Does it seem as though the same things keep happening? Destructive patterns such as dating the same kind of person, leaving friendships or jobs for the same reasons or having the same conflicts and internal struggles? Maybe you feel overwhelmed very easily.
Early on in our lives we develop ways to make decisions; how to deal with things. We learn ways to adapt based on experiences we have had throughout our childhood. As we get older and our lives get more complicated, sometimes our old habits for resolving problems keeps us stuck. You may feel you experienced a trauma or repeated trauma’s when you were younger, or you may not know if what you experienced was trauma.
Trauma is some sort of experience, event or repeated events that is in some way a threat to us emotionally or physically or both. It can even be something we’ve witnessed or been a part of in an indirect way. That is a very broad way of talking about trauma.
As psychotherapist David Grand says, “Anyone with an overactive nervous system has experienced trauma”.
Another word for trauma is a profound negative experience(s). In simpler terms, our negative experiences can be divided up into two categories – “big traumas” and “little traumas”.
Big traumas can look like abuse of any kind such as being physically abused as a child, witnessing or being in a domestic violence relationship. A big trauma could be being raped, molested or even the threat of being sexually abused. Big trauma can be being a victim of a tragic event such as a natural disaster. Recent events such as the hurricanes in Puerto Rico, Texas, Florida and the Caribbean Islands can certainly be traumatizing.
Big traumas can come from being in service for our career and our country such as witnessing, protecting and defending others through military combat, police, EMT and firefighter work.
Little traumas can be considered everyday, regular or common experiences that we as a society are used to having but they can still deeply affect our thoughts, bodily reactions, behaviors. These “little traumas” can be a divorce, a job loss, a change in schools, a move, feeling rejected, feeling humiliated, a surgery, being bullied, how someone talks to us – particularly in our youth, etc.
With trauma, we speak in generalities because trauma is considered to be subjective. For example, you and I could both have the experience of being in the car when it gets in a fender bender together. However, based on our individual past experiences and DNA, etc, you could brush yourself off and walk away from the situation feeling calm and in control and I might walk away feeling overwhelmed and out of sorts.
Our 5 senses – seeing, hearing, tasting, touching and smelling – can profoundly influence us by connecting our memories and taking us back to moments. If a memory is positive we tend to feel the happy, comforted and even nostaligic.
However if our brains have not developed a level of peace and acceptance with a particular event(s), we can feel re-traumatized. Even though trauma aka a profound negative experience, could have happened many years ago – even as an infant – triggering a memory can make it feel like it is about to happen again, it is happening or it just did happened.
In the last several years, neurologists have studied the brain through fMRI’s and we now have a better understanding of what happens to our brains when we’ve been traumatized. We’ve learned that trauma is actually stored in the brain; specifically in our brainstem- the base of our brain. This lower part of our brain has the job of protecting us from perceived threats and harm. You may be familiar with the fight, flight, freeze response. These responses are automatic decisions your brain makes without us thinking about it. In fact, panic attacks also come from this part of our brain, where trauma is stored. We may be relaxing at home with no perceived threat and a panic attack will begin, hijacking our brain out of its relaxed state. We may fall asleep but wake up to repeated nightmares.
Those symptoms stem from trauma; our brains response to negative experiences.
Change is possible! Neurologists have learned that the brain is made of neuroplasticity. Meaning, the brain has the ability to heal itself. Out of the over 200 quadrillion connections on the brain (I can’t even fathom that number!) many of these connections are the eyes to the brainstem. So, as David Grand says, “Where you look affects how you feel”.
Brain-based therapies such as Brainspotting can be enormously effective in calming ones nervous system and reducing if not eliminating the symptoms of trauma in a holistic way.
Think of the patterns in your life. If you see patterns that prevent you from achieving your goals or maintaining positive, stable relationships, it’s totally possible to change those habits. Sometimes it doesn’t take that long, a number of weeks or less, other times it can take longer. The bottom line is that change is possible. I invite you to contact me for a free consultation to get started on becoming a better version of yourself.