For most of us, adversity is a fact of life. 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 (From Stephen Joseph, PhD, Author of What Doesn't Kill Us, The New Psychology of Posttraumatic Growth).
Trauma quite simply means to be wounded, either physically or emotionally. Because we are conceived and grow in the environment of the womb, wounds can also occur before or during birth, or may even be passed down epigenetically from previous generations. In the first year of life especially, a certain quality of attunement between primary caregiver(s) and infant is required for healthy brain and nervous system development. Considering this, I believe that trauma is an extremely common experience for most humans, and that the percentage of people affected is actually much closer to 100%. Clearly, trauma causes suffering for millions, or possibly even billions of people. Because these wounds can result in an imbalance of the autonomic nervous system, they can be present even for someone who is on a spiritual or growth path, or is otherwise making healthy lifestyle choices. It can manifest in many strange ways, including addictions, an almost unlimited variety of mental or physical health problems, high or low energy, the tendency towards emotional upsets, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, phobias, an inaccurate sense of self, and the inability to form close and nourishing relationships. Left unresolved, it deprives us of energy and prevents us from reaching our highest potential.
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.
Now that we know what trauma is, let’s consider health. According to the World Health Organization, health is “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” With this in mind, Trauma 2 Health could have also been called Wounds 2 Well-Being. 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 potholes, can be navigated with relative lightness and ease. 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 genuine spiritual and emotional transformation ." -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).
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