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Kay's Blog

An ongoing series of entries exploring trauma and it's effects and how therapy can help post traumatic growth

What is Trauma?

21st April 2020

When we are overwhelmed by something, whether it be physical, emotional or psychological in nature, however big or small, the body goes into a trauma response. 

This happens when the older parts of the brain instinctively kick in and alert the nervous system that we are in danger. The body then responds by contracting the muscles and goes into different autonomic nervous system states, determined by the level of danger the brain perceives. 

These states include flight/ fight, freeze and dissociation. Each state releases different chemicals into the body which have an effect on the bodily systems, (if you want to read more about this process, I recommend Stephen Porgue's, Polyvagal Theory or Trauma is Really Strange by Steve Haines).

This happens as a way to protect and survive, however, once the threat of danger has passed and we have not released the excess charge from our nervous systems, our brain reads that there is still a threat out there and we remain in a primed and alert state. 

This means that the body and mind are never relaxed,  as the brain is sending signals via the nervous system that it is not safe and we need to remain alert incase of an attack, this part of the brain goes way back to the time when our ancestors were living in the wild with predatory animals.

Translated into modern life, these states can develop into chronic conditions such as:

Developmental Trauma, Complex Trauma, PTSD, Addictions, Depression, Chronic Fatigue to name only a few.

In order to recover from the effects of trauma, we need to go through a process of meeting the body. That means establishing a sense of safety in the body so that we can feel relaxed and fully engage with our lives in an open and joyful way.

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