A traumatic event is any distressing or disturbing experience in which we have no control and feel powerless in the situation. It’s often an unexpected, dramatic, and isolating event, and with no strategy to deal with what’s happening. Unable to flee from or fight the situation, the body freezes/shuts down/’plays dead’; an entirely normal response, and the brain doing it’s job to protect us. However the necessary shutting down also means the trauma doesn’t get processed properly and can lead to any number of debilitating symptoms whether it was a one-off event or repeated events, and whether it was a ‘big T’ trauma (anything life threatening e.g abuse, personal or sexual assault, torture, military combat, terrorist attack, major car accident, major illness, traumatic birth) to ‘small t’ traumas (non life threatening e.g. death of someone close, being shamed, the break-up of a relationship, a fall, an injury, surgery, although any number of these events could lead to depression and suicidal feelings which could become life-threatening).
Traumatic symptoms can range from feeling sleepless and restless, angry and tearful, anxious, hyper-vigilant and over-aroused (constantly looking out for danger), high degrees of stress and tension, anxiety attacks, feeling numb, a sense of detachment or ‘out-of-bodyness’ from the self (dissociation), nightmares and flashbacks, unable to concentrate and avoiding social situations, to full-blown depression and anxiety disorders, PTSD, personality disorders in particular border-line personality disorder (also now referred to as volatile personality disorder), eating disorders, and dissociative disorders.
On the other hand, you may be aware of experiencing some of these debilitating symptoms but not know where they come from: you have no recollection of the event(s), and which are re-triggered by similar situations or people. It might be that an event you thought was inconsequential was actually more traumatic then you realised; it’s important to note that an adult can perceive an event quite differently to their childhood self – it might seem insignificant as an adult but to the child it was frightening and threatening. Traumas are particularly damaging when experienced in childhood, and especially the first six years life, and where a child has experienced an unstable and unsafe environment e.g. from bullying and abuse (verbal, physical, sexual) deeply violating the boundaries of the emerging self, and parental separation and neglect damaging the attachment relationship(s).
Trauma ultimately cuts us off from the roots of our deepest and authentic self so we feel disconnected and orphaned from ‘the mother-ship.’ Healing trauma is the reconnection to our true experience. For some ‘small t’ traumas talking therapy is enough, however for the majority of trauma, and especially the ‘I-don’t-want-to-go-there’ events, it often isn’t enough to simply talk about it, and can have the opposite effect and risk of re-traumatising the client. This is why I am trained in three therapies, which I combine together, and that are very gentle, safe and highly effective in processing the symptoms of trauma: