As coaches, we are all familiar with the notion that our past experiences shape who we are today. It’s a commonly accepted idea that is propagated by many psychological approaches, popular culture, and spirituality. The idea is that by identifying and healing our past wounds, we can better understand ourselves and achieve greater personal growth. But is this focus on trauma always helpful? Are we overemphasizing the role of trauma in shaping our personalities?
The answer is yes. The danger of over-emphasizing trauma in therapy is that it can create a self-fulfilling prophecy where individuals see themselves as fragile and in need of constant protection. This perception creates a biased psychological approach that views all of us as wounded and broken selves, with our past traumas as the root cause of our suffering.
It’s essential to remember that this is a new perception. Even Freud’s psychology was skeptical about the hidden drives of human beings, interpreting dreams as wish-fulfillment rather than originating from childhood wounds or the broken inner child. The Buddha also said that suffering is caused by desire and clinging, not traumas. Yet, this is the dominant doctrine in most systems of therapy, New Age thought, and the arts.
According to this approach, everyone who has done mean or destructive things has gone through some form of abuse. Still, the idea that evil and aggression are always the result of childhood wounds is illogical. If everyone behaves this way because someone evil wounded them, this is necessarily a chain that goes all the way back to the first man. Who caused him the wound? It’s clear that to be a victim, you must have an aggressor.
The false therapy is one that perceives the person as a tender and delicate being shaped most by their traumas – things that others caused them. Such therapy preserves the sense of victimhood as the center of the self and psyche, even after treatment and healing of victimhood experiences. This approach only supports, validates, and enhances the experience of weakness in that person.
In this atmosphere, people feel fragile and demand that their victimhood be recognized. Patients come to treatment to heal memories of things others did to them, mainly busy with forgiveness for their aggressors or struggles to release their haunting traumatic childhood. Sometimes they even treat traumas they were only told about, speculated sexual abuse, or events that were not as traumatic as they remember them to be.
But in my system of Power Psychology, this is called the false subconscious, the apparent deepest reason for our suffering. It feels very deep, but our model suggests that first comes the frustrated will to self-expansion, existing in us from birth, so it precedes all our childhood experiences. This means that we don’t start as victims since we are inherently engines of will and primordial wish, beings that hope to expand.
The experience of victimhood in this world is, for most people, a temporary condition of defeat. Of course, some of us came to this world with less aggressive powers, but they are still motivated by this will. They would still be happy if they could be powerful, but when they realize they cannot, they go through the psychological process of compromise – replacement, compensation, revenge, concealment. It’s painful to recognize that you came to the world weaker than others, but this recognition is true for most of us.
It is therefore important to approach therapy with a balanced perspective that recognizes the potential impact of past traumas on one’s present behavior and well-being, but also acknowledges the inherent will and desire for self-expansion that exists within all of us, regardless of our past experiences. This approach can help individuals move beyond a victimhood mindset and develop a stronger sense of agency and resilience in navigating life’s challenges. Ultimately, the goal of therapy should not be to focus solely on past wounds, but to help individuals access their inner resources and strengths to create a more fulfilling and meaningful present and future.