Traumatic experiences leave traces, whether on a large scale (on our histories and cultures) or close to home, on our families, on our selves. Traumatic experiences also leave traces on our minds and emotions, on our capacity for joy and attachment, and even on our biology and immune systems. Trauma affects not only those who are directly exposed to it, but also those around it. Trauma victims are often among the most vulnerable in society.
We are at last beginning to show that there is a relationship between what is going on with our feelings and thoughts and what happens in the body; the mind and body and spirit are connected.
Even as recently as ten years ago, we didn’t understand that the unconscious mind (primitive/emotional mind) could command the shutdown response, totally bypassing the conscious mind (intellectual/thinking mind), totally bypassing any sense of ‘choice’. And we didn't understand how important the role of neuroscience was to the process of feeling safe or how we might calm the fear in a traumatised brain.
While some people are able to experience traumatic events without apparent ill-effects, the long-term consequences can be serious, whether by developing later psychological problems or even physical problems including substance abuse, personality problems, depression, anger, anxiety or suicidal thoughts/tendencies.
In many cases, people who have experienced trauma can develop full-blown post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is expected to include a new diagnosis called Developmental Trauma Disorder (DTD) to be used for children who face repeated traumas while their brains are still developing.
Understanding the mind and body relationship may not cure all our physical difficulties but by learning the language of symptoms and illness we can discover what is being repressed or ignored in thoughts and emotions (which can cause anger, anxiety, depression and obsessions), and how this is influencing our wellbeing. From this vantage point we discover that there is an extraordinarily intimate two-way communication going on between our body and mind that affects both our physical state and our mental and emotional health.
Treatments for trauma victims has changed radically over the last decade. The same intervention may not be suitable for every person and change takes time, so consistency and patience are key to any support offered to a person suffering trauma. Supporting people to learn about the mind body relationship and learn new skills to help them (with time) to understand how their anger, anxiety, depression or obsessions are created will enable them to take back control (of negative thoughts, which impact emotions/feelings and subsequently their behaviour and any consequence of that behaviour).
Timing – We have learned that a person may not be ready for change and some change takes time. It is a marathon, not a sprint!
We all have our own map of the world - Not every persons experience of trauma will be the same, which suggests that the same interventions may not be appropriate for all people
Security – A person needs support in a place and with people they feel safe and secure
Choice and Control – The main goal will be to help people learn coping skills that will help them deal with traumatic memories and enable them to be in control of their thoughts (emotions and behaviours)
This is not counselling – There is no need for anyone to 'tell their story' (but remember to listen carefully if they do)
Change do not hit you like a lightening bolt - Change is a slow process, sometimes we don’t realise ourselves that change is taking / has taken place. It is critical to be able to validate the positive change (no matter how big or small)