It seems like everywhere I go nowadays I hear people using the word trauma. So what is trauma anyway?
The word trauma comes from the Greek language and means wound. The New Oxford Dictionary of English defines trauma as “a deeply distressing or disturbing experience…an emotional shock following a stressful event or physical injury, which may be associated with physical shock, and sometimes leads to long-term neurosis.” The same dictionary further defines neurosis as “a relatively mild mental illness that is not caused by organic disease, involving symptoms of stress (depression, anxiety, obsessive behavior, hypochondria) but not a radical loss of touch with reality…excessive and irrational anxiety or obsession.”
Wow! That all sounds pretty heavy!
To those who are suffering from trauma in any form, yes; it is like carrying around a heavy weight. Trauma can be further broken down into two broad categories – physical and psychological – although they are not mutually exclusive.
Can you give examples of both types?
Yes, but these by no means definitive: they are just simple examples for illustration purposes.
Physical traumas can result from any kind of unwanted or unexpected contact with the body. These can include sexual abuse, domestic violence, criminal assault, medical procedures or severe illnesses, and accidents or bad falls. There are many more events we can add to this list, but to keep things easy to digest, let’s just say we can include anything that we experience firsthand through some kind of undesired contact with our physical bodies.
Psychological traumas may include things like emotional abuse, observing others being abused or hurt, or abandonment.
As we mentioned above, we cannot always place someone’s condition into one or the other of these categories. For example, a very young child may have suffered both types of abuse from a parent that would hit them and verbally abuse them.
What happens during a traumatic event?
The short answer is that there are three recognized conditions that can occur during a traumatic event. You’ve probably heard of fight, flight, or freeze.
The first instinct may be to fight the attacker if possible. This is usually not an option if you’re unarmed, not a martial artist, smaller than the attacker, or there is more than one attacker.
The next consideration is flight. Can you run away safely from the situation?
If neither of the previous options can be employed, the last action is to take no action. We freeze and very likely dissociate. Dissociating is a survival mechanism where we shut off external sensations in order to avoid feeling what is happening.
The problem with these three conditions is that in humans, the responses may not end when the event does. You can watch videos of wild animals who were attacked and somehow managed to fend off the attacker. You can see them fight, escape, or come out of the freeze state not long after the event. Unfortunately, we humans are not so quick to let go of the negative energies. These are what sink deep into the subconscious, where they continue to cause problems for many years if we don’t get help to resolve them.
What are some symptoms that someone might experience from being traumatized?
These will depend on what happened. Some of the more common ones are anxiety, panic attacks, fatigue, skin rashes, chronic pain, and other unexplained physical ailments. A person may lose interest in things that he previously enjoyed such as activities, going to certain places, and even being around other people. Those who were abused early in life may harbor a deep distrust of others, which may lead to the inability to form relationships and results in feelings of isolation.
It sounds like there are a lot of different things that can show up after a traumatic event.
There sure are! We have two terms that cover what appear to be completely opposite ends of the symptom spectrum.
Someone who is undercoupled survives by withdrawing into a protective shell. This may have been what saved them during an attack, for example. When one is trapped in a horrific situation with no possibility of escape, they may cope by dissociating; that is, they check out mentally and emotionally to avoid feeling what is happening. They may then show up as being spaced out, forgetful, withdrawn, having very low energy, or just not present.
Someone who is overcoupled may exhibit high anxiety, feelings of doom and despair, hyperactivity, or hypervigilance. The list of symptoms is quite extensive, so it takes time and care to unravel them gently.
But if the event happened long ago, wouldn’t we just be able to forget about it?
No. The event itself is no longer what’s causing the problems. It’s the energetics of the event that remain, and these are what continue to affect us in a negative way. As we work to release the trauma’s energetics, the troubling symptoms will also be resolved.
I may drawn upon different healing modalities during a trauma therapy session. As a Somatic Experiencing™ Practitioner, I may use SE on its own or in combination with shamanic or intuitive healing – a practice I call Somatic Spiritual Healing®.
For more information on SE click here
You can also check out my practitioner listing on the Somatic Experiencing™ website here
I offer SE sessions in person in San Diego or through Skype. If you are concerned about internet security, please do be aware that although sessions are unlikely to be hacked, online communications are never completely secure.
Sessions begin at the time of the scheduled appointment and generally run 60 minutes.
- Initial Intake session: 1.5 hours $200
- SE session – 60 Minute $150
- SE session – 30 Minute $80
- If you would like to book a longer session it will be pro-rated on the amount you pay.
- I reserve a third of my practice for students and low-income persons who may be eligible for a sliding scale. Sliding scale is available with proof of income. Please contact me to discuss your needs.
Your natural light is waiting for you to let it shine brilliantly again!