WHAT IS TRAUMA?
A traumatic event is an experience in which we fear for our lives that can leave lasting negative impacts on both mental and physical health. Reactions to trauma vary for each individual depending on how the experience is processed at the time of the trauma.
PHYSICAL REACTION TO TRAUMA
Often times, our bodies react to trauma in fight, flight, or freeze responses which halts our ability to store the event as a memory like we do most experiences. Because it is not processed and stored correctly, the stress response never gets told that the body is safe and therefore flight, fight, or freeze is not needed. The stress response then stays on high alert which causes the traumatic experience to feel as if it is happening again in the present moment at any given time. While this stress response is helpful, if not life saving during the moment of the trauma, it can cause lasting negative physical and psychological affects if it is always activated. This results in symptoms of PTSD including flashbacks, avoidance, high anxiety, nightmares, and feelings of shame. These symptoms of trauma can sometimes start to feel like a part of our identity. They aren’t!
HOW DO WE HEAL FROM TRUAMA?
Healing from trauma is possible! First, we need to communicate to the body (stress response) that we are safe in the present moment. This includes learning grounding and relaxation techniques to calm the internal system, especially in moments when we feel "triggered" or reminded of the trauma. After these techniques are mastered, we will begin to reprocess the traumatic experience. This means going back through what has happened, either verbally, or through writing, drawing, or another artistic method of choice, while incorporating the grounding techniques to bring you back to the safety of the present moment. The goal of reprocessing is to help you remember that you are now safe, to store the experience properly as a memory, and rediscover who you are.
“Trauma affects the entire human organism—body, mind, and brain. In PTSD the body continues to defend against a threat that belongs to the past.”