TRTP – What is trauma?
Trauma can result from a major traumatic or life threatening event – or from prolonged stressful times, which have often occurred in our childhoods, or later in life. We store trauma in our unconscious and our body.
If a ‘normal’ person experiences a life threatening or stressful event they release stress hormones – and experience the Fight/Flight or Freeze mode. But after the event they can self-regulate and return to calm.
If a ‘traumatised’ or stressed person experiences those events, they can get stuck in the Fight/Flight or Freeze mode. Here is why:
When there is a traumatic or stressful event, the body produces stress hormones like adrenaline etc. Adrenaline causes your heart rate to increase and diverts most of the circulation away from your major organs to your larger muscle groups in our arms and legs. This allows us to fight, flee or freeze.
Adrenaline causes our Amygdala to fire up (the part of the brain responsible for the response and memory of emotions, especially fear). It shuts down our frontal lobe function, which blocks off our logical thought processes. We act on ‘instinct’ and the ‘older’ part of our brain takes over.
During a traumatic event or period of extreme stress the Hippocampus (the part of brain responsible for processing long term memory and emotional responses) gets overloaded with stress hormones. It has difficulty taking that event or period of stress into the past, into last week, last month or last year. Therefore, if we are triggered by an event – as far as the body and the unconscious are concerned – it is happening now: -“He is coming for me now, the fire is coming now”, and so on.
So the Hippocampus can’t make the event a memory, it is as if there is a 24 hour , 7-day a week movie running in the unconscious and in the body telling us – ‘it is happening now’.
Consciously the person knows that the event is long past, but the body continues to respond as if it is happening now. So we get stuck in Fight /Flight/ Freeze mode.
In our everyday life we experience this in difficulties as sleeplessness, nightmares, racing heart – and every little thing can trigger the Fight/Flight/Freeze response: “it is happening now!”
There are feelings of depression, anxiety, stress, exhaustion and ‘my brain doesn’t work, I can’t think’. There are also gut and other body problems, heightened startled reflex, jumping at shadows … and there can be unbridled rage!
This is called PTSD – post traumatic stress disorder. The Fight/Flight/Freeze button remains switched on. But not everybody needs to experience PTSD to be impacted by Trauma.
Anxiety, panic attacks, self-sabotaging, addiction, OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), or shutting down as in depression are all symptoms of trauma or stressful periods.