Trauma And Anxiety. Are There Conflicting Messages In Recovery?

Trauma and anxiety often co-exist.  That’s not news.  For many in this community, the lingering effects of traumatic experiences are real, and they can impact the anxiety recovery process.  Today I want to take a look at something a little out of the ordinary.  I want to talk about how some of the core principles of anxiety recovery might cause confusion and even conflict for those working to overcome trauma.


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If you have been neglected, abused, belittled, dismissed and invalidated … you will carry scars and wounds from those experiences.  There is no doubt about that, and those scars and wounds really matter.  Those experiences can inform your choices throughout your entire life.  They can color your judgment.  They can influence how you see yourself, others, and the world in general.

If we call that trauma – and why wouldn’t we – then if we want to talk about healing that trauma, treating those wounds, resolving that pain, then that process is often going to involve learning to be heard.

  • To be validated.
  • To stand up for yourself.
  • To use your voice.
  • To show the world – and yourself – that you really do matter and that you count and that you are worthy of respect, love, and belonging.

This is a thing we see often in social media circles for a reason.  Think about it.

“If I’m too much …. go find less.”

I have heard that line repeated ad nauseam at this point but I do understand why it exists.  There is an entire trauma recovery message built around the idea that you can be heard, you can stand up for yourself, you can have a voice, you can demand respect, and that when you do the world may tell you to shut up or say that you are “too much” for them.  There’s a healing process at play in that message, and a learning process. I get that.  Standing up and shaking a fist at the world and declaring that anyone that says that you are too much is themselves not enough is part of regaining your power and overcoming those really horrible experiences.

  • Step into your power!
  • Use your voice!
  • You matter!
  • You are enough!
  • You are amazing!
  • You are beautiful!
  • You are worthy!

These are powerful healing messages and I get why they attract such attention. If you have been subject to neglect, abuse, disrespect, and invalidation, you deserve that message and you kinda need it if you are to overcome those experiences and “heal”.


Now let’s look at what happens when along the way, you learn to be afraid of your own body and your own thoughts.  You wind up in a state of disordered anxiety where your body is doing things it’s designed to do, but at the wrong time, and you’ve learned to fear that and call it a disaster.  Your mind is creating thoughts and stories that all minds create, but you’ve learned to fear those thoughts, believe them, follow them, and live your life according to the instructions they are barking at you.  If you’re listening to this podcast, you’re likely struggling, stuck, afraid, lost, and discouraged by this turn of events.  Your life has become small and full of conditions and restrictions designed to keep you at arms length from thoughts, sensations, emotions, fear, uncertainty, and panic.


Enter … me.  And people who sound like me and teach the things I teach.  We talk about thoughts being just thoughts no matter how powerful they seem.  We talk about detaching from thoughts and not treating them as sacred or urgent all the time. We talk about NOT listening to your body because it is steering you wrong again and again and again.  We dismiss your fear and your worry, confidently shrugging our shoulders because we know that you are safe and we are hoping that you will learn that you are safe.

In this situation your anxiety, your thoughts, and your fear FEEL INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT TO YOU!!! Like the most important thing in the world all the time.

And here I am – here we are – in some ways dismissing this thing that feels like such a big important part of you.

Are you starting to see the conflict here?  Is there one?

  • How can you learn to honor your thoughts and your feelings and your opinions, and also discard them?
  • How can you learn to use your voice and be heard, but also be silent about what you fear today?
  • How can you learn that you’re not crazy or stupid, but also stop following your gut and listening to your “intuition”?

Look what happens when the messages of anxiety recovery meet some of the messages of trauma recovery:




Wait … what?  See what seems to be happening here?

Serving multiple masters is a problem in life.  That applies here for sure. If you are finding it difficult to resolve this conflict, I get it. If you feel like being silent and not always talking about how you feel and what you fear is exactly what the abusers in your life told you, I get that too.  I can see where this would be incredibly confusing, especially for someone that wants nothing more than to get better on all fronts.

My goal here today is not to give you a magic bullet that resolves this potential conflict or takes away your confusion.  My goal is to simply say that I see you if you are struggling because some of the things I say appear to be in opposition to some of the things you are learning to value. I just want to acknowledge this possible problem and to tell you that your confusion is warranted and not an indicator that you are doing anything wrong.  It doesn’t mean you can never get better.  It means some extra work and learning that in this combined process, you have to learn the difference between honoring and validating YOU, and honoring and following anxious, irrational fear. That’s not an easy task.  Its gonna take some time and lots of trial and error.  As always, you’re probably on roads you’ve never been on before and not really sure when to turn left and when to turn right.

Just do the best you can. That counts, and it helps.  And if you need a space to talk about this confusion and this conflict, I’ll do my best to provide it somewhere for you and to respect what you have to say.


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Podcast Intro/Outro Music: "Afterglow" by Ben Drake (With Permission)






Founder and host of The Anxious Truth podcast. Graduate student and therapist-in-training. Author and educator on the topic of anxiety disorders and anxiety recovery. Former anxious and depressed person.