Trauma is a psychological response a person may have to terrible events that they endured, this can be an attack, a natural disaster, an accident, or anything that was “too much” for us at the moment. Trauma can be caused from a single intense event, or from many small events.
Trauma is not about what happened in itself, it is about what it has caused inside of us. There is no measuring stick to trauma, the same event may affect different people in different ways. It’s more about how we feel after the event, what kind of support we received.
Traumas are very varied, and there are many symptoms if you are suffering from a traumatic response to something that happened to you, these may include some or all of the following:
PTSD stands for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, this is the name given to the condition in which a person is suffering from the above symptoms. It is the reaction of our body and mind to the traumatic events. PTSD is usually related to one traumatic event, and complex PTSD to several events.
I want to explain how trauma is formed, because through understanding that some of the experiences you’ve had might receive an explanation, and won’t look weird anymore. It will also be helpful in your healing process.
Trauma happens when our nervous system gets overwhelmed, I’m talking about the nervous system and not about who you are, because it really has to do something with the biology of every human brain. I’ve found it helps when we understand that our reactions were determined by something organic and not by something that is wrong with who we are. This also shows us that the wound we carry can be healed exactly like a physical cut heals.
In face of danger our body’s first reaction is to run away. I say the body because the impulse comes from the body, not the mind, that is why it might be hard for us to accept how we reacted to a certain situation, we might want to do one thing, and the body decides otherwise, it’s organic, evolutionary and beyond our control.
In most cases, if there is a way for us to escape the body will demand our mind to do so, escape can be accomplished by talking down an aggressor, calling for help or literally running away. If we do not manage to escape properly we will be left with symptoms
When we are not able to run away, maybe we literally have our back against the wall, or we realize or feel that it is not possible to outrun our aggressor. Or maybe we know that someone dear to us will be hurt if we run away. In all of these cases we switch from flight to fight.
If we can, we will fight, both our aggressor, and simultaneously our own flight impulse. During both the flight response and the Fight response our adrenaline will spike, and we will be very active. If we are able to run away or fight trauma can be avoided.
If we can neither run away, nor fight and win, our nervous system pulls an old trick out of its pages, the “Freeze” response. This is a natural method for the brain to protect us, it got programmed into us genetically millions of years ago.
You might have heard how often a gazelle plays dead and is left unharmed by a leopard that had just caught it. In extreme situations our brain does the same, It doesn’t ask us. It just shuts everything down, taking this last effort at survival where all else did not work. and in case we cannot survive at least we will not suffer so much.
This “Freeze Response” can manifest as “going numb”, “feeling out of the body”, feeling like “I wasn’t there”, sometimes it will involve loosing consciousness, or not remembering what had happened.
Trauma happens when we are not able to run away, or are unable to fight, and when we don’t get the time and support to overcome the freeze response. Normally after a traumatic event our brain flips back to normal, and we then integrate the experience, but if the event is too much to handle, then we stay frozen, the parts of the brain that got triggered and were trying to protect us during the trauma never cease to work. This is why even years after we might be haunted by the memories. This is why certain reactions to the trauma can linger until we heal them. A part of our brain is literally stuck in the past.
In the past it was believed that trauma was impossible to overcome. But modern methods have been found to help so much, that with some cases even 1 session is enough to undo a trauma which was created 20 years before.
Somatic experiencing Is a method developed by Peter Levine, in this method we deprogram the traumatic response from your nervous system, this method allows us to work without being overwhelmed, you don’t need to go into all the details of the event, and we work from the outside inwards, we build your resilience, and then we take this strength to reprocess what happened. You will be able to reach a feeling of completion and resolution, to understand that you did the best you could, you will be able to let the past be in the past and move on with your life. With this method alone you can completely overcome the trauma.
The body remembers, and especially in trauma. That is why I like at some point to work with the body, we will literally work the trauma out of the body, utilizing the same organic structures which got frozen in the trauma to bring healing. structures that you might be experiencing as bodily aches, especially in the back and neck, restlessness in your legs or other parts of the body, even headaches and migraines and digestive issues.
Sometimes the trauma feels like it happened to someone else, and we might feel that we don’t have control over ourselves in some situations. We want to act in one way, but a part of us fights back and tries to do something else. In parts therapy we look at the different parts that make us who we are, and we bring peace to them. It’s not helpful if we are stuck in a memory fighting off an aggressor and at the same time we are battling with our own shame, or self doubt. Through parts therapy we align all our strengths in a common direction
Some times a trauma can be reprocessed within a single session.
EMDR for example is a technique that is well known for being able to bring, in some cases, a resolution for 70% of symptoms in a single session. And the results last.
I myself have had amazing results with techniques similar to EMDR, and with body work techniques.
In addition to Trauma treatment, I offer a variety of counseling & guidance services. I offer Therapy for Anxiety & Depression, Therapy for Trauma Recovery, Bodywork and Therapy for Chronic Pain, Life Patterns Analysis, Transpersonal Psychotherapy & Yoga Teachings. If you have questions about the treatments that I offer, please visit my FAQ page. Contact my office to learn more about the ways I can help you or your loved one!