In our current cultural dialogue, the word “trauma” has been diluted to mean something very different from its original meaning. Discussions about triggers, safe spaces, and who is responsible for managing them has made it difficult for people to understand what trauma really means. But the reality for many people is that they have indeed survived significant traumatic events, and those events affect their daily lives.
- Sexual traumas, such as abuse, assault, harassment , rape or coercion
- Physical traumas, such as abuse or assault
- Relationship violence, including physical, emotional or sexual abuse
- Incident traumas, such as car accidents or witnessing violence
- Developmental traumas, such as child abuse or incest
- Health or medical trauma
- Other events that have a severe, adverse impact on health and growth as a human being
Trauma memories are encoded in the brain differently than other kinds of memories. They are linked to a whole host of emotional, cognitive, physiological symptoms and responses that actually make sense. The thing about trauma we often forget is that our bodies and brains are learning systems. If you touch fire, your skin burns, your nerves scream “Ouch!”, your brain says, “Watch out!” and you learn not to touch fire again. Traumatic events work the same way. Your body and brain learn some event, place, person or thing is really, really dangerous. They keep reminding you over and over, often in really difficult ways, not to go near that thing again. Intrusive thoughts, fears, memories, flashbacks, nightmares…they all make sense if we think about trauma as a “teaching moment” from our bodies and brains trying to keep us safe.
Unfortunately those strategies can degrade over time, become exhausting, get applied to things that aren’t actually dangerous, and generally make the lives of people who are trauma survivors difficult and painful. The key to addressing trauma in therapy is getting your mind engaged, making sense of what your body and brain are telling you, and figuring out how to navigate that road. Therapy can serve as a GPS for the journey: guiding, helping, suggesting, and providing support when you start to get lost.
If reading about trauma here resonates for you, click back to the contact page and let’s get started down the road to recovery.