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Trauma makes it hard...

Ever wonder why things seem so hard. Does it feel like no matter what I try I can't make progress with my goals? There might be a real reason success has remained on the horizon.

As it turns out, humans have some very frustrating things in common. One such problem is the way our brains are structured to learn. If you think of the mind as a super-computer. A data crunching mega platform that can process countless data lines in seconds. Our brains are constantly learning from outside stimuli. What we see, what we hear, what we do--even thinking--programs the inner mind to react based on experience.

In a sense, we program our subconscious through conscious thought and action. This means everything we think and everything we do gets stored in organized files waiting on the ready for a similar experience. Our minds works so efficiently much of what we do happened with little conscious thought. This is important because we do so much we could never keep up with the data demand of simple tasks like brushing our teeth. The ability of the subconscious mind to send a reaction, when I am face with a similar situation, means my brain can save time and processing power for more complex tasks.

MY mind is an awesome thing built for efficiency. But like any complex machine the mind is subject to problems. Unlike mechanical machine, which develop problems from normal wear and tear. My brain often suffers problems from early programing. Meaning, my thought processes are written line by line like computer code. Any programer knows great programs are subject to what are called "bugs" or errors in the code. Many of these bugs occur as programs evolve. The brain works the same way in that my mind is subject to code errors during crucial developmental years.

A group of researchers studied the effects of trauma on childhood development. Children were observed and data was collected. The result described a common bug associated with kids who experienced emotional trauma. The researchers found trauma interrupted executive functions. The area of the brain called "executive functioning" controls understanding of what's most important and why. For example, is it most important to binge watch that latest Netflix show or show up for work? For some, the answer is easy. Others might choose "illogical" choices because trauma makes it hard to decide what I should do.

This is significant in the world of goal setting and success outcomes. Many folks get super excited about opportunities for growth. Some apply to colleges, some seek a dream job, some want to make billions by creating that next cool thing everyone wants. Many have high dreams and strong aspirations. Some struggle with bugs in their executive thinking programing which means the logical steps, necessary to create success, are not so logical.

Think about this for a moment... how many have tried and failed? The answer is everyone. How many continue to fail after multiple attempts? The answer I less than everyone. How many give up because they simply can't decide what to do and why? The answer is more than you think.

Emotional trauma is something every child experiences. Think back to your first day of Jr. High or High School. My 7th grade year was hell. I've often described my early High School years as cruel and unusual punishment. Not everyone was as socially awkward as I was. But most can say they've experienced some form of emotional trauma.

Emotional Trauma is nothing more than cognitive discomfort. Hard thoughts and hard emotions creating confusion as to how I should think and what I should feel. Many human fears are associated with important connections. For example, have you ever had dreams of going to school naked? Have you ever felt really embarrassed in front of people you hoped to impress? Have you ever felt completely alone despite being surrounded by thousands of people? Cognitive discomfort, or emotional discomfort, is trauma. Trauma is created through a violation of expectations or instances where what I expect is not experienced.

Our brains are hardwired to draw conclusions based on past experience. This is how we all work. Even when we sleep our minds are busy organizing and separating actual experiences so we can decide what to expect. Moment by moment, day by day, and year by year. My brain sucks in every experience which helps me decide what to expect. When I am caught off guard, because I experience an outcome I did not expect, my mind struggles to comprehend. The more I don't expect an outcome, and the more I experience this outcome, the greater the cognitive discomfort. The greater the cognitive discomfort the greater the trauma.

According to this research, this trauma has the power to interrupt cognitive functioning associated with executive thinking. Meaning, if I've experienced numerous violations of expectations, especially in childhood, I will struggles to achieve goals or create success. In this, my outcome is a human problem. I do not struggle because I am less than or because I suck. I struggle because a bug is interpreting the normal functioning of my mind.

Thankfully there is something that can be done!

All trauma is related to a concept known as cognitive dissonance. Dissoance is the violation of expectation we mentioned earlier. Dissonance is also the cognitive discomfort we spoke about. In this sense, the key to success has less to do with trying harder. The key to success has everything to do with resolving cognitive dissonance. Think about it this way. If trauma is a violations of expectations then the emotional discomfort is associated with confusion. Meaning, I feel anxious, depressed, or angry because I am confused. When I can trace the source of confusion to the event that caused my confusion I can work to resolve the dissonance.

Resolving dissonance is as simple as recognizing confusion and seeking a resolution through increased understating of reality. Overcoming cognitive discomfort is as simple as understanding the reality of a problem so I can seek to fix the problem.

Trauma makes it hard to do hard things. In this sense, it's not me that's the problem, it's the trauma. According to research, if I resolve the trauma the emotional discomfort goes away and my brain is free to do what it was meant to do. Like help me understand what comes first in complex task completion.

If life seems hard and success seems just out of reach. Trauma might be to blame. Trauma doesn't have to rule anyones life. The simple rule states I must know a thing to control a thing. Overcoming trauma is as simple as understanding the source of dissonance and then seeking to understand reality. For example, I suck at completing goals. I want to succeed but it's damn hard. Reality says the problem might be a bug in my programing. Unfortunately, too many conclude I am the problem and I can never create outcomes I want. A belief like this is all too common when my experience teaches I struggle with hard things. A beleif like this doesn't have to rule my life. I can accept hardships are likely a cause of trauma. I can seek to resolve the trauma with an understanding success will come easier. I can reject thoughts of I suck and replace them with an understanding that hard things are harder if I've experienced trauma.

Trauma is a human thing. Everyone has experienced trauma. There are lots of people walking around who act like nothings wrong. Inside there's lots of things wrong making hard to succeed with everyday things. We don't have to feel this way. There is a solution. If you are willing to look to the right source.

The scientific article that inspired this post is only one example of thousands of scientific discoveries that shed light on why things are often harder than expected.

So, what now. Well that's up to you. Do you want more of the same or are you ready for something different? You tell me. If you're ready for something different we can help. Drop us a line at You won't regret it!



Wade, M., Madigan, S., Plamondon, A., Rodrigues, M., Browne, D., & Jenkins, J. M. (2018). Cumulative Psychosocial Risk, Parental Socialization, and Child Cognitive Functioning: A Longitudinal Cascade Model. Developmental Psychology, 54(6), 1038–1050.

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