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  • Johanna Lynn

Shyness, Secrets & Insights: The Discovery of Hidden Trauma

As Emily walked in for our appointment, I noticed that she looked down at her feet as she made her way to the comfortable chair in my office. When she answered my questions, she was incredibly soft spoken, and it was easy to sense how uncomfortable she was.

Emily, in her mid-forties, pained by her persistent shyness, which she felt hindered her life in every way, was finally ready to explore the depths of her discomfort to uncover why she felt like a background character in a movie - in her own life.

As a systemic therapist specializing in epigenetics, I've encountered numerous clients grappling with various challenges, each presenting a unique opportunity to explore the profound interplay between past trauma, family history and how this often connects to present day struggles.

The science of epigenetics, highlights how our struggles often have roots in our family's history, is like discovering the hidden connections between our past and present. The challenges we face in life are not ours alone, they are shared across multiple generations.

I ask Emily specific family history questions like significant events with family members and exploring where love could easily flow and also where it got tangled up in the family.

These answers help me to create a 3-generation genogram, it’s like an intricate mapping of familial relationships and dynamics, offering a nuanced perspective beyond just the names and dates you might see on a traditional family tree.

When we understand that we are much more than our individual experiences, this offers a wider context, beyond Emily’s individual experience to illuminate the interconnected patterns that influence present-day experiences and behaviors.

During the session, Emily shared snippets of her family's past, recounting secrecy, tension, the need to feel hidden from others along with unspoken pain that started with her paternal Grandfather. 

The more Emily shared, the clearer the pattern was to see — an intergenerational cycle of trauma passed down through the generations, leaving its imprint on Emily's life in the form of shyness.

In that moment of revelation, the pieces of the puzzle clicked into place. Emily's shyness wasn't merely a personality quirk—it was a hidden pain that she was carrying from unresolved trauma deeply rooted in her family of origin. 

Together we peeled back the layers of her family history to uncover the buried wounds and untangle the knots of intergenerational pain.

Through our work together, Emily gradually began to unravel the threads of her past, gaining insight into how her family's experiences had shaped her own worldview and uncertainty with people, leading to deep shyness in social situations. In our first session together, she found the courage to confront the ghosts of the past, gradually releasing the grip of shyness that had held her captive for so long.

As Emily's story illustrates, shyness can often serve as a signpost, pointing towards deeper wounds lurking beneath the surface. 

We discovered the intricate relationship between shyness and trauma, shedding light on how unresolved family dynamics can leave a lasting impact on our lives. 

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