There are two types of trauma. A one-off major event, such as an earthquake, fire, robbery or rape, is called a Type 1 trauma. Type 2 trauma involves a chronic traumatic situation such as long-term domestic violence or sexual abuse.
Every human has a survival mechanism – this is like an inbuilt protection mode that helps us survive dangerous situations. It is activated automatically and you cannot consciously either switch it on or block it. The amygdala is the emotion center located in your brain. It estimates whether a situation is safe or not and, if not, how great the danger is. If the danger is not too great, the stress reactions remain within the so-called window of tolerance, the framework within which we normally process stress.
In the case of perceived life-threatening danger, the stress reactions go beyond this window of tolerance and it’s like an alarm goes off in your body. In the brain, the limbic system kicks in and everything that is needed for survival gets activated beyond our control. The limbic system automatically takes over and the cortex, the part of the brain that thinks and processes, is largely switched off. The language system is also located in the cortex and so you often see that people who feel unsafe start to stutter or cannot get their words out.
Our basic responses to survival can be divided into fight, flight, follow or freeze. Fighting and fleeing are forms of increased alertness. The first reaction is usually to either attack the other person or to get out of the way as quickly as possible. If, subconsciously, you estimate that you have no chance of survival through these first two responses, then you automatically switch strategies to following or freezing.
In a following strategy, you do exactly what the aggressor asks you to do in order to please them. With a freeze strategy you are frozen and there may be dissociation. With complete dissociation, you mentally relax from the trauma by imagining that you are somewhere else. In partial dissociation, it is like being a third party watching the situation from a distance. The emotions and physical sensations occurring during the event are dissociated however you still get the images and sounds.
A traumatic experience can lead to various stress reactions, such as re-experiencing an event, hyper-alertness or avoidance. A ‘trigger’ such as an image, sound or a smell can stimulate this first response; reliving the traumatic experience for a victim. Other forms of reliving can come through nightmares or the need to talk about the experience a lot. The latter response is only helpful if someone really listens and pays attention. Feelings of shame, guilt and sadness are also forms of reliving.
Another stress response that can arise is hyper-alertness. Your entire system sets itself up to be vigilant in order to make sure you don’t experience the trauma again. In this state you are highly alert to danger and you feel scared because unconsciously you are expecting something bad to happen again. Symptoms of hyper-alertness could be feeling emotional, having difficulty falling asleep and/or staying asleep. Concentration problems can also occur as part of this response.
The last stress response is avoidance. This could be the physical avoidance of a place or event associated with the trauma as well as the avoidance of thoughts or conversations about it. The latter may happen unconsciously as a mechanism that allows you to protect yourself against feeling strong emotions in order that you can continue to function ‘normally’. Lastly depression can be a result of trauma, and this is often seen through someone showing less interest in their hobbies or other activities that normally give them energy.
Trauma has an enormous impact on the energy in your body. In general your energy is drawn from the lower chakras and moves towards the higher chakras. As a result of trauma, your lower chakras become exhausted and your upper chakras are over-stimulated. Below I discuss the 7 chakras and their response in processing trauma.
Your base chakra is the foundation of your right to exist. This may have been drained, making you feel unsafe and with less confidence in your usual environment. Physically you can see this in your body if you try to make yourself small. You could feel restless and suffer from concentration problems. Someone with a weakened base chakra does not value everyday things, such as washing and grooming. You may also develop an aversion to your own body, particularly, for example, after sexual abuse.
The spleen chakra forms your inner world, your relationship with other people. After a traumatic experience, you may find that you suppress your emotions as an avoidance strategy. This creates feelings of emptiness, loneliness or the feeling of being stuck. You no longer feel your own needs, which can lead to a kind of resignation, apathy or pessimism. You may withdraw and end up in social isolation.
In the solar plexus energy is converted into activity. A lack of energy in the solar plexus means that you feel unable to do anything. You may have the desire to do a lot of things, but you feel like you can’t get anything done. You allow others to manipulate you and you may experience feelings of depression or guilt. If you suppress your anger, it could lead to obesity or a metabolic disorder.
The heart chakra is about balance, love and relationships. Balance implies both an inner balance between different aspects of ourselves (body and mind, male and female), as well as a balance between ourselves and the world around us (work and leisure, give and take). After a traumatic event, you often see that this inner balance is disrupted and therefore we see that it has impacted your heart.
With the throat chakra we enter the symbolic world of the mind. A healthy throat chakra enables good communication skills; you are able to express yourself well and you can also listen to someone else effectively. With a healthy throat chakra, your voice is pleasant to listen to. After a trauma, if you are unable to talk about your feelings, your throat chakra may become exhausted. Physical outcomes may be that you instinctively hold your breath when you feel endangered and remain as still as possible. Through holding in emotions, your voice may also be affected, manifest through weak, pinched or rhythmically erratic sounds or perhaps an inability to get your words out.
The forehead chakra is where we locate sight and insight. After a trauma, you may repress or shut off the memory. In the case of repression, you limit your perception and it is as if you put on blinders. We close our forehead chakra with repressed emotions. The opposite can also happen whereby you open your forehead chakra completely. If this happens you may suffer from nightmares or develop delusions and hallucinations.
The crown chakra is your operating system. It is your cognitive structure, your belief system, your understanding of the world, and your ability to question things and think independently. A traumatic experience is often accompanied by an overactive crown chakra. You shut yourself off from your feelings and jump into your thinking world, asking such questions as ‘what could I have done better?’ You may feel powerless and lonely. When the organization of our operating system collapses, there may be psychosis. You do not want to be in the present and you leave your body.
The first step to Recovery
The first step to recovery is to become aware that the traumatic event is over. It is safe again and your body can return to relaxation. You can unwind by consciously watching your breath, for example. Slow down the pace at which you breathe and let your breath drop. For restoration after a trauma, it is important to try and ground yourself. You can do this by, for example, going for a walk in nature and by eating and sleeping regularly.
Another way to work on your trauma is to talk about it with people who really listen to you. These can be family members or friends, but sometimes it is easier to talk to a professional who is a little more removed from you, such as a therapist. It is important to realize that a response to trauma is a completely natural and human protective response. There should be no guilt or feelings of inadequacy.
During a regression treatment you learn to make contact with your trauma from your energetic block. We investigate where your trauma comes from and what help you needed at the time. By giving yourself this help even in the present, you can let the energy flow back into your body. You rewrite the past so that your body can recover, after all, your body does not know the difference between reality and illusion. Through this process you are able to live through your trauma and come out stronger.
After processing the trauma, you will notice that you are no longer the same person you were before the trauma and you will have gone through an emotional growth process. A therapist can help guide you through this process. If you have had a traumatic experience that you would like to discuss with me then please feel free to contact me (without any obligation). I can introduce you to how I can support you and if you wish to continue I would be happy to guide you through your healing process.