"For most of us, adversity is inevitable. Researchers have estimated that 75 percent of all people experience some form of trauma in life - the loss of a loved one, the diagnosis of an illness, the pain of divorce or separation, the shock of an accident, assault, or environmental disaster".
-Stephen Joseph, PhD, Author of What Doesn't Kill Us, The New Psychology of Posttraumatic Growth
Trauma causes great suffering for millions of people. Because trauma results in an imbalance of the autonomic nervous system, it can be present even for someone who is on a spiritual or self-improvement path or is otherwise making healthy lifestyle choices. It can manifest in many strange ways, including high or low energy, the tendency towards emotional upsets and addictions, and a wide variety of physical ailments and syndromes.
One way to visualize the different ways trauma can show up in the body is to imagine a car that is going down a country road with a few bumps and potholes. If taken slowly enough and with awareness, it is safe and enjoyable to drive. If we want to go a little faster, we can press on the accelerator, and if we want to slow down we can gently ease on the brakes. This would be analogous to a human body without trauma. Now imagine if the accelerator was stuck to the floor and there was no way to slow down, and the bumps and potholes were causing the car to lose control. This is one form of trauma, which is the sympathetic arousal state of fight or flight - helpful if we need to fight off or escape a wild animal chasing us, but not helpful as a way of navigating day-to-day life. Now imagine another scenario where the brake gets stuck on and the car can't move forward. This is the parasympathetic state of shutdown or freeze, which could be helpful if we were trying not to be noticed or to conserve energy in a time of danger - but again not helpful if it becomes a chronic response when there is no actual danger. Now imagine yet another scenario where both the brake and the accelerator are fully engaged simultaneously, so that the engine is racing but the car is not able to move forward. This is another way trauma can sometimes show up in the body, and if it continues long enough may cause exhaustion and physical breakdown.
The goal of most trauma resolution, in whatever form it takes, is to restore all functioning to a healthy middle ground where there is access to energy at the right times and in the right amounts. Essentially, both accelerator and brakes become available as necessary, and the road of life - although still filled with the occasional bumps and challenges - can be navigated with physical and emotional lightness and resiliency. Now for the really good news...
"I believe not only that trauma is curable, but that the healing process can be a catalyst for profound awakening - a portal opening to emotional and genuine spiritual awakening." -Peter A. Levine, PhD, creator of Somatic Experiencing™ and author of Waking The Tiger: Healing Trauma
In the past few years, promising research has shown that some people do in fact find greater meaning, purpose, and appreciation for life - not in spite of trauma, but because of it. This is the goal of my work, and how I frame everything I do; to have a sense of where we'd like this bumpy road to take us, and to use the process of struggle as the very fuel we need to reach our destination (destiny)!