The Hope Business, LLC.
(615) 974-HOPE


Trauma Defined:

In a nutshell, trauma is anything that exceeds one's ability to cope. One’s coping skills vary widely:  by developmental stage, skills modeled by caregivers, access to resources and supports, presence of multiple stressors, etc.  Experiencing prolonged effects of trauma, then, is not about weakness but rather about needing appropriate tools to cope.

Trauma Explained:

Trauma is often associated with disaster:  life threatening, glaring, and catastrophic.   This does characterize trauma, and yet the experience of trauma also can be subtle, insidious and complex.  That is because trauma is perception-based.  Perception begins with one’s bodily senses—what one sees, hears, smells, etc.   The brain filters sensations through the person’s unique lens, constructed from factors like life experience and biology. Meaning is then interpreted, which makes this a highly individualized process.  It follows, then, that the experience of trauma is dependent not only on the actual event but also from its perception.  What one person experiences as traumatic may not be so for another--and vice versa.  

There are two kinds of trauma:  "Big T" and "Little t" . . .  "Big T" trauma is obvious and glaring, like having experienced an earthquake, abuse or rape.  "Little t" trauma is covert--less recognizable--such as having witnessed someone else's trauma, having experienced long-term deprivation, having been bullied, having felt unloved by caregivers, etc.  Despite apparent differences in severity, the 
brain registers and responds to both as trauma.

The limbic system is exceedingly basic--we share it in common with all animals--and is responsible only for survival.  It responds automatically and unconsciously to traumatic events using the mechanisms of "fight, flight and freeze."  When this process is either thwarted or unsuccessful, trauma may remain unresolved.  The body, via the activated limbic system, may remain in a state of hyper-arousal wherein it is primed to respond to threat--real or not.  Unconsciously, the body may seek to correct the trauma--often by reenactment, so as to allow it to resolve.  Without the presence of new coping skills, this often creates a negative feedback cycle of "stuckness," or "trauma repetition." The cortex, or most evolved, human aspect of the brain responsible for conscious thinking, is not able to integrate the unresolved traumatic event.  Specifically, the problem is that the content of these different regions of the brain are vastly different, like circles and squares.  To consciously process (using logic and language) unconscious thoughts (those without language, a time-space continuum, or logic) to resolution is like trying to open a circular keyhole with a square key:  it simply doesn't work.   Thus, the task of resolving trauma is easily beyond one’s natural ability, often requiring trauma-specific treatments.

Primary treatment modalities

EMDR, or Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing; TF-CBT, or Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy; Experiential therapy; Yoga and Mindfulness-based therapy
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