Hanging Light Bulb - What Happens When COVID - 19 Shines A Spotlight On Hidden Trauma - Sandra Harewood Counselling

What Happens When COVID – 19 Shines A Spotlight On Hidden Trauma

While the world faces a single problem that of Coronavirus – COVID19, what I’ve noticed is that we are all responding to this pandemic in our very different ways.

Internationally, Governments are responding in various ways, despite all apparently being guided by science. Here in the UK, a trip to the hairdressers is nearly two months away, while in some states in the US it’s reported that these are some of the first businesses suggested for reopening.  So while led by science, there doesn’t seem to be a single way through this crisis.

And on an individual level, a trip to the supermarket for some it seems like a typical Saturday mulling around the fruit and vegetables close to others taking their time to make choices between broccoli or kale.

Others seem more cautious protecting themselves with masks, gloves and keeping their social distance reinforced by a shy stare.  And of course, there are the key workers who have little choice about how they manage their safety.

So what’s going on?

How come we are having these different collective and individual experiences?

The Trauma of Coronavirus – COVID19

What’s easy to lose sight of is that Coronavirus isn’t just about a clinical condition for which we’re desperately searching for a vaccine.

Coronavirus is about loss, grief, anxiety, death, uncertainty, fear, boundaries, isolation and control.

This is a global crisis about safety, our individual sense of security and ultimately, how safe you feel with others and how safe others feel to you.

This virus taps into our experiences of our capacity to feel that we can keep ourselves safe – and the times when we haven’t because our safety isn’t always totally our gift to control.

COVID-19 is about our vulnerability.

And at this time of Coronavirus, you will likely be triggered.

Pulling The Trigger

A trigger is when you react to something that makes you feel unsafe.  You are receiving a reminder from the brain that the feeling or experience is uncomfortable and in simple terms, you don’t like it, feel insecure or under threat.

And in these times you might find yourself reacting in ways that you wouldn’t ordinarily do. You may notice feeling unsafe, angry, sad, upset or rage.

The reminder might be of experience, an ongoing one or a combination of both.

What’s important is that everyone is unique and how you react will be unique because of your personal experience and what the trigger means for you.

Childhood Hidden Trauma

A trigger takes you by storm when it reinstates any painful experience from early years.

Much like domestic abuse, childhood trauma doesn’t have to arise from apparent neglect.  It might do, but childhood wounding or trauma is just as likely to result in more subtle ways.

Childhood trauma is the child who:

  • Didn’t feel seen or heard
  • Whose role it was to take care of the parent’s needs
  • Had a parent who vicariously lived their life through the child
  • Heard, either directly or indirectly, that they can’t or shouldn’t experience certain emotions
  • Witnessed constant parental conflict
  • Who had no boundaries – could do what they wanted to do
  • Had a parent who couldn’t regulate emotions
  • Had a parent who denied their reality

We Are Turtles, Not Birds.

All of these things result in wounding or what Firman and Gila call the Primal Wound.   This wound develops when you are not treated as an individual, unique human being, but as an object. What happens then is our authentic sense of personal self is destroyed hindering our relationship with ourself, to other people, and the natural world.

We are turtles, not birds.  We take our childhood home with us wherever we go.  We cannot fly away from it.  David Richo

Painful trigger points rooted in past trauma, in the here and now are filed away in your somatic memory.

But Coronavirus – COVID19 changes that.  It shines a light on that hidden trauma bringing to the surface the original pain or feelings of lack of safety.

When we are caught out by our triggers, we react.  Maybe you lash out or retreat and become quiet as you process the feelings of shame.

When your childhood trauma is hidden, and you tell yourself that your childhood was great, as opposed to seeing the whole picture, you are vulnerable to not recognising or acknowledging when you are re-traumatised and triggered.

When The Past Is Present – Relationship Triggers

Partners in intimate relationships trigger each other.  That perhaps isn’t new information.

But the fact is your choice in a partner is influenced by what you bring forward from the past.

We often unconsciously choose a partner who reminds us of the parent with whom we have unfinished emotional business, hoping to work out as adults what we could not work out as children.  That means we bring out hidden trauma with us.

We are often triggered by something a partner says or does because it has brought to the surface a pattern hidden trauma from the past.

If you were a child, told, either directly or indirectly, that you can’t or shouldn’t experience certain emotions, a partner who minimises your feelings or shames you will trigger you.  At this time of Coronavirus – COVID19 if you’re feeling anxious or fearful, you may feel lonely and further isolated because you have no one to talk to.  And while the original wound is triggered, there is also the reality of a partner who is not emotionally available to you.

Triggers don’t always have to be a reminder of past hidden trauma.  Someone, your partner, can trigger you by their actions, especially if those actions are abusive.  Sometimes the triggering of those old unhealed wounds is also letting you know of present-day reality.

A New Lense

So it’s like layers.  The Coronavirus – COVID19, our original wounds, and on top of that, our relationship wounds each on is exacerbating the other.

That’s a lot of pain, and it can be confusing to work out what is happening.

But that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible.

For sure, at this moment in history, we have paused and began to notice the world around us.  In our outer world, there has been more conversation about inequality, animal welfare and climate change.  We have all seen the pictures of clearer skylines because of the inevitable record drop in pollution as cars and planes have stopped.  We can hear the birdsong.  I don’t think that they’re singing any louder than they were before.   Now we have an opportunity to see and hear things differently.

Coronavirus – COVID19 has created more space.

So I’m wondering at this time what you are noticing about your life, your inner world.   What are you seeing about your childhood hidden trauma that you didn’t hear or didn’t give that much attention to in your adult life before, just like the birdsong?

A New Relationship With Your Hidden Trauma & Triggers

As you come into relationship with your triggers here are three things you can do to help you stay calm and respond instead of reacting.

1. Name Your Trigger

This is the best way to deal with any trigger.  You can’t process or change hidden trauma without calling it what it is.  Make a list of your familiar, repeated triggers so that you can be on the lookout for them.  When you catch the trigger in the moment, it gives you a space to breathe, separate the facts of what happened from your trigger and make a conscious response as opposed to acting on reflex.

This all takes practice, but in time, the space between the trigger, and response will expand, and you will be less hooked into other peoples behaviour and notice the emotional freedom that brings.

2. Practice Self-Compassion

That good inner voice that sticks up for you cannot compete with the inner critic.  Sometimes it feels like a wrestling match between the two.  Now is the time to listen to that advocate!  Speak to yourself with the same kindness as you would to your best friend.

3. Journalling

Keep a note of your triggers in a journal along with your usual reaction to them.  Writing things down helps to create space.

Over To You

What do your triggers look like?  If you want a safe space to talk and explore the hidden trauma from your childhood, get in touch, and book your first counselling appointment.  I offer video sessions online via a secure platform.  Coronavirus (COVID-19) doesn’t need to put your therapy sessions on pause.  

Or call me today on 07535 864836.

Leave a comment below; I’d love to hear from you.


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© Sandra Harewood 2020

About Sandra

Soul Centred couples counsellor Sandra Harewood specialises in working with couples and women with childhood wounding that impacts their adult relationships. Sandra provides a soulful space for her clients to explore and discover creative solutions to their difficulties and create a great relationship.