Defined by many words, such a shock, upset, suffering, distress, damage, overwhelm and pain. Trauma has long reaching and often long lasting effects that the eye cannot see, but the body holds on to.
“The effects of trauma can be devastating for sufferers, their families and future generations”. Bessel Van Der Kolk.
Trauma is known to cause mental, emotional and physical health issues with the symptoms of trauma sometimes leaving you feeling confused, irritable, guilty, angry, potentially suffering from mood swings, tearful, hopeless, sad, fearful, panicked, struggling to concentrate, feeling disconnected or numb, or suffering from PTSD (Post- traumatic stress disorder) and PTSS (Post-traumatic stress syndrome).
Stemming from one and more of the following, trauma can be symptomatic of some of the experiences mentioned below;
- Accumulated childhood experiences (ACE)
- A friend, member of your family, or family pet dying
- Suffering from and experiencing neglect or anger towards you
- Experiencing psychological, physical, sexual or emotional abuse
- Suffering from overwhelming stress, which may result in the lacking of ability to cope or integrate the emotions that are involved in the experience
- Being a visual party to something you subsequently struggle to deal with and make sense of
- Having a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy
- Losing a child
- Being bullied
No person is born as an adult and we are the only mammal born having to rely solely on another person for our wellbeing.
A child doesn’t have an adult’s capacity to understand and make sense of what goes on around them – which lets face it, can be hard even when you are an adult.
From conception a child begins to absorb from its mother in-utero and then from its environment, the tones of voice around it, the touch given by another human being. As children develop they unconsciously find ways to make sense of their environment and therefore adapt to those around them, continuing these potentially adapted learnings on into adulthood. Some of what a child learns in both the spoken and unspoken word will be how to adapt and become robust to stressors around them.
I liken this to a stack of pennies that started with the pennies one on top of the other. However when something the child couldn’t make sense of or experienced as traumatic happens in their life, a penny was pushed to the side. Every time, as that child grows towards becoming an adolescent and finally on into adulthood, a new occurrence or trauma is experienced another ‘penny’ is pushed out of alignment in the stack, whilst the rest of the stack continues to be placed one on top of the other. Each misaligned ‘penny’ is a trauma or negative experience of some king, often being held within.
In adulthood there is often an expectation from society that ‘you should’ be able to deal with stress, trauma, bullying, abuse or death without any knock on effect, however not everyone’s capacity is different (think about the build up of accumulated experiences from childhood), so that when excess, traumatic or inappropriate stressors are introduced and experienced, the body and mind can become overwhelmed and unable to cope.
Sometimes this inability to cope manifests externally through behavioural problems, or emotionally and mentally through anxiety, panic and depression, or physically through illness and pain.
Looking to someone for help and understanding may be the way forward if you are experiencing trauma.