What Is Trauma?
Trauma is something that happens to us that overwhelms our entire system. It could be a single, life-threatening event, or it could be an on-going stress such as growing up in a tense household, getting bullied in high-school, or experiencing prolonged financial stress or relationship problems. The reason it comes in so many shapes and sizes is because we’re all so uniquely different. A stressful event to one person could be just that – a stressful event. For people who are less resilient (say, because of a less than perfect childhood) that stressful event can be traumatizing.
Did you grow up in a stressful household? Maybe you had an alcoholic or neglectful parent? Or your mom had postpartum depression? Developmental trauma includes any stressors that happen in the first few years of an infant’s or child’s life that directly impacts their brain and nervous system development. Essentially, because the child wasn’t given the right tools to properly handle stress (how could they when Mom and Dad didn’t have the right tools either?), their wiring becomes somewhat “faulty” and ends up affecting their ability to take care of themselves later in life. A lot of my clients who experienced this kind of trauma say they spent the majority of their lives feeling our of touch with themselves and their emotions. Many of them have spent decades numbing themselves through drugs and alcohol in an attempt to escape the nagging feeling of distress inside of them.
Shock trauma occurs in single events such as car accidents, natural disasters, injuries, abuse, and hospitalizations, to name a few. These extremely high-stress situations prompt HUGE amounts of survival energy to enter your system – usually in the form of a fight, flight or freeze response. Depending on the situation, your body is preparing to do one of three things: run like hell, fight like a maniac, or freeze so as not to feel the pain of death. Some people are able to process this massive amount of survival energy and stay regulated, but most people can’t. Instead, the survival energy stays in their system and they stay stuck in survival mode. If you’ve ever experienced shock trauma it’s likely it was compounded by pre-existing developmental trauma, because if we have developmental trauma we already have faulty coping strategies.
Is This You?