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How Past Trauma Still Affects Us

Uncover how past trauma still affects us on a cellular level and impacts our present. Learn how mindfulness and Reiki Healing can help ease the suffering.

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Many of us have experienced pain and hurt that we would like to leave in the past, perhaps even trauma so intense that it is deeply suppressed. The problem is that these painful events aren’t actually forgotten, they still affect us. Buried deep in our subconscious minds they wreak havoc on our present day lives and health.

Our Subconscious Mind

It is estimated that our subconscious mind is responsible for about 95% of our responses and behaviour. The subconscious mind is like a computer running background apps that are designed to help us. It works quickly, bypassing the forebrain and conscious thought.

95% of the time we are automatically reacting instead of intelligently responding to life!

We are most easily programmed as children, it is where we learn most of the programmes that run our adult lives. Up until about age 7, our brains operate in the hypnotic and impressionable Theta brainwave. This Theta state allows our subconscious mind to absorb and learn quickly, but often it learns negative or limiting programmes which are carried into adulthood.

It’s not just negative and limiting programming that is created so easily at this time in our lives, traumatic childhood events are also absorbed by the subconscious mind and an “automatic response” programme is written. These memories are not just floaty, intangible memories that are stored subconsciously, they are encoded on a cellular level and have a very real, physical effect on the body.

Past Trauma Still Affects Us

When the traumatic experience occurs, the brain responds immediately by sending chemical messengers into the body which tell the body how to respond. Trauma activates the Fight or Flight Response which is helpful in life-threatening situations, but is incredibly detrimental to our health when activated repeatedly or chronically.

During this process the cells are bathed in a cocktail of chemicals which create a chemical signature, and it is through this chemical signature that the traumatic event is encoded into the cells. Every time this chemical signature is re-experienced, the body remembers and responds in the same way. It becomes what is called a “conditioned response”.

Triggering this automatic response is not limited to re-experiencing the original trauma. The body is very intelligent and wants to protect us, so it begins to create associations to the trauma.

Any time we are exposed to events or feelings that activate the same chemical signature as the original trauma did, our body recognises the similarity and responds with the conditioned response as if it were re-experiencing the original trauma. This pattern also reinforces the beliefs that were created at the original trauma.

In this way, our past becomes our present.

Childhood Events

For example, a child may experience the trauma of their parents divorcing. The experience creates a chemical signature, encoding this memory on a cellular level. From the experience the child may develop beliefs such as “This was my fault, I’m a bad person, I don’t deserve love”.

The beliefs created by the traumatic experience are perceptions of reality, and are not necessarily an accurate reflection of truth. Regardless, they shape the child’s future in subconscious and dramatic ways.

As the child grows it may experience a beloved pet or grandparent dying along with the familiar feelings of hurt, abandonment and self-blame. This event activates the chemical signature of the original trauma, and the body responds with the same automatic response.

Soon enough any time the child experiences hurt, abandonment or self-blame, even as an adult, they are conditioned to respond as they did as a child and their beliefs of “This was my fault, I’m a bad person, I don’t deserve love” are reinforced further.

The child’s beliefs are such a powerful filter on their perception, that they actually prevent the child - and then adult - from seeing things any other way! When contradictory information such as “This actually wasn’t my fault” is received by the brain, it is deemed “not a match” to the existing belief system and discarded without conscious consideration, unfortunately keeping them locked into this detrimental belief cycle.

When We Don't Consciously Remember

This same process occurs even when we have no conscious recollection of the trauma. We have suppressed the traumatic experience for our own safety, yet the body will react with a conditioned response any time a similar situation or feeling occurs. The great news is that we don’t have to remember or re-experience the original trauma in order to resolve it’s effects on our current lives.

Decoding the memory from the cells and deactivating the conditioned response is the goal, but as stated we don’t need to relive the trauma to do this. We can look at “where we are now” and notice where we may be reacting with a conditioned response. By observing the areas of our lives that are not running so smoothly, are the most challenging, or hold the most discomfort, we become aware of the way past trauma still affects us.

The Healing Power of Awareness

Bringing awareness to our subconscious behaviours provides an opportunity to re-evaluate the behaviour. Practices such as Reiki, meditation and mindfulness may be particularly helpful. As the memory of an event surfaces in the meditative state, the same chemical signature is experienced as the original trauma. But we needn’t remember the original trauma, we can work with the memory that has surfaced.

During meditation we are provided with the opportunity to consciously and mindfully look at the memory from all angles, perhaps even from a “higher perspective”. Looking at it from the loving perspective of the higher self, or the more mature perspective of our adult self instead of automatically responding as our child self, can often bring insight and clarity to an experience where there once was confusion.

The light of awareness can soothe, reason, forgive and disarm the negative response that has been running this part of our life until now. By reframing our perceptions we have brought healing to the situation which can be life changing, and by limiting the auto-activation of the Fight or Flight Response there is an incredible benefit to our health.

Awareness brings insight and clarity and is the first step in the healing journey.

If you recognise a pattern of limiting beliefs that you’d like to change, you may find my Changing Beliefs article useful.

If you would like to gain deeper insight into your inner world, and release what no longer serves you, I'm here to help.

With love and gratitude,



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