What is trauma?
We often think about trauma as specific event(s) that happen to us, but what makes an event traumatic is our body's overwhelmed response that creates an imbalance in the nervous system. This overwhelmed response in the body can arise from a life threatening stressor OR be the result of ongoing accumulative stress. Both types of stress can be caused by emotional abuse, sexual or physical assault, neglect, adverse childhood experiences (ACE), addiction, loss, birth trauma, medical procedures, natural disaster, and compounding symptoms of ongoing fear and conflict. All having detrimental impacts on our nervous system and livelihood.
(Levine, Van Der Kolk)
How does trauma impact the nervous system?
When we experience trauma or stress, our nervous system's window of tolerance gets smaller. Inside our window of tolerance we are able to respond to whatever comes our way without getting thrown off course. Here we are able to remain calm, grounded and curious. When our window of tolerance decreases and the nervous system is overwhelmed with unresolved trauma or stress it can leave us trapped and oscillating between hyper or hypo arousal states. This can present in a wide range of symptoms and if left untreated can result in serious conditions such as depression, anxiety, ADHD, addiction, chronic pain, digestive issues, suicide ideation, self harm, risk seeking behaviors, and intimacy issues.
( Levine, Ogden, Siegel )
" I was under the misguided impression I could think my way out of anxiety and PTSD. The most powerful thing I've learned is that it's my BODY, not my MIND, that needs regulation. The mind follows the body when I am doing healing work, and it really quiets my shame's ability to grab a hold of me."
- female client age 28
Citations & Resources
Levine, P. A. (1997). Waking the tiger: Healing trauma : the innate capacity to transform overwhelming experiences.
Berkeley, Calif: North Atlantic Books.
Ogden, P., Minton, K., & Pain, C. (2006). Norton series on interpersonal neurobiology.Trauma and the body: A sensorimotor
approach to psychotherapy. W. W. Norton & Company.
Siegel, D. J. (1999). The developing mind: Toward a neurobiology of interpersonal experience. New York: Guilford Press.
Van der Kolk, B. A. (2014). The body keeps the score: Brain, mind, and body in the healing of trauma. New York: Viking.
Additional Suggested Readings
Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown
What Happened to You by Bruce Perry and Oprah Winfrey
Transofrming Stress: The HeartMath solution for relieving worry, fatigue, and tension by Deborah Rozman and Lew Childre
Trauma Sensitive Yoga in Therapy: Bringing the body into treatment by David Emerson