In PTSD a traumatic event is not remembered and relegated to one’s past in the same way as other life events. Trauma continues to intrude with visual, auditory, and/or other somatic reality on the lives of its victims. Again and again they relieve the life-threatening experiences they suffered, reacting in mind and body as though such events were still occurring. PTSD is a complex psychobiological condition.
~Babette Rothschild, The Body Remembers: The Psychophysiology of Trauma and Trauma Treatment
It is true that our minds and bodies are connected. What our body experiences impacts our emotional and psychological states. Consider how when you have a cold or the flu you also feel crabby or irritable. Or how when you physically feel good generally your mood is also good.
The unprocessed traumas that live within our bodies also impact our moods and ways of being and connecting with our world, including the people in it. Some of the ways trauma appears via our emotions and mental state are:
• Unexplained or “illogical” fear
• Anxiety, including “panic attacks”
• Hyper-vigilance (also related to fear and anxiety)
• Extreme (for you) irritability
• Emotional dysregulation (mood swings; cannot soothe self easily; once triggered into anger or sadness or fear cannot easily come out of it)
• Disassociated from the present (stuck in past and or future thinking)
• Inability to concentrate and stay focused on one thing for an extended period of time
• Self-isolation (withdrawing from or not connecting to others)
• Feelings of shame and self-blame and claiming responsibility for things that are out of your control
• Inability to trust others, even those you are in intimate relationships with
• Struggle expressing your feelings in a calm or non-agitated way; often “lash out” at others when feeling hurt
• Anger tends to be the “go to” response to emotional pain including sadness and grief
• Hyper emotional defensiveness
Our pasts impact our present and future, this is true. Our experiences impact the ways we interact with our world. And while it is true that our traumatic experiences were out of our control, it is also true that we have a choice as to how much we allow those experiences to determine our path.
Often when we have experienced a trauma our sense of choice is altered. Because the experience was out of out control, and not our choice, our brain shifts into thinking-both un/subconsciously and consciously-that we have no control over the impact of the traumatic events. The event actually impacts our neuropaths and our ways of thinking and the more we think we are stuck and don’t have choice, the deeper those paths become and the more ingrained those thoughts are.
I often think of entering into trauma processing or “healing” in relation to the Physical Law of Inertia :: A body in motion will remain in motion unless acted upon by an outside force.
In addiction circles this “outside force” is called “hitting rock bottom” – something so awful happens to us that it is a wake up call to seek help and change.
I believe trauma works in the same way. We will be willing to live with the impact of trauma, physical, emotional, psychological, until something happens that “forces” us to move towards processing and shifting. This could be something huge or small, some action we take or path we start down that is so very much not who we are that we are left looking at ourselves and making a decision to change.
Unfortunately, many people do not understand that it is unprocessed trauma that is driving them through their unconscious. Perhaps a person’s mind has blocked the memory of a traumatic event so they don’t even know it happened, or perhaps a person doesn’t understand the wide impact trauma has on the mind and body. Because of this many people are left scrambling for help – going to medical professionals seeking relief from physical impacts and or to mental health professionals seeking relief for their depression or anxiety and not seeing the connection between the two.
Again, this is why it is vital we seek professionals who are trauma informed. It is also why we ourselves need to better understand the far reaching impacts of trauma.
The more we are willing and able to learn about our Self, the more we are willing to bring our unconscious into consciousness, the more we are willing to face our fears of the discomfort and change that comes from processing our trauma, the more we will be able to reconnect to our Self and our world, in meaningful, loving, and compassionate ways.
I talk more about all of this in the 10 minute video below:
Additionally the main focus of my individual work is trauma and utilizing trauma informed embodiment with my clients. If you are looking for an individual therapist, you can learn more about me and my individual therapy work here.
And finally, I facilitate a free online group on Facebook where we explore trauma, grief, embodiment,and their intersections. It is called Trauma Informed Embodiment and you can join us right here.
If you missed the other essays and videos in this series their links are below ::
The Psychological & Emotional Impacts (this essay)