by Misha Grodt MA, LPC
What is Trauma?
We become traumatized when our ability to respond to a perceived threat is in some way overwhelmed. Traumatic experiences often involve a threat to life or safety, but any situation that leaves you feeling overwhelmed and alone can be traumatic, even if it doesn’t involve physical harm. It’s not the objective facts that determine whether an event is traumatic, but your subjective emotional experience of the event. The more frightened and helpless you feel, the more likely you are to be traumatized. It is evident that war, emotional, physical or sexual abuse, violence, and injuries can be traumatic, but often auto accidents (even fender benders), routine invasive medical procedures, troublesome relationships (especially early ones with our caregivers), loss of loved ones, etc. can have the same effect.
Is it Trauma or Stress?
Stress dis-regulates our nervous systems – but for only a relatively short period of time. Within a few days or weeks, our nervous systems calm down and we revert to a normal state of equilibrium. This return to normalcy is not the case when we have been traumatized. In essence, the nervous system becomes overwhelmed and learns to get stuck in a cycle of activation and shutting down, and may cause a variety of symptoms that can affect and/or disrupt all aspects of your being: physical, emotional, cognitive, and social. Anxiety, depression, stress, dissociation, physical pain and illnesses can all have their origin in stored trauma energy. In such a traumatized system, the next time the body senses a threat or stressor, however small, pent-up trauma energy becomes re-activated, and we wonder why we are having what feels like a huge reaction over a small argument or a work deadline.
Residual Traumatic Response:
- Body continues to signal that it’s in danger
- Patterns become set in body and brain
- Immediate and instinctual becomes chronic
- Stuck in defense, preparing for mobilization
- (or) Collapse, shut down, feelings of helplessness (or combo/roller coaster of the two)
- But! The body is trying its best to protect you! Isn’t that amazing??
- Once imprinted with trauma, physiological activation and an assessment of threat can trigger a reactivation.
Misha Grodt, MA, LPC, views therapy as sacred work in which the therapeutic relationship is one of mutual respect and collaboration. She holds a BA in Anthropology from the University of Washington (1997) and a Master’s degree (MA) in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Argosy University (2010) and is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in Colorado. In 2014 she completed a three year advanced training in Somatic Experiencing (SE), a body-centered approach to treating trauma and other stress disorders. Misha is inspired by Western psychological models and Eastern contemplative techniques, and her practice is enhanced by many years of experience as a yoga and meditation teacher, and as a seeker of various healing modalities. A life-long path of self-exploration and global adventure has led her to ashrams, Native American sweat lodges, monasteries, and innumerable seminars, workshops, and retreats. You can find more about Misha’s work on her website or via Facebook.