The 4 lies of trauma

By Rafael J. Cortina

Trauma is the aftermath of the impact by an external force that reshapes the human brain; it overwhelms our nervous system and has a direct impact in the awareness of the self and the field. This can lead to a shattered sense of security, feeling helpless in a perceived dangerous world.

Our creative adjustments to the impact of trauma sometimes come with everlasting consequences that affect our ability to make and/or maintain contact. Often this creative adjustment led to the formation of new beliefs about the painful events in our past.

– It was my fault.
– It happened because I am weak.
– It’s not important, it’s in the past.
– It does not matter, it made me stronger.

Our brain’s primary job is to protect our body not the other way around. It is important to understand that these “lies” serve a very important purpose as a wonderful creative adjustment; they help us survive and manage life in the best way possible.

One of the keys of trauma work is our ability to hold safety and hope in the therapeutic relationship when our clients are not able. Trauma work is a fine tune dance between regulation and processing, while maintaining a supportive environment. Of course, easier said than done! The therapist needs to maintain active self-regulating while supporting the creation of contact with a client that is wired to protect himself/herself/themselves from it. This is where the awareness of the 4 lies comes in to play, if we pay attention to these active themes in our client’s story, we can find a pathway to support awareness to begin to challenge the much needed “lie”. This process when done with care can slowly begin to shift and unfold the reality of trauma, which is a natural human response to a horrible event, situation, accident, disaster, or abuse that should have never happened.




Rafael J. Cortina is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. As a bilingual (English-Spanish) therapist, he has over 20 years’ experience of working with individuals, couples, families and groups in Mexico and the United States. Rafael has MA in Counselling Psychology and MA Business Administration and is a Certified Clinical Trauma Professional, Certified Gestalt Therapist and a Certified Gestalt Couples Therapist. He has specialized training in EMDR, TRM, addiction treatment, sexual compulsive behaviour and trauma work. He is currently an Adjunct Faculty Member at National University, Chief Education Officer at the West Coast Mindfulness Institute, and Newsletter Editor/Board Member of the International Association of Advancement in Gestalt Therapy (IAAGT).

Rafael is also a former Clinical Director at ACI Specialty Benefits, faculty member at the University of Phoenix, San Diego Campus, and Lead Faculty member at the Humanistic Institute of Gestalt Psychotherapy in Tijuana, Mexico. He hasworked as a lead clinician in an Outpatient Dual Diagnosis Program, therapist at the San Diego LGBT Center, as a Bereavement Counsellor at San Diego Hospice, and as a Lead Clinical Psychiatric Social Worker at inpatient psychiatric hospital. Over the years, he has facilitated numerous workshops and supervision groups and is a regular presenter at varied international conferences in Mexico, United States, Australia, and Europe. https://www.in-sighttherapygroup.com/ Email: [email protected].

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