Trauma blocking isn’t an overly common term but the phenomenon is surprisingly common. Trauma blocking means a behavior designed to avoid thinking of certain painful & traumatic events. This may not sound overly harmless but when done consistently, it can be. It’s healthy to take breaks from facing pain sometimes of course, but it is also healthy to face pain head on. There needs to be a balance. When you feel strong, you need to face that pain, but if you start to feel overwhelmed, it’s wise to take a break & avoid thinking about it for a while. Balance is the key to coping with trauma!
Back to trauma blocking behaviors.. following is a list of some of them.
A very common trauma blocking behavior is excess. Anything done in excess that leaves little or no time to face pain is trauma blocking. That excessive thing may be something people commonly consider such as drug abuse or binge drinking, but it also can be something that seems normal such as watching too much television, scrolling through social media or even socializing for excessively long hours. All of these behaviors serve the same purpose – keeping a person’s mind occupied for so long they don’t have time in a day to think of anything else, like traumatic experiences.
Another trauma blocking behavior could be eating mindlessly. Eating requires attention, so it is easy to focus on that over painful trauma. That doesn’t make this a healthy coping skill however! Eating disorders are far too easy to fall into & are so unhealthy. Not only can they cause the obvious physical problems like diabetes or high cholesterol, but they can cause a person to avoid dealing with past trauma that needs their attention in order to heal.
On a related note, exercising constantly also is unhealthy. Most people who exercise compulsively are never satisfied when they reach a goal, so they set another & another. This compulsion is often referred to as body dysmorphia, & is frequently related to eating disorders. It is dangerous to a person’s physical health as well as mental health. How can anyone who is so focused on their body be able to spare time to deal with their emotional baggage?
Being busy all the time is yet one more trauma blocking behavior. It seems as if society as a whole admires those who are busy constantly, but this behavior is far from healthy! People need some time to relax & rest, & being busy constantly doesn’t allow that. People who dare to take some down time are often looked down on for being lazy & unproductive, which truly makes no sense! Being too busy is dangerous for your physical health but also your mental health. It leaves no time for recovery & restoration let alone facing trauma.
Shopping too much also can be a trauma blocking behavior. Buying things can trigger the brain’s reward center. It feels good to get something you want or even things you need. Shopping for the sole purpose of triggering that reward center in the brain however isn’t a wise idea. That can create an addiction as well as avoiding facing trauma.
Coming from a family with a healthy work ethic can be a good thing. However, coming from a family who clearly believes that if you aren’t working you are useless is so unhealthy. Yet sadly, this is a pretty common occurrence. People who have survived this upbringing often hide in their job as a way to avoid trauma while simultaneously building their self worth.
If you recognize yourself in any of these behaviors, please don’t beat yourself up over this! Facing trauma is hard. Wanting to avoid it is totally understandable! While facing it is wise, I also think taking breaks sometimes is equally wise. Don’t try to face an entire childhood or 15 year’s marriage worth of trauma at once. Face things as they come up, & if you feel like it’s too much, take a little time off when necessary where you refuse to deal with the trauma. If you’re afraid of taking too much time off, set a goal of allowing yourself a week or whatever time seems reasonable to you, then at the end of that set time, pick up where you stopped. You will find yourself stronger & more equipped to face things after your break.