First of all we have got to clear up what we mean by trauma as the word itself is heavily loaded. Trauma means anything that leaves an emotional residue in the system and interferes with its normal function. Thus our definition of trauma is taken into a wider context putting it on par with what we call conditioning. A highly pleasant sensation can also leave an emotional residue in the system due to a developed attachment. This in turn can set up a negative pattern of craving, interfering with the organism’s normal functioning. The variety and facets of trauma are stupendous. However we can categorize them roughly into 3 segments:
- developmental trauma,
- incidental or physical trauma
- psychological trauma
Trauma plays itself out always on all levels: mentally, emotionally and physically. Which ever way it enters the system all aspects of the human being are involved. The mechanism of trauma however is similar in all cases.
- An impact, which can be physical or psychological, incidental or developmental, is not fully met and leaves a residue in the psyche and nervous system.
- There is a rationalization of the event leading to a protective mechanism called dissociation.
- Replaying or re-enacting the event, trying to solve, understand or overcome the impact of the event, feelings of guilt, blame and self-reproach are all inherent to the dissociation process and keeps the trauma in place.
- The nervous system is either hyperactive or hypo-active – often leading to detrimental effects on normal daily functioning and manifesting in a variety of pain symptoms, syndromes and in severe cases with amnesia of the initial event. Peter Levine puts it like this: “It is as if our instinctive survival energies are all dressed up with no place to go”.
To unfold and resolve trauma one has to look at and revert the dissociative processes. What is most actual for someone who is traumatized is the interpretation of the event colored by feelings of guilt, blame and self-reproach. Letting the story unfold while emphasizing the focus on the emotions and body sensations allows the person to reclaim responsibility for one’s well-being and releases emotional residue stored in the nervous system. Having passed the barrier of being stuck in the story of guilt, blame, judgment and self-reproach – energy is freed up in the nervous system and emotions can be seen for what they are. This leaves the person in a neutral space after release. Patterns that were put in place as a results of trauma can now be used as constructive strengths. Using body sensation to understand trauma is a short term approach to resolving trauma.
Some causes that can leave their mark on the nervous system and can be positively treated with SER and SE therapy:
- Prolonged periods of stress.
- Developmental: self-worth and self-image.
- Developmental: neglect, abandonment, loss and ongoing abuse.
- Medical: hospitalizations, surgeries, invasive medical procedures, anesthesia, burns, poisoning.
- Fetal distress and traumatic birth.
- Accidents: falls, high impact accidents (including auto accidents), head injury, electrocution.
- Suffocation: drowning, strangulation.
- Attack: rape, war, bombings, physical abuse, mugging, molestation, physical injury, stabbing, gunshot wounds, animal attacks.
- Natural and man-made disasters: earthquakes, fires, tornadoes, floods, terrorism, dislocation from the natural world and community.
- Horror: Seeing an accident (especially with blood, gore and dismemberment), watching someone else being abused, raped, killed or tortured, killing or hurting someone.
- Torture, repeated rape and systematic abuse
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