“We now know that trauma compromises the brain area that communicates the physical, embodied feeling of being alive.”
Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D.
After working with different types of trauma in many different situations over the past twenty years, what trauma is, what it looks like and how it heals can be confusing and complicated.
Simply, a person experiences trauma when they feel they have no choice in the face of a severe threat. It goes beyond being scared. When we are scared we try to fight or get away. Trauma occurs when neither of these strategies is effective and the event, whether it is a natural disaster, like a flood or a tornedo, another person hurting you, or abandoning you is still happening. Somehow, we survive, but our brains are so powerful at trying to protect us that it creates an imprint of all the subtlest details of that event and are remembered unconsciously. Every time the slightest similarity happens in the present, even though that traumatic event occurred perhaps years ago, the brain will signal possible danger, and the whole body will react to protect.
Depending on the severity of the trauma, a person’s brain and body can be in a chronic state of hyperarousal. This can eventually result in illness, anxiety, depression and addiction.
The good news is there are somatic therapies that actually heal trauma. You can begin working with your own anxiety or traumatic reaction by listening to the audio I created here.