Trauma is an intense, overwhelming issue that many people have to face at some point in their life.
Whether you were a veteran traumatized in a war, a survivor of a hurricane or a national disaster or a child abuse survivor traumatized in your own family, trauma can be a huge hurdle to overcome.
What Causes Trauma?
Trauma isn’t always the result of a major catastrophe. Many people have experienced trauma recently from losing their jobs or their homes and not knowing what to do next to survive. Other people were traumatized by losing someone they loved through an accident or an unexpected illness.
Bessel van der Kolk, M.D. defines trauma as a time “when your biology is assaulted in such a way that you might not be able to reset yourself.”
Dr. Robert Scaer says that there is a fight, flight or freeze response that happens in the brain when trauma occurs. When the freeze response is not able to be released after the trauma is over, “the survival brain thinks the (traumatic) event is continuing to be present.”
In other words, trauma survivors who have not been able to release the effects of trauma will continue to feel and behave as if the trauma were constantly reoccurring.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD is a negative reaction to a traumatic event in your life that lasts for at least six months after the event occurred.
You may be diagnosed with PTSD if you have some of the following symptoms:
• You experienced or witnessed an event that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of your self or others.
• Your response to the event involved intense fear, helplessness, or horror, or your perception of the event led to some of these feelings.
• You have recurrent and intrusive distressing memories of the event, including images, thoughts and perceptions.
• You have recurrent distressing dreams.
• You act or feel as if the trauma was reoccurring, and you may have a sense of reliving it through illusions, hallucinations or active flashbacks.
• You experience intense distress or bodily reactions when you are exposed to ‘triggers,’ such as sights, smells, sounds or dates that remind you of the trauma.
• You make a great effort to avoid thoughts, feelings, or conversations associated with the trauma; or to avoid activities, places or people that would cause you to remember the trauma.
• You have less interest in activities than before.
• You feel detached, shut off or estranged from others.
• Your ability to feel emotion is restricted; as is your range of emotions (for example, you may not experience loving feelings).
• You don’t expect to have a happy, healthy future, such as a career, marriage, children, or even a normal life span.
• You have difficulty falling or staying asleep
• You regularly feel irritable or have outbursts of anger
• You have difficulty concentrating
• You show ‘hyper-vigilance’ or being overly watchful for expected negative happenings
• You have an exaggerated startle response or feel ‘jumpy’
Healing the Long-Term Effects of Trauma
Trauma can sometimes be a difficult issue to resolve on your own. Receiving help and guidance from a professional who has understanding and compassion for your experience will often benefit you tremendously. Lay people who have not experienced trauma often don’t understand the deep and lasting effects it leaves in your life.
Peter Levine, the author of Waking the Tiger, Healing Trauma said, “Human beings are born with an innate capacity to triumph over trauma. I believe not only that trauma is curable, but the healing process can be a catalyst for profound awakening.”
Wayne Muller, the author of Legacy of the Heart, The Spiritual Advantages of Having a Painful Childhood agrees. He said “Within the sorrow, there is grace. When we come close to those things that break us down, we also touch the things that break us open, and in that breaking open, we uncover our true nature.”
Recovery is Absolutely Possible!
If you are a survivor of trauma, it’s important that you begin working to heal the effects of the trauma as soon as possible. You can recover from trauma if you are willing to face the feelings of the traumatic experience and deal with the many ways it has affected your life.
EMDR or ‘Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing’ is now being utilized world-wide for trauma and psychotherapy. In my experience, when you utilize EMDR together with Emotional Healing, it gets even better results.
Don’t wait to get professional help for a trauma in your life. Although the process of healing trauma will definitely take time and energy, it will often bring about a greater depth and compassion for yourself and for others.
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