“Trauma is personal. It does not disappear if it is not validated. When it is ignored or invalidated, the silent screams continue internally heard only by the one held captive. When someone enters the pain and hears the screams, healing can begin.”
~Danielle Bernock, Emerging With Wings: A True Story of Lies, Pain, And The LOVE that Heals
I’ve experienced painful words and I’m sure you have too. Some words can be forgotten, but others stick with us for months, years, and even decades. Those words, images, and events which stick with us and make us uncomfortable, sad, angry, or overwhelmed are different forms of trauma.
What is trauma?
Trauma is the emotional and physiological response to an event or series of events that overwhelm the person’s ability to cope. Events that can cause trauma include accidents, abuse, neglect, violence, loss of a loved one, natural disasters, wars, or other events where you might feel you will be harmed or might die.
Types of trauma
Trauma can occur as a single event or as a prolonged or repeated series of events. For example, a car accident is an example of a single event which can cause trauma. A person fighting in a war lasting months or years, where violence is witnessed or violence is personally experienced, is an example of a prolonged or repeated series of events.
Trauma is subjective
People experience events from their own perspective so what may be traumatic for one person may not be traumatic for another person. Each person will react differently to the same event.
Response in the moment
People have different responses as the event is unfolding: fight, flight, freeze, fawn, or faint. Fight and flight were first described in the 1920s and represented survival responses to either stay and fight the danger or to run from the danger to safety. Freezing occurs when a person is confronted with a danger and they are unable to move because they are paralyzed with fear. Fawn indicates fight or flight did not work so the person complies or submits to the danger. Fawning often shows up as people pleasing. Fainting means the person may collapse or lose consciousness.
Stuck in a trauma response
No matter what the response, after the danger is over, the body tries to return to a sense of control. Many people are able to return to feeling normal within 30 minutes to an hour. Other people may get stuck in a trauma response resulting in the trauma affecting a person’s ability to function in daily life. After a person experiences or witnesses an event, they may have a variety of symptoms including: flashbacks to the event, panic attacks, anxiety, nightmares, hypervigilance, and depression.
Tools to help cope and resolve trauma
People respond positively to a wide variety of mechanisms to release stress from a trauma which is held in the body. These are not one time fixes but practices to help the body release the stress over time. The tools include: yoga, meditation, tai chi, deep breathing, visualization, prayer, and the emotional freedom technique (EFT). Social support is also very important.
Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)
EFT is a simple technique which uses the fingertips to tap on specific acupuncture points on the body, while deep breathing and making verbal statements, I have been using EFT with clients since 2009. EFT helps clients reduce distressing symptoms, resolve core traumatic beliefs, and enhance emotional resilience. EFT is used in sessions and clients are encouraged to use EFT on their own outside of sessions.