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How does psychological trauma arise and heal in people?

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Trauma is a hurtful fact of modern life (Levine, 1997); practically all of us have suffered a traumatic situation at some point, not only soldiers or victims of war, of natural catastrophes, or abuses and aggressions.

It can also be traumatic when human beings experience bullying, when they get a good grade at school but their parents demand more and more, when they were not invited to the birthday party, when they are abandoned by parents on the first day of school, when the teacher called them out in front of the whole class and punished them, when they lose their job, when the couple the love bond ends or a friendship no longer wants to see them, when after being fired it takes them months to find another job, when the grandparents...

Actually, the causes and consequences are very varied and it will depend on the subjectivity of each person, their coping capacity, their ability to bond, their environment and resolution capacity at a given moment.

The good news is that human beings possess instinctive capacities to feel, reflect, respond, associate, bond, and overcome painful events that have been traumatic.

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  • Related article: "Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: Causes and Symptoms"

Passing the mark of traumatic experiences

To understand how trauma arises, one must first begin by understanding what it is. According to Pier Janet, (1859 to 1947) French psychologist expert in trauma, psychological trauma It is the result of the person's exposure to a stressful and unavoidable situation that exceeds coping mechanisms. or of the person. Given this, the physiological mechanisms of Fight or Flight will not be able to work, because the event is inevitable.

Peter Levin, Psychologist and PhD in Medical Biophysics, points out that trauma is the way in which our body responds to the threat of survival. In other words, instinctively, when faced with a threat, more primitive physiological mechanisms that reside in our brain and system are activated. nervous, similar to that of animals, but unlike them, ours are blocked, because at that moment the person has not been able to enter the room. traumatic experience, go through it and come out of it, developing symptoms of trauma such as pain, stiffness, collapse, cognitive dysfunction, anxiety, depression, among others.

The aftermath of trauma can even affect our ability to bond, to distort life as a couple, and sexual life. Physiological responses can be so intense and difficult to regulate that they can lead to symptoms such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, and other autoimmune diseases (Van der Kolk, 2014).

Even after having been exposed to events that have endangered our emotional, bonding and physical security, a high degree of resentment against those who we feel should have taken care of us, we feel their betrayal or a feeling of guilt is also introduced towards ourselves. None of the above is usually functional or resolvable, but manages to further hinder the functioning of the person.

  • You may be interested in: "Types of Anxiety Disorders and their characteristics"

Trauma affects human biology and neurology

When people feel too overwhelmed by their emotions, memories fail to transform into neutral narrative experiences. They are memories that people cannot count, fear remains locked in the body.

The terror becomes a memory phobia that prevents the integration of the event and traumatic fragments. Memories depart from ordinary awareness and are organized as visual perceptions, somatic concerns, and behavioral performances., being stored in our memories in the original mode of the experience (Salvador, 2017).

People who have been exposed to traumatic situations have been hurt (the word trauma comes from the Greek and means wound), they are afraid of remember, they do not want to, they cannot remember, avoiding contact with any person or situation that refers them to what happened and often giving rise to the dissociation as an extraordinary mechanism, which implies disconnecting from the experience, which over time becomes a defense mechanism maintenance. That is, what has served to survive is now used to maintain itself (Salvador, 2017).

When we live an experience, it is lived somatically through our body and our senses.. People are unable to overcome the anxiety of what they have experienced, they remain in the jaws of fear, and the body resigns itself. unconsciously to have no escape, allowing fear and anxiety to rule them, which prevents them from moving in the present with freedom.

Francine Shapiro (2001), creator of EDMR Therapy and according to the hypotheses of P. Janet (1889), raised in her book psychological automatism that the traumatic experiences suffered through different moments of the development of the people, can interrupt the adaptive capacities of the individual, making it difficult to process experiences and favoring the appearance of symptoms, leading to being human to function dysfunctionally and in an unbalanced and disorganized manner in a large part of their areas of development.

Several studies corroborate the importance of continuous stress and chronic trauma as determinants of mental pathology (Joseph, 1998; Osuch et al., 2001; Stickgold, 2002; van der Kolk, Mc. Farlane and Weisaeth, 1996).

memory games

Most of what happens to us every day is within known patterns, so we tend to forget it almost immediately. However, if something happens out of the pattern, the mind will probably pick it up and put its attention there.

If we run into a friend on the street that we haven't seen since childhood and he was one of our best friends, it will surely generate a very intense joy that will make it stick in our memory.

The same happens if we are exposed to a threat: the event will be out of the daily pattern, which will cause us to focus our attention on it.

Being a threat to our well-being and safety, a series of neurophysiological mechanisms will be put into action to secrete hormones and endorphins. that will help fix traumatic memories with greater intensity, influencing our behaviors, emotions and thoughts (Van der Kolk, 2014, Bergman, 2012). When memories remain unprocessed they can lay the foundation for the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (Shapiro and Maxfield, 2002).

And how is trauma healed?

Levin (1997), points out that the cure of trauma depends on the detection of symptoms, which are difficult to identify in themselves since they obey primitive responses. For some the symptoms are crystal clear, but for most people they are subtle., difficult to perceive by themselves.

It is essential that the person have awareness of illness and reflective capacity, and it is necessary to explore their reactions, behaviors, emotions and thoughts, as well as taking a journey through the history of the person who allow recognize the sources of trauma, to desensitize and reprocess the traumatic history (Shapiro, 2012).

On the other hand, let us remember that our natural system for overcoming difficulty is blocked by the impossibility of escape. With this, a trapped somatic energy remains, which in the healing process must be released or mobilized out of the frozen state, enabling a decisive response. and creative approach to the threat, which operates not only at the time of the experience, but also years later because our mind and our lives have become fixed on the trauma.

Our own healing ability, to the rescue

There is a very nice case of Psychiatrist Bessel van der Kolk, MD. in his book The body keeps score. Review of a 5-year-old boy who experienced the attack on the twin towers in the US. USA of September 11.

The boy drew the sudden, painful, dead-end and extreme fact, experienced by many people, but he also drew a trampoline to jump on. By replaying the experience in his mind, the little boy also had the ability to actively manage and achieve a solution. for their own rescue from trauma (Van der Kolk, 2014).

Unlike this little guy, many people who get mentally stuck in the experience, their neural patterns shift, their life stops, they stop. spontaneity subtracts, and they remain in a permanent state of alert, always functioning under threat, since each new milestone in life is contaminated with the experiences of the past.

@image( 26753, left) With EMDR Psychological Therapy we access the traumatic memory that has contributed to the development of the disorder that the patient presents directly, as it was filed in the neural network,promoting the activation of the natural information processing system and the remission, therefore, of the symptoms that are suffered. With the focus on dysfunctional information, results are achieved in less time than usual. If you are interested in receiving treatment for problems related to trauma, Get in touch with me.

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