TRAUMA INFORMED APPROACH
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE
This means all that I offer is from a level of awareness and understanding of how emotional trauma affects people.
This is an area of personal interest to me, as I want to provide a safe space in which my clients can help themselves heal emotionally. As part of my continuing professional development, I am committed to deepening my knowledge of emotional trauma, through personal study and undertaking training courses. I am particularly interested in emotional trauma from a nervous system healing perspective. Every single thought, emotion, behaviour a person has makes so much sense when you consider how regulated or dysregulated their nervous system is (as based on The Polyvagal Theory).
I follow the work of thought leaders in this field, especially Dr. Gabor Mate, Dr. Stephen Porges, Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, Dr. Peter Levine and Dr. Daniel J. Siegel and many others.
What Is Trauma?
A simple working definition is: "anything that is too much, too soon, or too fast for our nervous system to handle, especially if we can’t reach a successful resolution."
More detailed definitions include:
"Trauma results from exposure to an incident or series of events that are emotionally disturbing or life threatening with lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, and/ or spiritual well-being."
- SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)
"Trauma is a psychic wound that hardens you psychologically that then interferes with your ability to grow and develop. It pains you and now you're acting out of pain. It induces fear and now you're acting out of fear. Trauma is not what happens to you, it's what happens inside you as a result of what happened to you” - Dr Gabor Mate
Dr. Bessel van der Kolk describes trauma as “anything that overwhelms the body’s ability to cope.”
Similarly, Dr. Daniel J. Siegel states, “trauma refers to an experience that overwhelms one’s ability to cope”.
According to Dr. Peter Levine, “Trauma is perhaps the most avoided, ignored, belittled, denied, misunderstood, and untreated cause of human suffering”.
And he best explains it as -
“In short, trauma is about loss of connection – to ourselves, to our bodies, to our families, to others, and to the world around us. This loss of connection is often hard to recognize, because it doesn’t happen all at once. It can happen slowly, over time, and we adapt to these subtle changes sometimes without even noticing them. These are the hidden effects of trauma, the ones most of us keep to ourselves. We may simply sense that we do not feel quite right, without ever becoming fully aware of what is taking place; that is, the gradual undermining of our self-esteem, self-confidence, feelings of well-being, and connection to life.
Our choices become limited as we avoid certain feelings, people, situations, and places. The result of this gradual constriction of freedom is the loss of vitality and potential for the fulfillment of our dreams.”
How Trauma Affects A Person
Everyone experiences and reacts to trauma differently.
What is a traumatic experience for one person, may not necessarily be a traumatic experience for another person. Trauma doesn't have to be major life events, it can also just be the cumulative effect of a life full of little sadnesses, griefs & upsets that were experienced all alone without a safe, empathetic person to share them with.
Trauma can be very subtle and different for each person and often symptoms of trauma, like anxiety, do not show up until years after the original traumatic event.
When trauma does occur, it can affect a person's sense of self, their sense of others and their beliefs about the world. People affected by trauma may develop coping mechanisms to help alleviate the emotional pain they feel as a result of the trauma - keeping them stuck in physical, emotional or behavioural habits.
Trauma lives in the body. So, trauma is not held in a single event but in the way the body, and specifically the nervous system, is able to cope with the trauma. A person can become traumatised when their nervous system does not have the ability to respond to a perceived overwhelming threat in a way that is helpful to the body. The body is then stuck or frozen in a loop of overwhelming stress.
Our bodies hold memories and imprints of our past experiences. The trauma can’t be resolved without our body finding a way to release these memories and imprints.
Emotions are the vehicles the body relies on to find balance after a trauma.
By strengthening our inner resources, we are capable of processing our feelings, releasing stored traumas, and increasing our ability to handle stress with greater ease. When that happens we feel a greater sense of connection, safety, and ease in our body.
Are You Feeling Any Of These Things Right Now?
Anxious, confused, overwhelmed, frustrated, nervous, worried, out of control, angry, irritable, frozen, shut down, hopeless, regretful, apathetic, resentful, unfocused, stuck or all alone?
If you are, it is important to know that it is possible for you to feel better. You may have tried to help yourself in the past, but got frustrated when you didn’t experience the kinds of shifts you had been hoping for. It is possible to change, and with the right awareness and support, your body and your nervous system will respond.
"Trauma involves a lifelong pushing down, a tremendous expenditure of energy in not feeling the pain. As we heal, that same energy is liberated for life, for being in the present. So the energy of trauma can be transformed into the energy of life." - Dr. Gabor Mate
The Trauma Informed Approach
“The trauma-informed approach seeks to discover the root cause of why you are not able to move forward. Without a trauma informed approach, all you’re focusing on is symptom management.”
- Mastin Kipp
When it comes to regulating our nervous systems, we can’t just talk our way into creating the shifts and changes we desire for ourselves. You may have tried that already and noticed how you fell back into your old ways again after some time. As the emotional energy of unprocessed trauma is stored in our bodies, for us to experience lasting shifts and changes, we need to process this energy out through our bodies too. I help my clients do this, by using safe and gentle practices that incorporate the mind, body, emotional and spiritual aspects of our being.
The trauma-informed approach shifts the focus from
“What’s wrong with you?” to
“What happened to you?”
It is said, that at the core of emotional trauma is the experience of not being seen, or known, or heard, or validated. And we’ve all experienced that at some point in our lives, especially in our childhood.
That's why, at the heart of the trauma informed approach, is the intention to create a safe and compassionate space, in which a person feels safe enough to be seen, heard, understood and validated. That is, they feel safe to speak their truth, knowing all parts of them are welcome and given a voice, in the empathetic presence of another person.
"Underneath the traumatised persona is the healthy individual who has never found expression in this life because they were never given the relationships in which they could give their all, in which their authentic self could be expressed." - Dr. Gabor Mate