Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Incomplete action

Trauma can occur when a response/action that you wanted/needed to make could not be completed. Usually because your flight and fight (or fawn/friendly) responses were thwarted by overwhelm, either physical or psychological, and you froze. The degree to which we freeze is proportional to how threatened we feel.

Overwhelm can often feel potentially annihilating, especially depending on our stage of development, and therefore will be avoided at all costs by whatever means possible. This avoidance, or dissociation, continues until we have the resources and support to digest the original experience(s) and how we responded to them.  

So we have two things to digest, the original traumatic experience(s) and how we responded, for which we often have a lot of self blame such as: I was weak, I’m bad, unlovable, I should have put up a fight, I should have said something, I just stood there, I’m ashamed and so on. In fact, these appraisals, can both predispose us to developing trauma and make it more difficult to recover from it. This is why developing a sense of understanding and compassion for ourselves and why we responded the way we did, is vital.

Trauma can occur as single experiences, and it can also be repeated over and over again. If trauma, particularly repeated trauma, happens at an early developmental stage, its effects can be devastating and can be particularly difficult to recover from, though certainly not impossible.

I think a major theme that is not often discussed in trauma is injustice. It’s unfair and unjust that children are robbed of a happy and safe childhood, that there is genocide, wars, that people go hungry and without clean water; there is so much injustice and unfairness in this world that it can be really hard to come to terms with and completely digest. 

Maybe the biggest sense of injustice when we’ve been traumatised is soul loss or susto; the loss of an essential part of yourself, or maybe not even having a sense of who you are to begin with. One of the biggest journeys we undertake when recovering from trauma is to embark on the journey back to our self, or to finding that self that we feel we’ve never known beyond the hurt. That journey is so worthwhile.

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