Trauma is a fact of life – but it doesn’t have to be a life sentence.
Dr. Peter Levine, founder of Somatic Experiencing Therapy
Although trauma is sometimes assumed to only occur from horrendous acts like sexual abuse and violent attack, Shock trauma is quite common and can result from seemingly everyday events. What makes an event a shock trauma is that it was unexpected and overwhelmed your ability to cope with it.
Events that may have left you with Shock Trauma include:
- surgeries and medical operations
- car accidents
- violent attacks, including physical or sexual assault
- falls or injuries
When a potentially threatening event occurs, your nervous system goes into a threat response – fight, flight, and/or freeze.
These biological responses are hard-wired into you by evolution in order to help you to survive. For example, imagine walking in a forest and all of a sudden a tiger comes running towards you looking like its going to attack. Without thinking or planning, your nervous system instantly switches into a survival response that has you turning away and running faster than you could ever imagine in the other direction. If you were able to successfully escape, your body would soon thereafter settle and calm down and you would not suffer from post-traumatic stress.
However, if in the above example your running away (flight response) was unsuccessful, without thinking about it your nervous system would switch into either fighting back (fight response), or into playing dead as a mouse does with a cat (freeze response). If you were successful in fighting back or in playing dead, your nervous system would likely return to normal after this life threatening event, leaving you feeling settled and safe once again.
However when your Nervous System is unable to successfully complete its threat response, you get stuck in fight, flight, and/or freeze – this is what causes Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Chronic stress and anxiety are often symptoms of unresolved traumatic stress – your body is likely caught in both a flight and freeze response simultaneously. You may be aware of the events that were traumatic for you, or you may not remember anything specific yet suspect you have PTSD – with or without specific memories we can help you heal.
Talk therapy is limited in what it can do to help change this. In order to fully heal from post-traumatic stress, we need to directly work with your nervous system and your fight, flight, and freeze responses. In order to do this, you need a skilled therapist who is trained in helping the body and nervous system heal from traumatic events.