What is Trauma?
Trauma is the result of an overwhelming experience that is too unbearable for an individual to process. It is more than a story about your past that lives in the mind, it is unresolved pain that changes your brain, body, and overall perceptions of the world. You may feel your trauma in your gut, nervous system or intolerable emotions like overwhelming anxiety, depression or loneliness.
At its core, trauma is unsettled pain that is continually impactful (subconsciously or consciously). Trauma is not the actual event that you experienced, but as Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk describes, it is the imprint of this devastating experience on your mind and body. Trauma represents how this event influenced and changed you. Traumatized people may feel stuck in agonizing pain or numbness, which causes people to become impulsive and seek out alternate forms of therapy, like binge eating or alcoholism.
Trauma may show up as anxiety, causing your body to live in a state of defence and hyper-vigilance. Due to overwhelming experiences, the perceptual system of your brain is re-wired to overreact to stressors. If your body gets stuck in this fight-or-flight state, it eventually puts a strain on your body, potentially resulting in illness or autoimmune diseases.
Trauma may show up as insomnia or nightmares as your brain attempts to process or recover from stress. It can show up as flashbacks of events that you no longer wish to relive. Flashbacks can be worse than the traumatic incidents themselves. According to Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk, “flashbacks can occur anytime, awake or asleep, and there's no way of knowing how long they will last.” Trauma also shows up as an inability to concentrate, recall events, process and regulate emotions, and chronic pain.
When trauma is too overwhelming it results in a mental and physiological state of dissociation. Dissociation is disconnection to one’s sense of identity, memories, thoughts, and emotions. Unfortunately, there are many people who are unknowingly stuck in this state. It can become part of their identify or personality. To the outside world, they may appear quiet and reserved. Their mind and body defaults to this state as a habitual pattern of protection from stress. The body attempts to manage stress and perceived threats by slowing down and limiting our capacity to feel. This numbness allows traumatized people to survive by suppressing their pain.
Evidently, the past remains alive in your mind and body. Trauma is incredibly difficult to manage alone. But the shameful, isolating nature of trauma prevents many people from reaching out to loved ones or a professional for help. Many people feel hopeless about their future and stuck with their trauma. They (literally) lose the ability to imagine a better future, which causes further shame, depression, and loneliness.
Overcoming trauma and healing IS possible. Continue reading to learn about your potential to heal from your past.
“Trauma is a fact of life, it does not however, have to be a life sentence.”
- Dr. Peter Levine
Contact us to learn more about Trauma
How can I heal?
The path to healing looks different for each of us. At Life Wise Counselling, we draw from several trauma informed approaches that are grounded in research to support your recovery. We personalize treatment to your individual needs and goals
Trauma may cause you to feel confused, ashamed, misunderstood, alone, or hopeless about your future. You may feel stuck in these negative emotions that weigh heavy on your shoulders. To break free from the weight of trauma, and regain control of your life, we may need to relearn agency and safety. Agency is a technical term for the human capacity to influence our functioning. It is the understanding that we have a say in our life and that we can shape our future through our actions.
Mindfulness and introspection are the first steps to promoting agency and safety. We will work together to gradually (and safely) increase your capacity to feel through mindfulness. By identifying and gently sensing your emotions in real time, we can tap into your ability to cope with them.
We may also work together to discover how your trauma was internalized - how you made meaning of what happened to you and within you. We will reframe this internalization in a way that is adaptive and empowering. We want you to safely connect with your trauma at a comfortable, gentle pace so that you can officially rise above it, and your past entirely.
EMDR Therapy (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) and Somatic Experiencing are integrated into therapy to address the impact of trauma on your body. Mindfulness Based Therapy, Narrative Therapy, and/or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy might also be integrated to address your mental and emotional states. We will walk alongside you and work with you, collaboratively so you can move through the discomfort of your past and re-process hurtful memories. Click here to learn more about EMDR Therapy.
In your psychotherapy sessions with your Registered Clinical Counsellor, you may potentially discuss:
Psychoeducation on trauma
Your current internal resources and coping strategies
Mindfulness + acceptance
Self compassion + shame
Problem solving + resiliency
Cognitive distortions + reframing
Re-processing traumatic memories
Bilateral stimulation + self-soothing techniques
Breath work + alternative tools for stress management
We are confident that therapy will allow you to address your wounding in a safe space of acceptance and self-compassion. With your newfound wisdom and post traumatic growth, you can discover how to live in the present moment and access the resilient part of you that is calm and
You can book a complimentary consultation with a therapist directly via the link below. We will hold space for you to share your story and ask questions about the therapeutic process. If you're feeling confused about starting therapy and/or concerned about sharing your story, talking to a therapist about your concerns can help you make an informed decision.
We hope to move at a pace that is comfortable for you so that you feel supported unconditionally.