By Pamela J. Reed, MA, LPC, CCTP
When my son was five years of age, he overheard a conversation I was having with my husband about a conference I attended for therapists. The conference focused on the treatment of trauma. My son looked up at me and asked, “Mommy, what’s trauma?”
I looked over at his curious face and thought, “How I am going to answer this question?” After a few moments, I said, “Well, trauma is when someone gets hurt. Let’s say someone gets into a car accident and they get hurt. That means they had a trauma to their body. Besides getting hurt, they might be scared to get back into a car ever again.” My husband then added, “So, Mommy would help someone not be scared to get in a car again.”
One of the differences between humans and many animals, is that the animals threatened with danger can return to a calm state quickly after the danger passes. We’ve all seen the deer in the woods that freeze, and turn their heads to a sound for a moment, then resume grazing as soon as the sound passes. Humans, on the other hand, can get stuck in thinking there is danger still present. In fact, our bodies may keep responding to danger by releasing various biochemicals to keep us on alert. Our bodies are intimately connected to our minds. Sometimes, to feel calm again, we need to seek help to use the power of our mind to tell our body it’s safe.
In the same way that trauma caused by outside forces can affect our sense of safety, we can also feel unsafe in the world if we have been emotionally and/or physically hurt by people we love, or who we thought would take care of us as children. This is also trauma. In this type of trauma, our bodies sense danger in other people and makes it difficult for us to feel connected to others and have healthy relationships.
Many people who have experienced trauma feel disconnected. They feel disconnected from themselves as well as from those close to them. Healing trauma involves helping someone to reconnect to their true selves, as well as reconnecting to others and the world. Trauma can make us feel like you are all alone. But you are not alone. We are here to help you.
After my husband and I gave our explanation of trauma to our son, he looked at me and said “Mommy, I wish the world could be a better place. I think it can someday, don’t you?” I looked at him and said, “Yes, I do. And I think it starts by helping one person at a time.”
If you believe you are a victim of trauma, know that you are not alone and we are here to help you. The first step to healing is connecting with someone who wants to help.
Some symptoms of trauma including the following:
- Do you have disruptive thoughts, nightmares, flashbacks regarding a past event or events?
- Do you have difficulty recalling details of an event or events?
- Do you have negative thoughts and beliefs about yourself and/or the world?
- Do you have feelings of intense guilt or blame for an event or events in your life?
- Do you have a decreased interest in activities you have enjoyed in the past?
- Are you isolating yourself?
- Are you having difficulties being positive and/or happy?
- Do you find yourself being more irritable and aggressive?
- Do you have difficulty concentrating?
- Do you have difficulty sleeping?
If you or someone you love are experiencing any of these symptoms and they are interfering with an ability to function in day-to-day activities, it is important to seek help. Allow one of our therapists to be a witness to you and your story. The first step to healing is connecting with someone who wants to help. Trauma-focused therapy may allow you to feel hopeful again about participating in life the way you were meant to.