Trauma is what happens inside of you as a result of
what was done to you or by the absence of loving and safe caregivers.
Trauma has a physiological presence
Trauma creates a physiological response in our nervous system. The release of hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, cause us to respond to trauma in one of four ways, fight, flight,freeze or appease. Current-day events or situations that trigger a sensory memory of that trauma will evoke a similar response. So while the threat that we experienced in the past may no longer be present, our body still feels the danger and our nervous system continues to be engaged.
“A broader definition of trauma is
anything that changes you in a way that makes
your future responses to the world more limited.”
~ Gabor Mate
When something happens, such as our partner forgetting something important, we’re likely to react immediately without taking any time to think about it. Our nervous system is already primed for a fight-flight-freeze-appease response. People who get really upset, really easily, or who shut down really easily are likely challenged with unresolved trauma trapped in their nervous system.
Unresolved trauma causes us to be reactive instead of responsive.
Trauma through generations
When parents are not equipped or not available, or otherwise overworked, overstressed and dealing with their own challenges, they can inadvertently create an environment where children are not getting the kind of nurturing that they require.
The childhood brain grows in relation to the expected experience of being connected and feeling loved (safe, seen and soothed) by their parents. Without it, there is a trauma to the brain and the heart and soul of the child, a painful experience where the child will actually start to adapt and create coping strategies. This can set in place a precursor to addictive behaviors in adolescents and adults.
Often parents themselves suffered a trauma in their own childhood, and the inter-generational trauma carries forward. And in some cases, trauma that hasn’t been dealt with and healed can actually impact the genes in the next generations. This is called epigenetics and can affect how people’s genes are expressed. Which means that the traumatic experiences of grandparents, and their responses to trauma, can impact their children and grandchildren genetically, as well as behaviourly.
It’s important to be aware of and understand the traumas of the generations before us; not to blame anyone, but rather to help us to heal, and to choose different responses for ourselves in our present and future situations.
“Pain travels through families until someone is ready to feel it.”
~ Stephi Wagner
How counselling helps
The goal of all therapy is to support a client in a gentle, loving, compassionate way, and in trauma counselling, to support a client in moving forward and through their trauma experience.
Facing traumatic memories successfully, without being re-traumatized, requires a safe environment and the skilled guidance of a trained counsellor. Stephen Porges (developer of Polyvagal Theory) states that “safety isn’t just the absence of a threat. Real security comes from a connection in which one is held emotionally and compassionately.”
“Trauma creates change you don’t choose.
Healing creates change you do choose.”
— Michele Rosenthal