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Understanding Trauma (part 1)


It’s Trauma month – how are you doing?

70%…. that is the number of people who have experienced some kind of traumatic event. 100% is the amount of people who know someone who has had this kind of experience.

The world has gone mad and trauma is something we are being forced to live with. So maybe it is time to understand Trauma better.

What is Trauma?

Trauma is one of those universal experiences we have all been exposed to. You have either suffered your own trauma experience or you know someone who has. As we understand trauma and the impact it can have in your life, you may recognise some of these signs and symptoms, but you may also have experienced others that are not included here. Each person has a personal experience of trauma, however, there are universal impacts that it has on our lives. 

Why do we need to understand trauma, particularly our own?

Trauma can leave a long trail of destruction. It can impact our learning, attachment and relationships, self-esteem, behaviours, performance and emotional health. It is vital to understand trauma, especially our own, so we can work on recovering, building resilience and avoiding being re-traumatised.

Trauma is a physical, mental and emotional experience. Our bodies release hormones called cortisol and adrenaline when we feel stress or threatened. We have no control over this because it is our bodies way of preparing us to face danger.

When this happens, our bodies respond in one of 5 ways: The first three we know well, fight, flight or freeze.

  • Fight – fighting, struggling or protesting.
  • Flight – hiding or moving away.
  • Freeze – feeling paralysed or unable to move.
  • Fawn – trying to please someone who harms you.
  • Flop – doing what you’re told without being able to protest.

Studies have shown that these stress signals can linger for a long time after the trauma is over causing, sometimes severe, impact on our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.

Some common causes of Trauma:

  • Childhood abuse and neglect
  • Rape
  • Domestic violence – physical, emotional and sexual abuse
  • Natural disasters and accidents
  • Severe illness or injury
  • Grief and loss – the death of a loved one
  • Witnessing an act of violence / death / war
  • Medical interventions
  • Cultural, intergenerational and historical trauma

Maybe it is time to reflect on your life and if trauma impact is playing a role in your current mental health. Talk to your family and friends. Talk to a coach or counsellor. Start understanding your trauma.

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