Trauma residue: the lingering impacts of adversity


Trauma continues to be a point of interest in many communities across the United States. Unfortunately, the trauma communities experience does not seem to be going away anytime soon.

Many communities do not have the resources to combat the troubling things that they face. Without proper resources, organization, and intentional efforts to address the trauma, what ends up happening is this lingering impact of the trauma.  

Although there is a fair amount of research highlighting the impact of trauma on brain development and physical health, there is not a lot of research into how collective groups are impacted on a broader level by the trauma.

However, there are common themes that are communicated and expressed within the community about how trauma has had an impact. These themes are often spoken about indirectly as to how they affect people. We see the impacts of this trauma show up in many different ways as, for example, impulsive behaviors, conflicts with others, mental disorders and addictive behaviors, to name a few.  

The residual impacts of trauma can be seen in four significant areas of an individual’s life. These four areas are:


Losing a loved one, a position, significant possessions, opportunities and comfort are all things that individuals may experience as traumatic. Grief and loss can affect everyone differently, depending largely on a person’s emotional connection to the thing lost. It is important to have coping skills that work for the individual and can help them to address these emotional needs.


We all change with the changing environments and situations in our lives. Our self-perception and self-esteem are influenced by the things we have experienced. If these things we have experienced have been traumatic, it can impact our ability to regulate our emotions and to process information accurately. We may tend to think of ourselves as not worthy or worthless. Unfortunately, when people find themselves in this state, their identity has taken a major hit due to their experience. 


Our concept of the world and the society that we live in is also impacted by the traumatic experiences that we have had. Some people begin to be more cautious and paranoid about the world around them due to pain they have experienced. This is a logical conclusion when someone has been harmed—they do not want that level of pain to return. Therefore, as individuals, we begin to go into self-preservation and protection mode, which skews our understanding of the world around us.


Just as individuals adjust to their experiences, so do collective groups of people. Culture can be defined as a set of behaviors, beliefs, concepts, linguistics, experiences, and expectations that are ascribed to a social collective to meet their agreed upon (directly or indirectly) wants and needs. The things that we do collectively and that shape our culture are to aid us in our quest to survive. If a collective group of people has experienced trauma, then their culture will be based on countering their traumatic experience.

In short, the adversity that we experience in our lives does not happen in a vacuum. These things have an impact on our bodies physically and on our mental and emotional states. Someone might experience an event at one point in their life and have the impacts of that trauma show up at a different time.

Trauma residue is a real thing. It is something we must be aware of if we have experienced traumatic events. Resilience is important, but without awareness of how you have been impacted by past trauma, being resilient becomes difficult to sustain.