The original traumatic event in your life may be obvious, like military combat, a divorce, the death of a loved one, sexual abuse or a natural disaster. These are considered “Big T” traumas. But trauma often accumulates over time with chronic exposure to toxic environments, like living with domestic abuse, neglect, exclusion, racism or drug addiction. These residual traumas can be called “Little t” traumas and can be just as debilitating. Traumatic experiences are subjective and simply depend on when someone’s ability to cope with stress is overwhelmed. What might be just another day on the job for one person can be absolutely devastating to another. This can occur in any conceivable form of stress: physical, emotional, sexual, financial, cultural or environmental. In the end, trauma is whatever a traumatized person considers traumatic.
What results from trauma can also be difficult to decipher and understanding its implications in your daily life can open doors to healing, learning how to prevent further damaging situations, and thriving in your relationships. The effects may vary from feeling dehumanized, anxious, alienated, unsafe, unmotivated, depressed, ashamed or helpless. These feelings can also be experienced in a cyclical rotation, one leading into the next and the next and back again depending on the time frame and your situation. While some symptoms are more acute than others, the less obvious symptoms can be just as fundamental in perpetuating unhealthy behavior. This is often called Complex Trauma.
Traumatized people struggle with emotional stability and coping with life’s everyday conflicts and unexpected disappointments. This state of anxiety can be broken down into a series of psychological reactions of fight, flight, freeze or fawn which then affects your life decisions. Fight: overreacting to conflict violently or being overly judgmental and argumentative and/or dismissive. Flight: escaping from reality with drugs, sex, porn or other addictions or becoming antisocial and withdrawn. Freeze: becoming easily startled, jumpy, suffering from recurring nightmares or flashbacks and feeling disconnected to your body in a surreal way. Fawn: feigning friendship or love in order to avoid a fear of loneliness, or social conflict and awkwardness. All of these behaviors can lead you into the downward spiral of an unhappy life, repeating the same mistakes and renewing your traumatic response. With the help of Trauma Informed Therapy you can find the guidance and support to face your trauma, analyze it and truly understand what you are feeling and how to overcome it. Trauna
Reliving your traumatic experience inside your head can make you feel the same stress, anxiety, depression, anger, or shame that the original event had caused you. This is called being triggered. It can occur at any moment that you sense a strong stimulus associated with your trauma that jogs your memory. Smells, sounds, specific words, music, people, places, anything can set you off into a fear induced fight, flight, freeze, or fawn reaction. It is as if your past is recurring in the present moment and can be terribly frightening, disturbing and can lead to panic attacks.
It is natural for trauma survivors to avoid reliving the painful memories from their past. Fearing the triggers that are associated with their trauma, an obvious reaction is to avoid certain places, people, and activities that make them feel more vulnerable. For example, if you suffered from a bad accident skiing, a typical act of avoidance would be giving up on anything having to do with skiing, mountains and the people related to the sport. Although this may feel like it helps initially, over time it creates more problems from isolation and living with fear. Avoiding your friends and family, or giving up on activities that once brought you joy and inspiration can lead to conflicts both internal and external.
Escape behavior or numbing out goes one step further as a trauma survivor will act on any compulsion that gives them immediate, short-lived pleasure that can mask the trauma lurking beneath the surface of their consciousness. Compulsive behavior, be it substance abuse, sex addiction, masturbation, shopping sprees, workaholism, eating disorders, or binge watching TV, distract one enough to avoid dealing with emotional issues. Once the painful memories resurface the shallow pleasure is utilized again until a sense of numbness overcomes the real feelings. With trauma informed therapy you can identify the unconscious behaviors and triggers in your life and learn to deal with the conflicting emotions that are integral to your mental health.
Compulsive behaviors that are initially meant to help cope with trauma ultimately become detrimental to your life goals and relationships. With an unnatural emotional imbalance what was once pleasurable and a helpful release from stress spirals into addiction, abuse and bad decisions creating more problems on top of the mounting emotional stress.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy utilizes the physical phenomenon of bilateral eye movement to reduce psychological stress, toxic fixations and worrying related to past trauma. Developed by psychologist Francine Shapiro, EMDR Therapy is used to treat people suffering from trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) by revisiting the painful memories for short periods of time while combining left-right bilateral stimulation in the form of visual, audio and tactile prompts causing the patient to relax while facing their fears. By activating the right and left sides of the brain in this manner a trauma survivor can create a cognitive distance from the painful, high-intensity memories and emotions while processing them in a positive, relaxing way. EMDR therapy has been clinically proven to help with PTSD, anxiety disorders, panic attacks, phobias, dissociation, recurring nightmares, and other symptoms of negative coping mechanisms from past trauma. Clinical Psychologists, Marriage and Family Therapists and Clinical Social Workers have all found positive results in trauma survivors of all ages who afterwards feel more emotionally and psychologically present and stable.
Over the course of several sessions you will be taken through a series of steps. First you tell your story and identify your traumatic memory. It is important to trust your therapist and create a transparent and nonjudgmental bond in order to continue successfully. Your therapist will then have you focus on specific memories and prompt you to begin the bilateral eye movements. You will then be asked to clear your mind and observe what thoughts pop up first. These random thoughts from your subconscious will illustrate your mind’s healing. This process may be repeated and combined with controlled breathing exercises until the distress of the traumatic memories disappear.
EMDR and other Trauma Informed Counseling attempt to isolate your coping strategies that are no longer beneficial to your life and progress. It is necessary to break down your complex emotional history and treat each element in order to rebuild a healthier lifestyle with good habits. Untreated trauma remains in the mind’s subconscious affecting everyday moods and decisions and eventually leading to more problems and disappointments and an overall negative outlook. Our professional therapists are here to listen and learn what you are going through, without passing judgement. It is natural for coping strategies to expire in a growing identity. If the root element is not exposed the correct changes cannot be understood. If you are ready to share your experience and attempt to grow in a healthy direction, you are not alone.
In Relational and Developmental Therapy physical touch can be combined with psychotherapy to heal from past trauma. Consensual, safe contact in a trusted medical environment can recreate faith in human interaction, breaking down walls, integral to healthy relational development. NeuroAffective Touch is a Polyvagal-informed treatment created by Dr. Aline LaPierre effectively combining mind-body connections to help heal and grow.
Addiction and Intimacy disorders are so commonplace that according to Post Induction Therapy, these negative coping behaviors are caused by a childhood experience that is “anything less than nurturing.” Developed by Pia Mellody, this unique trauma therapy can help with toxic relationships and boundaries.
This Trauma Informed Therapy focuses on mind-body awareness, addressing past trauma as it is physically harbored and ultimately released from the body through yoga. Unlike other styles of yoga, Trauma Sensitive Yoga, created by Jenn Turner and David Emerson, leads to voluntarily opening the doors to hidden trauma and strengthening each survivor as a confident, healthy, independent and balanced individual.