What is Trauma?

Trauma is literally any event that overwhelmes our body and brains or psyche’s natural ability to cope with it. When this happens, our brains will assess the threat and make decisions, either consciously or unconsciously, to protect ourselves.

Every person has innate resiliencies that cannot be explained to traumatic events. However, it is fairly common for there to be a corrrelation with our resiliency to trauma and our early childhood experiences. For example, a person who had a very chaotic dysfunctional family system will likely have less resiliency to traumatic experience. Trauma is also based a great deal on the perception of the individual experiencing it. If something is perceived to be traumatic to a person, then it is their reality despite how others might experience the same event.

CLICK HERE to find out how to build resiliency in children to trauma

Types of Trauma

There are many types of trauma, all of which impact us in some way. The first subcategory is actual physical trauma to the body which is often the one that first comes to mind for most when thinking of what trauma is. The second subcategory is emotional trauma which includes secondary, environmental and developmental trauma.

Secondary trauma is trauma experienced second hand through the hearing of a traumatic story or watching a traumatic event occur on television. Everyone who watched 9/11 unfold on their televisions experienced secondary trauma whether they realized it or not.

Environmental trauma is trauma experienced in the environment, such as in a hurricane or other natural disaster. Environmental trauma watched on television or on the internet can turn into secondary trauma for the viewer!

Developmental trauma is chronic stress over the developing life span of a human being. For example, a child who lives in a domestically violent home may never get hit themselves, but the chronic stress of that environment over time negatively affects the child and alters their brain chemistry. See also Developmental Trauma Disorder.

CLICK HERE for a great resource that explains what trauma is in more detail from the foremost experts in the field.

Trauma Memory

It’s Not What You THINK!

Why is it that people find it so difficult to heal themselves from trauma fully. The reasons lies in how the trauma is stored in the brain.

Trauma is stored in the brain as predominately non-declarative sensory memory, and can be stored in this manner as early as 6 months in-utero! . It is associated with the 7 senses and stored in the body and brain in a similar fashion to procedural memory. Procedural memory is riding a bike or brushing your teeth. To get a sense of how much more permanent this is…..go home and unlearn riding a bike!

The though element of the trauma is exactly that, a thought memory. It is much less permanent, and subject to distortion and bias relating to retreival and influence from others and our enronment. See the research on eye witness testimony.

Thought memories of trauma are an important part of treatment, they are just not the main component.



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