The Cost of Trauma
posted: Oct. 04, 2019.
Our bodies are prepared to deal with trauma. We have a built in system to protect us from the horror that we experienced until our bodies are ready to help us heal. People go numb or get lost in anxiety and terror, they create a denial system and separate the sensory information gathered during the time of the event storing this information in various areas of the brain and the body. Later this information can be gathered to assimilate in a more meaningful way what has just occurred. If not it is forever imbedded in the neurological response center as a trigger with high arousal or numbing response to life experiences.
When a bird hits my window and falls to the ground in a daze that is what is taking place for the bird as well. Now if I run out, cradle the bird in my hand, swaddle him in a soft cloth and place her or him in a shoebox, the bird will never get around to processing that trauma and will probably die. If I let the bird rest, “gather its wits about her or him” letting the bird process its trauma the bird eventually flies away – the past trauma becomes but a factual bird memory.
In today’s society, once a trauma occurs, like a car accident, the person is surrounded with a team of “helpers” that provide distractions, medications and “it’s going to be OK” comments. All well meaning but detrimental to the healing process the body has set in motion. When a soldier is involved in battle trauma the steps immediately following the trauma are filled with survival strategies, offensive and defensive. No time to process what has just occurred. She or he continues that survival mode over and over, re-traumatization after re-traumatization. First responders, ER medical teams, nurses and mental health therapists are immersed in trauma and secondary trauma day after day after day with no time to decompress or process what is happening.
Childhood trauma is much the same only in these situations there are rarely words to process what has just occurred. What has happened is so far out of the child’s context of experiences that it all feels foreign to them and no meaning can be made to even form an initial construction about what has occurred. Nothing that makes sense – only the fear and confusion remain – and remain – and remain. Hopefully some day they enter therapy and can “reconstruct” what occurred and form some meaning around it.
I have worked with client trauma in therapy most of my career as a therapist. Initially the process was just to help the person go over it and over it enough to form a meaning around what had occurred that was more helpful. We would focus on the trauma not being their fault; they didn’t ask for it; and the stages of grooming process - which pedophiles often use. However, the neurological pathways seemed to always remain imbedded in their fear response network. The triggers would not totally go away.
Then I discovered EMDR (Eye Motion Desensitization and Reprograming). While extremely skeptical at first I soon discovered this treatment was “mind transforming” and brought about actual change and healing for the person. For the first time I felt I had something to offer rather than going over and over what had happened. Education does not by itself cause transformation. EMDR transforms trauma into a factual event that remains awful but without the visceral response that get’s triggered without warning often at a subconscious level. Not only is the event “Desensitized”, the treatment then “Reprograms” the negative message about “self” and programs into that event a positive message about one’s “self”. My client’s lives started to rapidly change. They would return a week later with a newly charted course for their lives, specific difficulties dealt with head on, and family members confronted. Then quite suddenly I’d get the message, “Well I just don’t think I have the same need for therapy that I once did. Thank you but I’m done.” And off they would go freely developing their life without the burden of their trauma.
If you have significant trauma in the wake of your life, I encourage you to find an EMDR trained and EMDR experienced therapist to walk you through this difficult part of your life so your response to these events will no longer direct your life.
I am a fully trained EMDR therapist with over 10 years of experience helping people deal with their trauma in a productive way that is life changing. I encourage you to call me for an appointment or reach out to another therapist with extensive EMDR training and experience. You will never regret taking this important step in your life.