, portrayed as if they are nothing at all. They are trivialized and minimized. Our consciousness becomes oversaturated with these normalized images of violence. We start to think of violence and trauma as normal, as acceptable, as no big deal. We start to make light of our own trauma. We forget how much pain our trauma has caused us. Subconsciously we might start to think that we should just get over it, that we’re weak and inadequate if we’re still affected by it. We rush ourselves to move on from it and to forget it, rather than actively working to heal it.

Another way we become desensitized to our trauma is from having so many recurring traumatic experiences that it becomes normal to us. When we’re in abusive relationships for example, or if we’re perpetually abused by a parent or caregiver, abuse becomes familiar to us, comfortable almost because that’s what we know and have grown accustomed to. When we’re used to violence in our homes and in our daily lives, it becomes normalized to us. We’re less surprised by it. We become unphased by it. We start to minimize our trauma and belittle our experience.

Our desensitization to trauma can be dangerous and can severely impact us in very negative ways because instead of healing ourselves from our trauma and honoring our complex emotions, we’re suppressing how we feel and avoiding dealing with it. We’re looking the other way. We’re not building up our own internal resources for healing. We’re not increasing our inner strength and resilience, we’re literally avoiding the healing process and postponing our recovery.

Riverside Recovery is committed to helping you uncover the issues fueling your addictions. Our treatment programs include multiple forms of therapy, family workshops and mindfulness-based relapse prevention education. Call (800) 871-5440 for more information.