Thoughts on trauma and trauma therapy…
Within the realm of psychology, trauma can be understood as the body’s various intrusive responses that manifest while struggling to cope with having been overwhelmed by a crisis, threat to personal safety, or difficult life situation.
Under most circumstances, the body’s automatic response to being faced with a threat or attack is to keep itself safe by the concepts of fight or flight. For instance, when facing an unwanted physical altercation, essentially the body readies itself to either fight the assailant, or to escape from the situation. In the event a person discerns that neither fighting nor fleeing will be an option, there may be an experience of freezing, a reaction that sees the body essentially shut down its intensity in order to somehow avoid the confrontation. Either way, the body responds with an automatic physiological outcome that increases the odds of self-protection (ie: increased blood flow to extremities, increased vigilance and awareness, rush of adrenalin, an experience of being “activated” in the case of fight/flight; numbing, loss of speech, sense of disconnection in the case of freeze).
Assuming that the body’s response is successful and safety and stability are restored, for the most part, a person can resume day to day living without overwhelming consequences of the unsettling event. However, when the aforementioned body’s tactics for self-protection do not work and/or these physiological responses that serve to preserve safety are not completed, there can be a lasting consequence that we can refer to as trauma. Common symptoms would be: intrusive distressing recollections or dreams, a sense of reliving the experience, being “triggered” by sights, places, sounds, smells, etc. that symbolize or represent the crisis that lead to unwanted or unwarranted body responses (tingling, other sensations), feeling chronically “on edge”, and sleep disturbance.
My preferred method of working with clients’ trauma symptoms is called Sensorimotor Psychotherapy. It is a well-recognized and validated body-centred approach to alleviating traumatic symptoms that seeks to allow the body to process the trauma by assimilating thoughts, feelings, and physical responses via a mindful state. A deeper theoretical understanding about trauma, the role of working with the body in dealing with it, and the tenets of Sensorimotor Psychotherapy can be obtained via the following link: