Unraveling the Mystery: Negative Thinking Patterns in Trauma Survivors

Unraveling the Mystery Negative Thinking Patterns in Trauma Survivors - Insightful Counselling

“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” – Rumi

In the realm of psychology, trauma is a formidable adversary. A profound understanding of how trauma influences the human psyche is quite challenging yet critical. Most importantly, deciphering the myriad thought patterns of a trauma survivor are complex, yet paramount in aiding their recovery. In this article, we delve into the five common negative thinking patterns that often plague victims of trauma, making their healing journey seem insurmountable.

The Impact of Trauma on the Human Mind

When I embarked on my journey of assisting trauma survivors, particularly those below 20 years old, a pattern emerged. As these young survivors began to acknowledge their trauma, their healing expedited. However, acceptance is a convoluted process for children and teens, owing to their emotional and psychological immaturity.

According to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (2016), “child traumatic stress occurs when children and adolescents are exposed to traumatic events or traumatic situations that overwhelm their ability to cope.” This definition holds true for adults as well.

The inability to cope leads to the inability to heal, making trauma work difficult. Survivors grapple with reestablishing trust, maintaining healthy relationships, and fully engaging in therapeutic treatment.

Recognizing Thinking Errors and Traps

Prior to therapy, I stress understanding self-talk, rumination, and cognitive distortions.

– Self-talk refers to the internal dialogue that can positively or negatively affect perception.

– Rumination is constantly contemplating a topic until it becomes overwhelming. Although it is more common in obsessive-compulsive disorder and depression, rumination can occur in various other mental health challenges.

– Thinking errors or cognitive distortions are thought patterns that limit our perspective and prevent us from seeing the truth.

Five Typical Negative Thinking Patterns of Trauma Survivors

Five Typical Negative Thinking Patterns of Trauma Survivors - Insightful Counselling

Now, let’s explore the five common negative thinking patterns that obstruct the path to healing for trauma survivors.

– Over-generalization

Over-generalization is when a single negative event is perceived as a never-ending pattern of defeat. This thinking error generally results in statements such as “I always fail” or “Nothing good ever happens to me.” In the context of trauma survivors, this could mean that they perceive every situation as potentially harmful owing to a single traumatic event.

– Discounting the Positives

Discounting the positives is a thinking error where individuals ignore their positive experiences and only focus on the negative ones. It involves rejecting positive experiences by insisting they “don’t count” for some reason or another.

– Mind-Reading

This cognitive distortion involves assuming what others are thinking without having substantial evidence. Trauma survivors often believe that they can predict what others are thinking about them, which often leads to self-defeating behaviors.

– Fortune Telling

This is a cognitive distortion where individuals predict that things will turn out badly, despite not having any evidence to support this belief. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy that can lead to unnecessary anxiety and depression.

– Reaction Formation

Reaction formation, a term coined by Sigmund Freud, is a defense mechanism where you express the opposite emotion of what you truly feel. This is done to protect oneself or to conceal the emotions that are genuinely being felt.


Understanding the negative thinking patterns of trauma survivors is a significant step in helping them break free from the chains of their past. By recognizing these patterns, we can better support them in their journey towards healing. These thinking patterns are not an end-all, be-all. They can be changed, and with the right support, trauma survivors can lead fulfilling lives.

Remember, healing from trauma is a process, not a destination. It takes time, patience, and a lot of self-love. So, let’s begin by understanding, and then let’s move towards healing.


Healing from Trauma: Strategies for Children and Families https://www.nctsn.org/resources/healing-trauma-strategies-children-and-families

How to Stop Negative Self-Talk https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-stop-negative-self-talk

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