Trauma refers to the psychological and emotional response to a deeply distressing or disturbing event or multiple events.  It could be an accident that can happen, a one-off natural disaster or repeated exposure to stressful situations and your mind can process the experience(s) as traumatic.  What might be processed as traumatic for one person may be easy to get over for another.  There are a whole range of factors relating to personality, personal development, attachment theory, the age you were when it happened, who was involved, how it was handled by others, support you had at the time and how we feel about ourselves that come into it.  It is important not to judge how you feel.

Remember:  You are unique and so the experience and how you feel is unique to you.

How the mind is affected by trauma

Trauma affects the mind where the amygdala takes a snapshot of the experience and it is anchored in the hippocampus by an enhanced sensory experience such as what you saw, what you felt, what you touched, a taste or a smell and the emotion you felt.  It can happen in childhood or at any age.  The age you are when it happens is significant due to the ability to process the experience with the level of development your mind is at when it happens.  For example, you will internalise a thought creating a belief at that age you are.  As you get older and your thought processing becomes more sophisticated, the belief and thought you had is still anchored as it was when you were a toddler or an infant, for example.  It comes from your survival instinct and you will not want to let go.  As the subconscious mind does not recognise time, it is very likely that you still feel unsafe, even if you are safe today.  

Why not let go?

People I work with say, “ I had a happy childhood so what has trauma got to do with it?” or “I had a normal childhood.  My parents did their best.”

If you have a memory from childhood that creates a feeling of discomfort or irritation, especially if it is a story that comes up time and again with families where you don’t feel like laughing along with everyone, when you had an experience that was not funny at all, then that is a memory saved by your amygdala so you never ever forget and it was a threat to your safety in your perception at that time.

Are you having symptoms of trauma (unprocessed memories), which you may not realise are going round and round in a loop because your amygdala believed it was enough of a threat to store in your hippocampus “forever.”

This is called anxiety, stress or anger in language today.  I have written a separate article on anger because, although there are many overlaps in the material I talk about from the hundreds of clients I work with, anger can manifest in many ways.  What all three terms have in common is that they are all trauma responses as far as your nervous system is concerned, all stored by the amygdala, which is the trauma response that you might know as fight or flight.  (There is also freeze, which is a way to dissociate by taking yourself out of your body, repress the experience which is when it seems like the memory has disappeared or display anger after the event and not make the connection).  I write about anger here.

I write about anxiety and how it has been a trauma response since birth, the first experience of trauma we ever have as humans and you can read more here.

Behaviours and symptoms associated with trauma

Similar to those symptoms associated with stress, you might have flashbacks, nightmares hypervigilance such as jumping when you hear a bang (when a shock seems a bigger reaction for the situation).  You might experience mood swings, irritability, anger outbursts and daydream a lot (dissociation).  You might have difficulty trusting others and forming and maintaining relationships.  You might isolate yourself and start to develop a low self esteem or an idea you are not good enough, worthless or bad. 

You may be diagnosed or not diagnosed, on medication or not on medication, experiencing anxiety and/or depression or an anxiety related disorder such as PTSD or any number of manifestations of behaviours including OCD or an addiction or other unwanted behaviour.

Physically you might experience manifestations of physical pain such as headaches, IBS or other gastrointestinal issues, fatigue or generally a lack of energy to do daily tasks and feel your generally sick a lot, having to take time off work with sore throats or various infections.

Coping Mechanisms and Unwanted Behaviours

People I work with tend to be unaware of the link between a trauma or unprocessed memory that they have connected with their coping mechanisms or they may have an idea it is connected but not sure how.  The reason for this is that you are trying to not feel the emotion you have connected with the experience.  Your coping mechanism stops you feeling it, although it is usually unhealthy and not a sustainable way to cope.

These coping strategies can come from misuse of alcohol, drugs, self-harm such as cutting, over or under eating or disordered eating that is connected to coping. You may have an addiction such as gambling, shopping, sex, porn or anything you use to avoid feeling.  You are broadly telling yourself as long as you don’t feel that feeling, (which some would rather die to avoid), you are getting through the day. 

Trauma counselling

I use person centred counselling, which is ideal to welcome the feeling and encourage your feeling.  It is your feeling.  Feelings validate the person and so when you do not allow the feeling, you are ignoring that part of you that went through that traumatic experience. It is harsh, unfair and it is making you unwell.  

Feelings are to tell us what we need.  They are programmed into us like a car has an engine.  You can not be the person you are without feeling.  You are a shell of yourself, like a robot without feeling.  A feeling is temporary and it has never killed anyone yet.  

After a moment of feeling, it subsides and then you feel relief and you heal.  Just like that.   If you want to stop suffering once and for all, I will help you find out the unique experience you had, we can talk about why you don’t want to let go and when you are ready, we can face this feeling together and you will move on and never look back. I promise!

I am waiting for you to complete my contact form or book your free consultation. I can’t wait to meet you and get started.  Best wishes, Karen. 

Disclaimer: I write from my experiences and from my client work in counselling and have no scientific training whatsoever.  I am a person centred counsellor specialising in anxiety and trauma within the context of counselling.  My work is dependent on the therapeutic relationship and the meeting of two minds. It is a humbling experience and that is all part of the healing process that I witness every day. It is the best job in the world.