So let’s find out how and why this is possible and because this is a very BIG subject, I am offering, for your consideration, a homeopathic overview; one that has been distilled down to its very essence in order to provide a concise and comprehensive understanding within a very limited forum.
Experts within the field of trauma have identified that there are essentially two ways in which an individual can experience trauma: Shock trauma occurs in response to a specific event such as an accident, catastrophic event, serious illness, surgery, or the sudden and unexpected loss of a loved one. Developmental trauma, on the other hand, is experienced through chronic physical or sexual abuse and/or extreme poverty throughout childhood, spanning critical stages of development. As of 1997, statistics indicated that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men had been sexually abused before the age of eighteen resulting in between 75 and 100 million Americans having experienced childhood sexual and/or physical abuse.
I would also add that children in the first 12 years of life are extremely vulnerable for being overwhelmed and traumatized in response to events that from an observer's perspective may appear unremarkable. This is due to their brain and schemas still being in the early stages of development which would result in a heightened sensitivity to sensory input being processed within schemas that are absent of any reliable context that would reassure the child that they can and will survive the experience. The article entitled "Schemas" will explore this subject further.
Trauma changes you forever and results in a wide variety of symptoms including but not limited to flashbacks, anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia, depression, inability to focus, short attention spans, self-destructive behaviors and rage. It is my belief that most, if not all, expressions of mental illness and emotional instability have trauma as an antecedent.
In order to understand trauma we must briefly visit the human brain which is often referred to as the ‘trine brain’ because it is made up of three parts: the reptilian brain (instinctual), the mammalian or limbic brain (emotional), and the human or neo-cortex brain (rational). When an individual is faced with an overwhelming or life-threatening event, the reptilian/instinctual brain along with our nervous system becomes highly activated or ‘charged’ in response to the threat. This response is involuntary and instinctual causing the body to ‘freeze’ in response to the threat. This ‘immobility response’ causes the mind to go into an altered state ensuring that no pain is experienced.
Trauma is physiological and will often involve a wide variety of responses including, but not limited to, immobility, panic-stricken, experiencing everything in slow-motion, inability to breathe or speak, and numbness in the body. These responses are a result of the ‘energetic charge’ and activation of the nervous system being compressed within the ‘immobility response’. These mechanisms protect us from feeling and often remembering the event. Due to the mind-altering component, trauma ends up being a multi-dimensional, physiological experience that is almost always difficult to articulate even when it is remembered.
This ‘energetic charge’ which was mobilized to negotiate the threat must be discharged or it becomes a cellular imprint encoded in the physical body as a memory which will eventually inform a whole host of physical and emotional expressions of dis-ease. Physical movement at the time of the event is key to being able to discharge the compressed or ‘flash-frozen’ energy so as not to experience any adverse symptoms as a result of staying stuck in the immobility response.
Unresolved trauma can lead to a lifetime of victimology informing dysfunctional relationship patterns. The individual becomes guarded, employing a multitude of defense mechanisms to ensure that they don’t feel the pain that would be associated with the original trauma(s). In addition, there is an unconscious attempt to revisit the original trauma(s) in order to resolve what ended up being deeply imprinted/encoded in the physical body. This often results in the individual cycling through patterns of trauma throughout their entire lifetime such as accidents and injuries all of which tend to play out within a chronic context of high drama. Adrenals which were activated as part of the nervous system becoming charged at the time of the original trauma(s) end up being chronically activated as part of this cyclical phenomenon. After a while the experience becomes normalized as a way of being and we now have an entire population suffering from adrenal fatigue as a result of being addicted to the cyclical pattern which results in a myriad of chemicals and hormones being secreted in the brain and body. Most, if not all, of my clients who come to see me are initially encouraged to start taking liquid adrenal support as part of their recovery process.
Because trauma is physiological, the healing of trauma is a process that can only be accessed by developing conscious, ‘body-centered’ awareness. There is no need to participate in years of therapy or dredge up deeply suppressed memories buried in the subconscious mind. Creating an identity as ‘victim’ or ‘survivor’ around the abuse/trauma through membership in support groups or as a perpetual therapy client interferes with one’s ability to recover because reliving the emotional pain by telling your story over and over again is re-traumatizing and serves no purpose other than to re-inforce the original trauma imprint. In addition, pharmaceuticals further compound the problem by suppressing feelings and sensations while interfering with the body’s innate wisdom to heal. Because our cultural conditioning judges emotional vulnerability and places increasing value and emphasis on the importance of the mind and our ability to ‘endure’ difficult experiences; we, as a collective, have become extremely disconnected from our physical and instinctual selves. In order to heal from trauma we must reconnect to this aspect of ourselves.
Healing trauma is about restoring wholeness to an organism that has been fragmented or shattered by integrating the aspects of the self that have been ‘flash-frozen’ in time and space through fear. Somatic-centered modalities have proven to be the most effective treatments we have to release trauma from the physical body. Fluid-Dynamic Cranial Sacral Therapy, EMDR, Somatic Emotional Release Therapy (SERT), Rolfing, Acupuncture, Reiki, Massage, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, and Floating (Sensory Deprivation Tanks) are all modalities that I have experienced and continue to use in my ongoing recovery from trauma and my journey towards increased integration and wholeness.
Trauma imprinting limits our ability to fully engage in life. It changes us forever in ways we could never be fully cognizant of. It interferes with our ability to be intimate with our self and others because from the moment we are traumatized we carry the deep instinctual imprint that we are not safe. Everything we do and all of our beliefs are being informed by this fear that is ‘flash-frozen’ and encoded in the trillions of cells of our body. Well-honed, sophisticated defense mechanism along with alcohol, drugs, and pharmaceuticals ensure that we will never fully feel the sensations that come from being in a physical body. We go through life guarded and distrustful of our environment and the people who inhabit it, including ourselves and those we are in closest relationship with. We carry shame, guilt and regrets buried deeply within our psyche believing that we are unworthy of love and acceptance while projecting blame onto those we are in closest relationship to for not reflecting back to us every second of every day that we are loved and desired. Recovering from trauma through a gentle, heart-centered, body-focused awareness and approach can be extremely transformative making it one of the most significant experiences one could ever have in achieving a physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual awakening.