Every so often, a disorder becomes the diagnosis in fashion. It is quite possible that trauma will mark this decade because public awareness and the media have spotlighted it as our soldiers are returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan. The word can have a bad rep. Some have trivialized it. God forbid, we certainly don’t want to be part of the casualties of trauma. Truth is, trauma is everywhere and it is possibly the most avoided and misunderstood piece of human suffering that exists.
When an event happens “too fast, too soon and in too large a quantity”, there is trauma. In the car accidents, falls, assaults, difficult anesthesia and surgeries, invasive medical and dental procedures, birth difficulties, suffocation and drowning, sexual/physical and emotional abuse, violence, rape, brain injuries, losses, natural disasters, war and terrorism, there is trauma. It also has its place in the chronic neglect and emotional deprivation affecting children. These categories are even more challenging for the younger population, who often has little support or means to cope with the reality of trauma. All too often, children burden themselves with a parent’s history of trauma and live with this heavy legacy into adulthood. Trauma has touched us, directly or indirectly at one point of our lives.
Peter Levine says, “Trauma is an internal straightjacket created when a devastating moment is frozen in time” *. The consequences are dire: disconnect from life, from ourselves, impossibility to move forward, perpetuation of states of fear and overwhelm, and the myriad of physical and emotional symptoms that go with being stuck in the past frozen moment. We become trapped in survival mode. Living permanently in such a state will bring on disease.
No two people will be affected the same way by trauma. It is not so much the event per se that is of importance, it is how we perceive it and how capable we are to cope with it. It is about “how it affects our nervous system”, and how it freezes us in a state of perpetual arousal. It is a total disregulation of our capacity to rebalance ourselves, to rebound from threat and to go on smoothly with our lives. My preferred modality to work with trauma is Somatic Experiencing.
* – from Prologue of the S.E. Curriculum Book. Copyright © 2010 – Peter A Levine, PhD. Used with Permission.