- How does your inner world affect trauma experiences?
- Feel past experiences in the present?
- How do reminders affect you?
- Considering treatment? What goals are you pondering?
Trauma is not so much defined by what happened in the external world (i.e., the event or events) as it is by what is still happening in your internal world. It’s more about the experiencing than the experience itself. Different people can face similar hardships, and the same person can face different hardships, with a variety of potential outcomes in terms of the subsequent development of trauma or lack thereof. Whether a particular hardship (which can range from a single incident to a prolonged span of time) results in trauma is based on characteristics of the situation, how we survive it, and the responses we receive in the aftermath. In general, when we encounter threat or danger, our bodies automatically react with various physiological shifts meant to increase our chances of survival. Trauma survivors are survivors.
Treating trauma involves working collaboratively with a therapist to discover the ways in which this reactivation of internal responses from the past is manifesting in the present. This process begins with and, in turn, continues to enhance the development of a sense of increased internal safety and stability. From a position of clearer comprehension, it gradually becomes less challenging to regulate these responses when they occur, to prepare to get through them in advance of scenarios in which they may or are likely to arise, and to make sense of them after they have subsided. In doing this work, it is also possible to “update” the parts of the brain and body that have been stuck re-experiencing what they experienced during a traumatic ordeal by helping them learn what the rest of you has already realized: that the worst is over and your life is still progressing.
There are multiple modalities of trauma treatment that utilize various methods and techniques in pursuit of the aforementioned goals, though the specific strategies are generally informed by similar tenets. If you think participating in psychotherapy for trauma might be worthwhile but it still feels like a daunting decision to make, know that this feeling is not unusual, and you are not alone.
Read on for More information about Trauma:
When the acute phase of the threat has passed and we are met with adequate social support, our physiology naturally returns to its baseline and we are able to cognitively process and emotionally “digest” what has occurred in such a way that the experience fully registers to our systems as being over and in the past. Numerous conditions can prevent, interrupt, or hinder this progression, thereby blocking parts of our brains and bodies from completely recognizing that the ordeal has ended and we made it through; instead, fragments of our internal experience leading up to and/or during the danger (e.g., things we detected through our senses, how our bodies and emotions felt, the urges we were and weren’t able to act on, and the physiological shifts of our survival responses) get stuck as a kind of residue or imprint in our systems. This is trauma.
There are areas in all of our brains that constantly and subconsciously monitor our external and internal environments for signs of threat. When trauma survivors encounter something in their present lives that these threat-detectors recognize as resembling some element of a “stuck” experience, this automatically prompts the lingering fragments to “replay” whatever was “recorded” during the original traumatizing situation. As this unfolds, the felt experience in the brain and the body—often without conscious awareness—is that the old situation is still happening or is happening again in the present moment. When it comes to survival, our threat detectors will prioritize self-protection by readily and sometimes creatively deeming current reminders of previous danger that are only vaguely similar to be close enough to generate this automatic response. Because this so frequently occurs “behind the scenes” rather than in the spotlight of our conscious thoughts, the repetition of this cycle can feel bewilderingly and frighteningly random and chaotic, perhaps leading one to wonder, “What’s wrong with me? Am I going crazy?”
Even when there is some recognition and understanding of what’s going on and why and the pattern becomes more predictable, the fact that these involuntary responses occur without our choice or control—no matter how much we don’t want them to—can contribute to a sense of frustration, discouragement, helplessness and hopelessness. This is where counseling can help. Feel free to call, email or text us ((240) 274-5680 / Admin@HealingLLC.com) with any questions you may have or to set up an initial session.
You may be approaching this page from a variety of vantage points. There might be a difficult experience or series of experiences in your past about which you’re wondering: does that “count” as trauma? Maybe you’re inclined to think not, gravitating toward an explanation or combination of factors along the lines of “it wasn’t that bad,” “I’m a strong person,” “anyone who looks at me would say I’m doing fine in life,” or “it happened such a long time ago; enough time has passed that I should be over it by now.” Maybe, even if there are elements of truth to these statements, there’s still a part of you that doesn’t feel entirely convinced. You might suppose that your experience could be considered trauma but then doubt yourself due to the belief many people share: “What I went through was bad, but it wasn’t that bad. It could have been worse, and others have been through harder circumstances, so it doesn’t feel right to use such a serious designation to categorize what happened to me.” Maybe you know deep down that you’ve experienced something traumatic and still question it because it’s so uncomfortable to acknowledge that what happened was real, and you really don’t want it to be true. You might genuinely have no idea. Yet another possibility is that you’ve reached this page after having learned enough about trauma—through consuming professionally dispersed information, encountering material on social media, talking to others, discussing it in prior treatment, etc.—to recognize that you’ve experienced it, and now you want to know what to do with that recognition; just knowing that it’s trauma hasn’t brought you much relief. No matter where you are in this personal deliberation (including if none of these possibilities describe you), feel free to reach out.
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