When most of us hear about trauma, we imagine war, brutal accidents, sexual abuse, parents disciple that involves bruises and beating. That’s the typical images of trauma that media has ingrained in our minds. Most of us, however, haven’t experience many of these situations and yet we find ourselves ruminating on past experiences that were hurtful or feeling nervous over things like asking a friend out on a date and worrying about being rejected. Most of us might have memories of bullies that gave you a hard time in middle school, memories of not getting along with your sibling, maybe a memory of being threatened with a severe punishment that never happened or maybe even being home alone and feeling scared even though you were a teenager.
So what are all those experiences? How does the brain interpret those experiences? It may be hard to believer, however, depending on your personal experience of each event, many of these “little” experiences could also be just as traumatic to the brain. If our brain and bodies needs for basic things like safety, trust, and love are not met or are disrupted than we can experience trauma in everyday life.
Here are three things no one tells you about trauma:
Just because you don’t have night mares any more doesn’t mean it’s resolved. Although many people who have experienced trauma such as childhood sexual abuse or physical abuse may experience vivid dreams or night mares, many other people do not have such dreams. Other ways that people may experience distress is not wanting to sleep, having a hard time to sleep, many may go into deep sleep and not have any dreams. People who experience trauma may suppress some of their negative memories and may not even remember these experiences.
Having a mean friend or emotionally abusive family member can be just as traumatic as physical abuse. Many times people who have experienced physical abuse will say, the physical pain was not as bad as the emotional pain. The pain that comes from the emotional betray of a loved one can be more devastating to someone than the physical abuse they may have experienced. This is not to say physical abuse is OK, it is to say if someone has experienced emotional neglect at any point in their life, this is also an experience of trauma to the brain and our bodies.
There are many ways to heal trauma without you relieving the pain. Most people think that if they don’t address their past pains and hurts, it will no longer hurt. This is far from the truth. Our brains and bodies remember everything. Unless we take some action to help our bodies “detox” from the trauma, those memories are there having a negative impact on your experiences today. So just like there are many methods of removing toxins from our bodies, so we have several types of therapist to help the body and brain process the traumatic experience such that the pain is no longer there and the trauma is not having a subconscious effect on your life.
As a healer of past pains, I personally love to use EMDR (eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing) as a method of treatment for my clients. EMDR is an evidence based protocol that has been tested with a range of traumatic experiences and has been proven to be an effective method. In this method a person doesn’t have to relive ever little detail or their trauma or event talk about their trauma in great length. This method uses a few memories and something called bilateral stimulation to access the healing power of the brain and allow the negative memories to become integrated. Other methods that have been used include mindfulness based approaches such as Somatic Experiencing.
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