“Why are you where you are in your life. The choices you have made have been because of what you believe to be true for yourself.”
– Oprah Winfrey
Evaluating Beliefs Left By Trauma
Trauma Can Leave Survivors with False Beliefs
Trauma often leaves survivors with false and damaging beliefs about themselves, others, and the world around them. Why is this important? Our beliefs affect our thoughts and our thoughts dictate our actions. Negative beliefs can ultimately lead us to make choices that hurt us or put us at risk of being hurt.
A large part of my healing process has been evaluating beliefs that my trauma and the perpetrators of my trauma left behind. Another large part of my healing process has been instilling new beliefs. My counselor used cognitive processing therapy to help me do this. If you would like to learn more about cognitive processing therapy, here is a link to a short summary about it: https://www.apa.org/ptsd-guideline/treatments/cognitive-processing-therapy. I am also providing an example of one of the more comprehensive worksheets we used during this therapy below.
The Beliefs My Trauma Created
Growing up, I was sexually abused by family members and witnessed abuse and violence towards loved ones. That created beliefs that I was disgusting and powerless. It also taught me that in order to be loved I had to give pieces of myself away and allow people to hurt me.
In high school, I attempted suicide and was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Depression, and Anxiety. Children Services was involved in my life after I disclosed some of the abuse I experienced. They substantiated my case, but did not have enough details or evidence to help law enforcement arrest and prosecute anyone. These experiences led me to believe I was different from my peers and no one could help me. It also left me believing that what happened to me did not matter, that I did not matter.
A year later, I left home and was trafficked by a massage parlor. That made me believe my only worth was my body and my value as a person could have a price tag.
These are only a few personal examples of how trauma can leave us with beliefs that are usually not true and need to be evaluated in order for survivors to heal.
How Did These False Beliefs Affect My Actions and Life?
As I entered my adult life, my actions reflected the beliefs created by the trauma that occurred during the first eighteen years of my life. I made choices based upon what I believed about myself and others. As well as what I believed to be true about the world. I chose to abuse substances, exploit myself, and surround myself with people who had hurt me in the past or who would hurt me in the future. I put myself in dangerous and risky situations, not caring what happened to me.
The choices I was making had consequences. One of these consequences was that I was suspended from the previous college I attended. Another consequence was that I experienced more trauma and victimization.
How My Beliefs Have Changed
With help from professionals and friends, I have been able to evaluate many of the beliefs my trauma caused and either change them or replace them completely. For example, if I look at the belief that I am powerless. Why did I believe that? There were many situations in my life where people hurt me and I was not able to stop them from doing so, especially as a child. How did I dispute that belief? I have the power to heal, and to speak up and advocate for myself. Also, I have the power to create the life I want for my daughter and I. I am not a child anymore and I am strong.
With therapy and help from others, my beliefs have changed. Sometimes, the old ones still find a way to creep into my head, but I have the tools to evaluate them and replace them when they do. What I believe now is that I am worthy of unconditional love. I am strong and resilient. I have value as a human being, purpose, and things to contribute to the world. Above all, I now believe that my daughter and I deserve a life free from abuse and trauma. We deserve to be happy.
The choices I make in my life now reflect these beliefs. I have chosen to pursue social work. When given the opportunity, I choose to advocate for myself and other survivors. I have chosen to heal. In all types of relationships, I choose to only surround myself with people who treat me with respect, love, and kindness. Most importantly, I have chosen to create a life where my daughter and I are safe because we deserve to be happy.
Our Lives Are Greatly Affected By Our Beliefs
Our lives are reflective of our choices and our choices are often based upon our beliefs. Trauma can leave survivors with beliefs that are not true and harmful to them and their recovery. I can not stress enough how important it is to evaluate these beliefs and change them when necessary. With small steps and help from others, survivors do have the power to change their beliefs, their thoughts, their actions, and eventually their lives.