Trauma: Trained for Triumph or Terror?

Updated: Nov 14, 2020


Photo by Luis Galvez on Unsplash

In the wake of our recent election, this topic could not be more appropriate. The American Psychological Association (APA) released a statement speaking to the Trauma that our Nation has experienced.

As a provider, I have seen this play out in various forms:

  • Sleep disruption

  • Hypervigilance when going in public

  • A rush of emotions aka triggered after seeing a red hat associating it with the MAGA hat.

  • Difficulty concentrating and completing tasks. This can be impactful when it comes to school and work and economically too if one loses their job as a result of performance problems.

  • Fear of white people- yes.

  • Increased fear over loved ones and implementing safety check-in systems.

  • Increased rates of Anxiety particularly during the week of election results.


These experiences are fairly relatable at this time however, other trauma responses can be very much alive and showing UP in one's life without even knowing it.



Trauma Responses

The Brain

· Brainstem- The oldest part of the brain that's responsible for taking in information, responsible for rest and digest. If one is impacted by Trauma, the ability to feel at ease and enter into a rest and digest state is impacted.

· Amygdala-Responsible for detecting threat

· Hippocampus- Processing and storing of memories

· Pre-frontal cortex-Creates meaning and reasoning

For a Visual and further description, check out the video by Dr. Dan Siegel.

Physiological


1)Freeze

You ever see those scary movies and find yourself yelling at a character “RUNNNNNN!!!!” even finding yourself frustrated asking why in the world didn’t they win? The answer-they froze and were immobilized by fear/threat. And as we’ve seen in movies, that response doesn’t fair so positive. Physical manifestations when experiencing distressed as noted on the Trauma Recovery Website may include:

· Feeling stuck in some part of the body

· Feeling cold, numb, pale skin

· Sense of stiffness, heaviness

· Holding/restricted breathing

· Sense of dread, heart-pounding

· Decreased heart rate (can

sometimes increase)

· Orientation to threat

2)Flight

We will keep using this example of scary movies. Let’s say the movie Scream! Thinking about our main protagonist, Sidney there were times that she cried, but homegirl ran! Physical manifestations when experiencing distressed as noted on the Trauma Recovery Website may include:

· Restless legs, feet /numbness in the

legs

· Anxiety/shallow breathing

· Big/darting eyes

· Leg/foot movement

· Reported or observed fidgety-ness,

restlessness, feeling trapped, tense

· Sense of running in life- one activity

next

· Excessive exercise

3)Fight

If you followed this movie or other movies say one of my all-time favorites Die Hard. Bruce Willis never hid, throughout the movie, he was strategizing, but he was always fighting. He was always moving. The key here is to MOVE. This response is the opposite of immobilization. Studies show and like the acclaimed Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma book states, the key to moving past trauma is to move. Physical manifestations when experiencing distressed as noted on the Trauma Recovery Website may include:

· Crying

· Hands in fists, desire to punch, rip

· Flexed/tight jaw, grinding teeth,

snarl

· Fight in eyes, glaring, fight in voice

· Desire to stomp, kick, smash with

legs, feet

· Feelings of anger/rage

· Homicidal/suicidal feelings

· Knotted stomach/nausea, burning

stomach

· Metaphors like bombs, volcanoes

erupting

Pathway to Healing


I want to stress that being a SURVIVOR of trauma is not a death sentence. You view the world and distressing experiences from a mental filter. Retraining and repairing the brain is possible.

1. HONOR YOUR PROCESS

There are phases and stages to all this.

2. KNOW YOURSELF

Understand your triggers. The more you know what they are, and how they show up, then you can address the how-how to respond to them differently.


Understand your trigger responses. “Create a container” aka AMP UP on some self-soothing skills as you move towards healing. Before going on the deep end of re-visiting closed doors, stabilization is necessary. Going back to the brain, if you are actively triggered and flooded with emotions, the part of the brain that’s responsible for creating meaning (pre-frontal cortex) is offline.


3. SEEK SUPPORT- You DON’T have to do this alone.