Traumatic experiences can be horrific on their own. However, the cycle of trauma repeats these experiences across generations, making it difficult to heal.

If you’re one of the millions of people who’ve suffered from trauma, then you understand how difficult it is to heal. But there’s something that many of us never pay attention to, and it’s the aftershocks of this trauma, the development of generational abuse.

Phases of the cycle of trauma

Cycles of trauma develop from generations of abuse, creating even more horrible experiences. For instance, if your mother was physically abusive, then you are prone to be the same way. Now, this doesn’t mean you will be, but it makes you more susceptible to these actions.

Why? Because, when a child grows up in an abusive home, they are taught that this behavior is normal. So, it’s important that we recognize the phases and break free before it’s too late.

1. Loss of trust

One of the first phases of the cycle of trauma involves the lack of trust. When you’ve experienced abuse by a family member or close relative, it becomes difficult to trust other people in your family. And without trust, even as a child, you may find it hard to make friends in school or allow teachers and other adults to help you.

Although this phase may not affect others, it will ultimately govern who you are as an adult, possibly causing post-traumatic stress disorder. Your lack of trust can prevent growth and success in areas that require that trust and leave you vulnerable to various triggers.

2. Bullying behavior

The next phase in the cycle of trauma is bullying behavior, usually beginning in childhood or the early teenage years. If you’ve been physically or emotionally abused, you may see this as normal and treat others in much the same way. After struggling with your lack of trust, you’ll develop a survival mindset that will further fuel this behavior.

Unfortunately, this is not a normal mindset, rather, it is a selfish and violent way of thinking. In the mind of a survivor, abuse is a way to gain control. If the cycle isn’t stopped early, the child will develop powerful control issues. This will manifest in bullying behavior toward other children and ultimately show up in adulthood as well.

3. Relationship problems

This stage of the trauma cycle is usually when you first notice a problem in your own behavior and response. When you’ve grown up in a dysfunctional environment, your relationships in adulthood will reflect this. For instance, if you were physically abused, you may gravitate toward partners who are prone to domestic violence.

And it may even be difficult to leave the relationship because you think you deserve the abuse. Yes, it’s important to get out of these situations when you realize the problem, but it’s rarely as simple as that. Being caught in the cycle of trauma skews how you view everything in life.

4. Depression and anxiety

Children, teens, and adults suffer from depression and anxiety that impair their ability to function normally in society. It’s common in those who are trapped in a cycle of abuse. If you’ve been sexually abused, for example, you may experience anxiety if someone touches you. Just a simple pat on the back can feel invasive and terrifying.

Emotional abuse cycles often cause depression and can lead to physical ailments over time. This brings us to the next phase in the cycle of trauma, the effect on your physical health.

5. A decline in physical health

Physical and mental health are connected in many ways. Anxiety can lead to bad cardiovascular health and chronic fatigue. Childhood trauma, left unchecked, often leads to anxious behaviors and panic. Then, in turn, these heightened emotions can damage your health.

Depression caused by childhood trauma can also cause health issues, such as eating and sleeping disorders. This phase most often manifests after other phases of the cycle of generational abuse. However, they can also run concurrently too.

How to break the cycle?

It’s difficult to break the cycle of trauma, but it’s doable. Sometimes multiple generations are already engulfed in abusive behavior that’s considered normal. The normalcy of this is the largest problem. So, changing minds about what is normal/abnormal would be the first step. After this, you can move on to the next process.

1. Revealing the truth

The truth isn’t always easy to hear. But getting to the root of the problem is how you begin the healing process. If generations of abuse have created a cycle of trauma, understanding negative behavior is key. Take a look at your family history, talk with relatives, and then do your own research. Are the actions of your family healthy? If not, it’s time to change.

2. Confront problem areas

If you realize that there was abuse in your family, confront those past actions. This doesn’t mean you need to attack people, but you certainly should let them know you’re putting a stop to the cycle. Sometimes, you may need to put distance between yourself and other family members to make this possible.

3. Look at present actions

Pay close attention to your behavior as an adult and as a parent. Listen to your children more often, taking their opinions seriously.

Are you picking up vibes that you may be an abusive parent? If so, take a step back and watch how other parents behave. Do your skills as a parent reflect the negative behaviors of your own parents? Here is where you can find any dysfunction that’s been hiding behind your validations of self.

4. Analyze your relationships

If you’re fighting with your mate all the time, there could be a problem. While having arguments and a fight here and there is fine, having confrontations all the time is NOT normal. This is especially true if you’re hitting each other.

Physical fighting is never a good thing. If you cannot stop fighting, then it’s obvious you’re in an unhealthy relationship. It would be good to live alone for a while and learn to love yourself. Appreciating yourself helps you heal and improves the quality of future relationships with others.

5. Take care of your health

Not only do you need to love yourself, but you also need to take good care of your physical health. Staying healthy can give you the strength to work on breaking the cycle of trauma. Also, it’s important to pay attention to signs of mental illness stemming from past trauma. If you notice anything unusual, seek professional psychiatric help as soon as possible.

Let’s put a stop to this right now!

I believe in you. And I know that when you realize what’s happening, you can take these steps to improve. Breaking that chain of abuse is key to providing a better life for yourself and for your family. The future depends on change. So, let’s make that change today.

~ Much love ~

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Sam

    Hi Sherrie Hurd. I connected emotionally and logically with your article, “5 phases of the Cycle of Trauma and How to Break it”. I experienced all five phases of the trauma between childhood and my young adult life. I began engaging counselors, psychologists, and psychiatrists when I was 20. I was fortunate that each of these arenas of health assisted in giving me in finding an objective perspective as to why/how I was experiencing trauma in Elementary school, junior high and high school, college and my careers as a musician and Communications professional. I journaled. I studied. I collaborated with people smarter than myself. I implemented the wonderful voice of each and every professional that heard and understood my life experiences; growing up under a angry alcoholic parent, attending “gladiator“ schools where power and intimidation reigned supreme among school children. I dig in deep to music to release my imaginative abilities to feel and experience inspiration and beauty. I became a Philomath; absorbing all that I could to invent my core being and then truly enjoy the person that I was and was going to be. It took me 25 years to arrive at this “safe harbor“ and realize how beautiful the life I was living and how it was destined to possess beautiful purpose; freeing me from many deceitful and dark voices- many of which were self imposed. I now genuinely admire the person that I am; even the parts of me which strangers scoff at and laugh about. I prefer to be artistic yet perceived as “wrinkled” and “awkward” by family and strangers. I enjoy being intelligent within my core skills and passions yet misunderstood and parodied by others. I’m not completely healed from trauma… The rival of Covid and the new generation of Genzies has created new challenges but I am working through it. Praise God.

  2. Rodney Shapiro

    One of the traumas that I want to break the cycle is depression and anxiety. I was depressed because of the house that I’d been wanting to live in for more than seven years and yet up until now, we are still unable to live. Another depression is a lack of financial and debt problems, I’m still positive that I can overcome those problems. I just want the people around me to also have an understanding of the same that I do. I’ve been trying to understand myself all this time, which I notice little by little when I engage in my current job wherein I read and review psychology-related content. I’m thankful for my current job because it introduces me to things I hardly know and understand such as this article.

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