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The Trauma Experience: How Trauma traps us in a Time Capsule

Updated: Jan 20, 2023

Psychologist DR. ESSLIN TERRIGHENA explains how trauma can trap us in a time capsule and suck us back in even years after the traumatic event.

Many of our intense emotional reactions to triggers in our now, result from triggers that have formed in our past. People will sometimes say they felt like they were acting like a child, but somehow they couldn’t help themselves. Others say that the feelings came in so quickly and so loudly that they reacted with too much anger or fear and said or did things they regretted afterward.

Imagine trauma like this: When we experience trauma, our feelings from that moment get frozen in a trauma time capsule. This time capsule is occasionally switched on by associated triggers in our current reality. It opens up, sucks us back into the past, and we respond the way we felt back then. Intense fear, intense anger, intense sadness, intense panic. We fight or run for our lives. At that moment, our inner child is at the controls and they are trying their best to survive.

As adults, we may look back at our responses with shock, shame or guilt. We may get frustrated with our anxiety or depression. We may chastise ourselves for not being in control of our emotions. In our adult world, we know we should respond differently. However, the pain or fear we were experiencing is the pain of the child we once were. We often respond with further negativity to this child; telling them off, berating them for their inappropriate emotional reactions, or sending them away so we can get important adult things done. Unfortunately, burying it is not a way to process past trauma and the child will keep coming back asking for help and attention.

There are many ways of getting in touch with and nurturing our inner child. To begin releasing feelings we have frozen from the past, we need to identify these feelings and the needs that we had that weren’t met as children. Then, we can begin to unpack past trauma and let not only the child, but also us as adults meet our needs in a healthy way. The next articles will introduce some our core childhood needs that support healthy, balanced development, and suggest ideas on how to foster these in our children and ourselves.

For more information or to book a consultation with psychologist Dr. Esslin Terrighena, please contact (852) 2521 4668 or

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