Our body and brain are programmed to react to traumatic experiences in specific ways.
Fight, flight, or collapse. We shield ourselves from danger by adapting and creating anticipatory survival patterns in our behaviours, senses, emotions, and cognition (Fisher, 2021). These survival strategies were created with the intention of keeping us safe; however, these strategies rob us of joy, negatively impact our physical and emotional well-being, and interfere with our capacity to trust, love, and connect with others. We become hyper-vigilant, guarded, and triggered by the slightest incident that (consciously or unconsciously) reminds us of the original trauma. As a result, Van der Kolk (2015) indicated we:
- Repress our feelings
- Deny, ignore, reject, and minimise what happened to us
- Suppress our rage and despair by numbing our physical sensations
- Become aggressive and easily irritated
- Experience somatic symptoms (headaches, migraines, anxiety)
- Disconnect from others
With this said, it does not mean that we will forever be plagued with the debilitating effects of trauma. We possess the ability to heal and I embrace the belief that “trauma does not have to be a life sentence”( Levine, 2008).
We have to remember that a one size fits all therapy does not exist. Everyone is unique and it is important that we find a therapist and therapeutic approach that feels safe to us. What is fundamental, however, is feeling and believing that when we are ready to tell our truth, our pain and suffering will be compassionately welcomed, accepted, heard, and understood. From that point, we may welcome the idea of revisiting the parts of ourselves that had to develop these defensive habits and carry these burdens for our survival (Van der Kolk, 2015).
- Fisher, J. (2021). Transforming the living legacy of trauma: a workbook for survivors and therapists. PESI Publishing & Media.
- Levine, Peter A. (2005). Healing trauma: a pioneering program for restoring the wisdom of your body. Boulder, CO :Sounds True.
- Van Der Kolk, B. A. (2015). The body keeps the score: brain, mind and body in the healing of trauma. New York: Penguin Books.