It’s important to realise that the label ‘trauma’ cannot adequately convey the type, breadth, or depth of experience which leads to what we experience as ‘trauma’.
Some conventional thinking holds that trauma is, strictly speaking, the psychological consequence of being the victim of an extreme event like a violent attack, rape, war, natural disaster, or a terrible accident. This thinking focuses on the event, rather than on the consequence for one’s moods, emotions, reactions, and coping abilities – and in so doing it underestimates the impact of ‘lesser’ events.
The impact on YOU is, for me, the most important factor. As an analogy, you can drown in water three inches deep – it need not be an ocean.
Thus, I focus on the symptoms of severe stress and trauma, emphasising the psychological effects of the event/s, rather than the specific event itself.
According to the Trauma Centre of Australia, trauma is defined as:
“a psychological wound that has occurred due to a person’s perception of a stressful event…Psychological trauma can arise from many events including accidents, workplace injury, death, robbery, harassment, and emotionally intrusive thoughts. Emotions including, shock, confusion, numbness, depression, anxiety disorders and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), are often associated with a traumatic experience.”
Some indications that you have experienced a stressful event with a traumatic effect on your nervous system include-
- emotional numbness
- sudden and upsetting re-triggering of memories, images, sensations which cause your body to go into a highly stressed state (such as shock, immobility, extreme emotionality)
- sexual dysfunctions, including numbness, PE, ED, and a lack of interest in intimacy
- difficulty establishing or maintaining healthy relationships
- feeling that you are stuck and in particular, unable to change ingrained habits or ways of being in order to ‘move forward’
- lack of trust in yourself and those close to you (or even more broadly a lack of trust in life)
- chronic fatigue and/or inexplicable and undiagnosable physical pains/symptoms, especially auto-immune diseases
Some events which have, in my experiences, led to a ‘traumatic’ nervous system response such as those mentioned above-
- verbal/emotional abuse during childhood (you were bullied by a parent)
- physical/sexual abuse
- relationship breakdown (especially if the relationship was abusive)
- accidents/natural disasters/working in the armed forces or police
Some examples of highly stressful events and their consequences which I see quite often-
- Death of a parent in childhood contributing to adult sexual dysfunction, chronic fatigue and/or depression;
- Emotional abuse by a parent (constantly being insulted, bullied, told off), leading to chronic fatigue and depression;
- Lack of physical affection or words of affection by parents in childhood leading to PTSD, and delayed sexual intimacy/relationships (or lack thereof);
- Relationship breakdown filled with acrimony leading to depression, anxiety, and difficulty coping in life;
- Being a victim of a violent attack (including rape), leading to PTSD, anxiety, difficulty with intimate relationships.
Sometimes I see clients who have themselves not experienced a clear instance of trauma, but who have the symptoms of traumatic events. In many cases, I have found that there is trauma in the family which is unspoken or else otherwise not properly treated in the person who experienced it, and sometimes this leads to another family member experiencing the symptoms and consequences in their nervous system.
YES, this is not uncommon!
I have seen this in adults whose parents were sexually assaulted or abused, even when the adults had no idea of the attack/abuse of their parents before our work together. I have also seen this in adults who have a parent who is suffering or has suffered from addiction, depression, or chronic illness.
How exactly this happens is a separate article – it relates to the neurological phenomenon of mirror neurons, energetic patterns, family dynamics and roles, and much, much else.
Whatever the case, the body holds trauma, and can be cleared of it whether it is yours or someone elses!
Book in a session with me or consider the Empowerment Program, a package program to get you on track (4 1.5 hour sessions and a two-day workshop to train you in multiple skills for mindfulness, empowerment, goal-setting, healing, and more).
Addiction and Chronic Depression
If you suffer from a substance addiction, chronic depression or suicidal thoughts, it is best to seek psychiatric treatment (and especially a residential program) before coming to see me. The reason is that before you are able to work deeply with your emotions, thought processes, and life plans, you need to have weaned yourself off substances, destructive negative thoughts, and suicidal ideation. That is always the first step.
Once you have cleared your body and mind enough to function without crisis, and have started the journey of owning your deepest wounding, it’s the perfect time to further your ability to self-regulate by working with me or even better, consider doing the Empowerment Program with me.