The world feels less safe and predictable after experiencing a traumatic event like an accident, violence, natural disaster or prolonged abuse. Witnessing a traumatic event or listening to an account of it or viewing a record of it can be traumatizing.

A response to this might include numb withdrawal, resentment, distrust or becoming quick to anger or over-vigilant,

An unexpected reminder of the trauma may trigger this stress response which might be disruptive or even disabling. The trigger might not even be consciously noticed.

The stress responses are life saving in dangerous environments but are a liability in a safe community if they keep us on edge or frozen in the past. Social life becomes restricted by feelings like alarm, anger, fear or confusion.

After years of stress or abuse, stressful and abusive situations may become expected. It is possible to become so alert to danger that opportunities are missed.

We may lose the capacity to deal with comfortable situations. Being relaxed may set off feelings of uncertainty or unease.

Anyone who has been criticized as a child may become self critical and criticizing or appeasing or perfectionist. They may notice ways that others are being threatening and overlook ways that they are trying to be helpful by misinterpreting their communications and dismissing them as wrong or trivial. These kind of responses become habitual.

Preoccupation with past events can be debilitating. Some cope to some extent by avoiding revisiting the memories.

Suffering or witnessing suffering can heighten sensitivity and activate people to change themselves and their world. As the after-effects are worked through skills, resilience and wisdom grow.

Flashbacks or preoccupations with traumatic events can gradually be put into perspective and become less painful by revisiting them in a safe and relaxed place.

By working through traumatic events and the fears they leave behind they no longer have to be avoided or covered up. The overwhelming feelings, their origins and events that trigger them are out in the open so they are not so likely to surprise and trip someone up. This may be uncomfortable at first.

A powerful remedy is is to learn a completely new skill, particularly a new motor skill like a sport, computer games, a musical instrument or a trade in a safe and comfortable environment. Also visiting a new place or spending time with a new friend or adopting a new role.

These are ways to build a new life with less connections to the past. Then the body can experience activities free from the tensions of the past and draw on this experience of a safer world to realize that the flashbacks and nightmares are not all there is. Then it becomes possible to move from past memories into sensations of the real world in the present.

Just as negative relationships and situations can be degrading so also positive friends and communities can be the foundation for recovery.

One of the exercises on the mind, body, stress or awareness therapy pages could be a start.