What is trauma?
Trauma is the physical, emotional and psychological response when a person experiences high levels of fear or stress without having the chance to escape or mobilise (move away). This can be meant in a physical or emotional sense. Sometimes when this happens a person might find they are unable to move through the stress response, meaning they are frozen in the stress response and unable to recognise that the danger has now ceased.
A person’s ability to come through trauma is often grounded in how they learnt to manage their emotions in early childhood. If a person was soothed as a baby, and reassured when they were fearful, this child learns that even though bad things happen, they have the ability to get through them with the support of their parents/guardians. This external soothing then becomes ‘internalised’, meaning they develop and then have access to a self-soothing part of themselves when the need arises.
However, if the child does not have a good enough care-giving environment, they may not learn how to regulate emotions and it may be more difficult to overcome the emotions that occur when a threat arises. In fact, for some people, painful current day experiences can trigger old wounds that activate self sabotaging behaviours and unhelpful coping strategies. A lot of these behaviours and strategies make sense when we are able to put them in the context of how our hurt inner child coped and managed in the past.
Some symptoms of trauma include:
Flashbacks (reliving the trauma as if it were happening now)
High levels of anxiety and fear
Unexplained physical problems
How Counselling can help
The mind is an amazing tool and if you are experiencing trauma it is important to recognise that this is your brain’s way of coping with what has happened to you. However, trauma symptoms can feel crippling and it may be useful to see a counsellor to talk through your experience.
A counsellor can help a trauma survivor to recognise their resources and skills, and to build on these. In therapy, the trauma survivor may be able to learn how to regulate emotions and feel safer in the here-and-now. Working with a counsellor can help you to understand trauma symptoms, and to start to work through your experiences.