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Exploring Trauma

This is a quick guide to the different elements and impacts of trauma

What is Trauma?

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Trauma is anything that overwhelm's the body's natural ability to restore balance in the nervous system. Our nervous system responds naturally both to threat and to safety.  Threat will cause the nervous system to activate a host of survival responses such as an increase in heart rate, shallow breathing, or a shot of adrenaline that you might feel in the chest. Once the threat has passed, the 'other side' of the nervous system gently puts the brake on and we return to a state of balance. Trauma is simply something that overwhelms this system because it comes at as in a way that doesn't allow us to respond effectively or return to the balance described above.


Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Continuing the description of trauma, PTSD occurs when the nervous system is activated to such an extent that it gets stuck in the extreme state of activation or shutdown. Unaware that the body has survived the trauma, the event(s) are replayed physiologically and psychologically in the form of panic attacks, nightmares, hyper-arousal (eg. anxiety), or hypo-arousal (eg depression or dissociation), among other things.  For a list of PTSD symptoms read my Trauma Guide.

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Image by Tadeusz Lakota

Developmental Trauma

Developmental trauma is defined by prolonged exposure to an overwhelming situation that happens during the developmental stage of life. It often occurs in the context of close relationship.

The Physiology of Trauma

The brain is certainly involved in trauma but it is, in fact, the body that experiences it. Our responses to threat begin in the body and are up and running well before we are cognitively aware of them (or the threat itself).  This is by design because thinking about running from a threat just slows our escape down.  It needs to be automated. If, however, our escape is thwarted in any way, and we are unable to complete our natural fight or flight reflex, this energy and incomplete cycle is stored in the body and needs help to be resolved. This is especially true of PTSD where the body is constantly reliving the trauma and is still unable to resolve it. Working with the mind AND the body means that these incomplete cycles can be addressed and integrated into your present reality.

“For real change to take place, the body needs to learn that the danger has passed and to live in the reality of the present” Bessel van der Kolk.

Image by camilo jimenez

Somatic Resilience

When we have experienced trauma, it is sometimes difficult to find the light at the end of the tunnel; the hope that things will get better. Post traumatic growth is something that is being researched more and more as academics, medical and mental health practitioners are starting to realise that effect of trauma is not something that a person has to live with for the rest of their lives.

Somatic resilience refers to the natural embodied capacity we all have to adapt to adverse situations and with guidance, a person can be helped to not just survive these experiences, but to grow, learn and even thrive in spite of them! 

Image by Markus Winkler

Get in Touch

My therapy room is based in Trowbridge   Tel. 07818 066424

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