Do you ever
- Feel unsafe, even when there is no danger?
- Become easily affected by and feel like fleeing the scene, fighting back, or completely shutting down?
- Have difficulty controlling your emotions and feel that you “overreact” or feel “numb”?
- Have unexplained nightmares?
- Feel like you cannot trust anyone?
If Yes is your answer to these or similar questions, you have likely experienced a traumatic event or events at some point in your life.
The word “trauma” refers to a traumatic stressor or event, the behavioural reactions to it and psychological responses.
Levine (1997) states that the magnitude of the stressor is clearly an important factor but it does not define trauma. Trauma is not in the event itself; rather trauma resides in the nervous system. From this observation I believe that disease and problems of the nervous system could well have their origins in the very early time before and during birth, as trauma affects the developing nervous system.
Levine says,‘Remember, the first environment actively shaping the human brain, is the womb’ (2007:35).
Traumatic experiences loosely fall into two categories.
The first is “incident” trauma, or witnessing, such as accidents, terrorist attacks, combat related experiences, assaults, and natural disasters, termed “Type I” traumas.
The second, sometimes referred to as “Type II” trauma includes stressors that are prolonged or repetitive, occur early in life, are interpersonal, and involve physical, sexual, and emotional abuse or neglect, or witnessing violence, substance use or mental illness in caregivers or other important adults. If you have been exposed to traumatic events such as these, you may have strong emotional reactions to events in the present that may be responding to reminders of the past.
People who have experienced Type I trauma may experience Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. You may have PTSD if you have intrusive memories of the event, experience avoidance or numbing, and feel hyperarousal, where your nervous system is on edge most of the time.
Trauma experts have recognized that while survivors of Type II trauma may have PTSD, their symptoms may be more complicated and also include low mood, difficulty controlling anger, numbness or even dissociation, anxiety, irritability, and they may engage in tension reducing behavior such as avoidance or substance use. These reactions are the mind and nervous system’s attempts to make sense of witnessing or surviving a traumatic event, and to tolerate its emotional impact. Bill Plotkin in his book ‘Soulcraft’ likens this use of a substance such as alcohol or drugs to having a ‘loyal soldier’ that helps when times get difficult and never lets us down. Something you can always depend on – no wonder it becomes a habit. These coping methods become the lens through which friendships, work relationships, and parenting are managed. This is especially true when the source of the traumatic experience and fear is also the person from whom we look for love and care.
Trauma affects us on three levels: cognition (thought), emotions (feelings), and somatically (body sensations). Trauma survivors often find ways of avoiding their disturbing thoughts, feelings and body sensations by avoiding situations which “trigger” fear and anxiety.
While trauma processing can be painful, you may gain an understanding of how you are, within the safety of the therapeutic relationship with a therapist that has training, experience and understanding of trauma psychotherapy.
In therapy you will develop safe ways of addressing traumatic stress that help you improve your innate strengths, access your resources and expand your capacity for happiness and fulfillment.
Please consult http://www.somatictraumatherapy.com/applying-the-brakes for more information