The experience of trauma can come from any event which stresses the nervous system or drains our emotional (psychological) resources. Being “traumatized” often refers to the symptoms a person might experience after the event. These can include:
- anxiety and dysphoria (uneasiness, depression, restlessness)
- emotionally-based problems (such as irritability and detachment from relationships)
- intrusive re-experiencing (unwanted memories and reminders, “flashbacks”)
- avoidance of the unwanted memories and reminders
- hyperarousal (jumpiness, easy to startle)
Individuals experiencing a life-threatening (or perceived to be life-threatening) event sometimes experience post traumatic stress. Symptoms of post-traumatic stress include:
- flashbacks (reliving)
Falling into the anxiety disorder category, post-traumatic stress is considered to be a psychological reaction to experiencing a life-threatening event. The traumatic event usually involves actual death or a sense of impending death/serious injury to one’s self or others.
Traumatic events leave the mind and body in shock. In the aftermath of the experience, we start to make sense of what happened and we begin to process our emotions and reactions. Individuals with post-traumatic stress remain in psychological shock. In order to move on from the experience, we need to look at the experience, and face those memories and emotions. As the famous poet Robert Frost said, “The only way out, is through it”. However, the way in which we look at it needs to be gentle and moderated. Contemplating the entirety of an upsetting situation will only leave us raw and emotionally flooded. We need to look at it in bits are pieces, while taking care to resource ourselves.
Click here to read more about post-traumatic stress and complex post-traumatic stress on my website.
I choose to believe that post-traumatic stress is not a life sentence. I believe that by working with the thwarted energy in the nervous system and creating regulation, we can process the traumatic material and start creating healing. The therapeutic approach I am speaking of is Mind-Body Attunement Therapy (MBAT). Developed by psychologist Kevin Miller, MBAT is based on the self-regulation therapy of research and therapist Peter Levine.
Some great books by Peter Levine include:
Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma, The innate Capacity to Transform Over-whelming Expereinces (1997), by Peter Levine and Ann Frederick
In an Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness (2010), by Peter Levine and Gabor Mate
Trauma-Proofing your Kids: A Parent’s Guide for Instilling Confidence, Joy, and Resilience (2008), by Peter Levine and Maggie Kline