Childhood neglect, losing a loved one, or enduring abuse — emotional trauma can look different for different people. But one thing’s for sure: It can leave a deep, lasting impact on your mental well-being. Additionally, they can shape your relationships and self-perceptions, often in quietly detrimental ways.
“If you are suffering from trauma, then you’re arrested at that level of consciousness…until you’re able to unlock that trauma and free yourself,” says Lisa Romano on an episode of Honest Conversations with Kristina Mänd-Lakhiani.
And when you’re able to unpack the complex relationship between emotional trauma and codependency, you’re likely to find yourself on a pathway towards healing and the rediscovery of emotional autonomy.
Lisa A. Romano is a renowned Certified Life Coach and an expert specializing in codependency and narcissistic abuse recovery. Drawing from her personal experiences and struggles with a codependent mindset, she provides valuable insights and strategies to assist others through similar challenges. She dedicates her work to empowering individuals as well as freeing themselves from detrimental subconscious beliefs.
What Is Emotional Trauma?
Emotional trauma can stem from various stressful events that disrupt your sense of security. It might not always involve a physical threat but can stem from any situation that leaves an individual feeling overwhelmed and isolated. Furthermore, it isn’t necessarily about the event itself but rather the individual’s emotional and psychological response to it.
Looking at it from a scientific perspective, research backs this up with some compelling findings. One study, for example, explains that how a person feels during a traumatic event, especially how afraid they are, can be more critical to developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) than the actual details of the event.
So, understanding emotional trauma means really getting to know how it shows up and how it affects mental and emotional health. It’s vital to spot and understand its signs in adults, which is a big step towards starting recovery and healing.
Signs & Symptoms of Emotional Trauma
Knowing what to look for is the first step to dealing with these emotional injuries and starting the journey towards healing. Here’s what to keep an eye out for:
Signs of Emotional Trauma in Adults
It’s important to recognize signs of emotional trauma in adults. This can be tricky because it can sometimes look like just regular stress or tiredness.
- Feeling sad and drained all the time
- Feeling disconnected from people around you
- Having trouble sleeping
- Experience frequent anxiety
- Big changes in appetite
- Physical issues like headaches or feeling sick
These signs might seem like common stress or being busy. However, if they keep happening or get worse, they might point to deeper emotional pain.
Symptoms of Emotional Trauma in Adults
Symptoms of emotional trauma involve clear, often disruptive issues affecting your daily life and relationships with others.
- Having really vivid, upsetting memories of a bad event
- Actively avoiding things that remind you of the trauma
- Feeling emotionally numb or cut off
- Pulling away from people and becoming isolated
- Struggling with codependency
- Having a hard time trusting people
- Getting angry or irritated easily
Addressing these symptoms involves more than just recognizing them. Additionally, learning how to manage them in a healthy way is crucial—it’s a key step toward achieving emotional stability and recovery.
The Link Between Emotional Trauma and Co-dependency
If you go through emotional trauma, it can change the way you relate to others. This can sometimes lead to codependency—when you lean too much on someone else to feel better about yourself, especially when trying to deal with the hard feelings that come with trauma.
“Codependency is about ‘I don’t love myself, and somehow, I got the message that I’m bad, and I have to prove to you that I’m not bad. And so, I’m just going to be everything that you need so you never leave me,’” explains Lisa.
It’s important to recognize this connection because addressing trauma might also help navigate through the complexities of codependency. Healing from emotional trauma potentially leads to post-traumatic growth, where you and the other person can support each other without losing yourselves in the process.
How to Heal From Emotional Trauma Using the 1-2-3 Process
Navigating through emotional trauma can be a tough and often lonely journey.
“Your survival brain is going to kick in,” explains Lisa. “You’re going to feel like this is bad—something bad’s going to happen—so you have to regulate that trauma response.”
With the right tools, you can find guidance and light along the way. Here’s the 1-2-3 process Lisa shares in the sitdown with Kristina on Honest Conversations.
It’s also important to note that this process is a tool that can help. However, if you are struggling with emotional trauma, it’s advisable to seek help from a mental health professional.
1. Accept how you feel
Acceptance is the cornerstone of any healing journey. It implies acknowledging your emotions without judgment or resistance. And adopting a mindful and compassionate mindset toward yourself is pivotal at this juncture.
Lisa emphasizes that our survival brain often triggers alarm bells during emotional distress, prompting feelings of impending doom or danger. So rather than suppressing or arguing with these emotions, acceptance involves recognizing them as a natural response to traumatic experiences.
By validating your feelings and maintaining a supportive mindset, you create a conducive inner environment to navigate through the healing process.
Lisa Romano’s insight: “Accept how you feel, even in your own head. ‘Wow, I’m feeling frustrated right now.’ … I’m validating myself internally. I’m not reacting; I’m validating how I feel. I’m allowing these emotions to come up.”
2. Feel what you feel (bodily sensations)
Emotional trauma doesn’t just affect the mind. As research shows, it also manifests physically in various ways, such as tension, aches, or an unsettled stomach.
So tuning into your body allows you to fully experience your emotions. This means being present with the physical sensations that accompany emotional pain without trying to change or dismiss them.
As Lisa says, “If you can’t feel it, you can’t heal it.” It’s an essential step towards releasing stored emotions rather than allowing them to linger and potentially cause more pain in the future.
Moreover, by embracing and moving through these emotions, you cultivate emotional resilience—the ability to adapt and recover from stress and adversity. Acknowledging and working through your emotional pain helps build this resilience, fortifying your well-being against future traumas.
Lisa Romano’s insight: “How do I know that I’m upset? Oh, my stomach’s churning; my heart space feels like it’s constricted and contracted; my shoulders just came up; my body feels stiff. I feel like I’m bracing for impact. Okay, that’s how my body tells me; it’s frightened and it’s uptight and it’s getting nervous.”
3. Decide what you are going to do about how you feel
Making a choice about how to deal with your feelings is a key part of healing from emotional trauma. It’s really all about turning your emotions into positive actions—a crucial move towards a heart-centered life.
Lisa shares a simple yet powerful way to do this: Instead of giving your energy to something that could hurt you, you can choose to respond differently.
“How do I want to feel for me?” is a question she poses with a list of possibilities: I want…
- Ego detachment,
- My mood to be unaffected by what’s happening inside of me, or even
- To nurture my inner child.
“If you do that every day for the rest of your life, you will find contentment,” she adds. “You will find peace. You will find happiness.”
This doesn’t mean ignoring the pain. Instead, it means keeping your energy for yourself and using it in a way that helps healing and well-being.
Lisa Romano’s insight: “Codependents are emotionally paralyzed. So the third step is, make a decision—decide what you’re going to do about how you feel.”
Journey to Serenity
Learning about emotional trauma, seeing how it shows up, and finding useful ways to start healing is a tough but important journey toward feeling better. Understanding how emotional trauma and codependency are connected also gives you an important perspective on how to think about and work through healing.
If you want to learn more about how to rise above it, check out Kristina Mänd-Lakhiani’s Honest Conversations episode with Lisa Romano.
Lisa Romano | LinkedIn
Tatiana Azman is a content writer for Mindvalley and a Certified Life Coach. With a background in spa and wellness as well as being a cancer survivor, she's constantly on the lookout for natural, effective ways that help with one's overall well-being.