"These mountains you are carrying you were only supposed to climb." ~ Najwa Zebian
Traumatic stress can develop following any event that makes you fear for your safety. Most people associate traumatic stress with rape or battle-scarred soldiers, but any event, or series of events, that overwhelms you with feelings of hopelessness and helplessness and leaves you emotionally shattered can trigger traumatic stress, especially if the event feels unpredictable and uncontrollable.
Traumatic stress can affect people who personally experience the threatening event, those who witness the event, or those who pick up the pieces afterwards, such as emergency workers. Traumatic stress can also result from surgery performed on children too young to fully understand what's happening to them.
Symptoms of Traumatic Stress
1: Re-experiencing the traumatic event
- Intrusive, upsetting memories of the event
- Flashbacks (acting or feeling like the event is happening again)
- Nightmares (either of the event or of other frightening things)
- Feelings of intense distress when reminded of the trauma
- Intense physical reactions to reminders of the trauma (e.g. pounding heart, rapid breathing, nausea, muscle tension, sweating)
2: Avoidance and numbing
- Avoiding activities, places, thoughts, or feelings that are reminders of the trauma
- Inability to remember important aspects of the trauma
- Loss of interest in activities and life in general
- Feeling detached from others and emotionally numb
- Sense of a limited future (not expecting to live a normal life)
- Sleep problems
- Irritability or angry outbursts
- Hypervigilance (on constant “red alert”)
- Feeling jumpy and easily startled
- Aggressive, self-destructive, or reckless behavior
4: Negative thoughts & mood changes
- Guilt or shame
- Feeling alienated and alone
- Feelings of mistrust and betrayal
- Difficulty concentrating or remembering things
- Depression and hopelessness
“The brain-disease model overlooks four fundamental truths: (1) our capacity to destroy one another is matched by our capacity to heal one another. Restoring relationships and community is central to restoring well-being; (2) language gives us the power to change ourselves and others by communicating our experiences, helping us to define what we know, and finding a common sense of meaning; (3) we have the ability to regulate our own physiology, including some of the so-called involuntary functions of the body and brain, through such basic activities as breathing, moving, and touching; and (4) we can change social conditions to create environments in which children and adults can feel safe and where they can thrive.
When we ignore these quintessential dimensions of humanity, we deprive people of ways to heal from trauma and restore their autonomy. Being a patient, rather than a participant in one’s healing process, separates suffering people from their community and alienates them from an inner sense of self.”
“Non-traumatic stressful life events (work, school, financial, health, marriage, or significant change) are as likely as traumatic events to cause symptoms typically associated with Post-Traumatic Stress.”
~Post-Traumatic Stress without Trauma
Harvard Mental Health Letter (December, 2005)
“Triggers are like little psychic explosions that crash through avoidance and bring the dissociated, avoided trauma suddenly, unexpectedly, back into consciousness.” ~
“Don’t ask the question ‘why the addiction’ but ‘why the pain?’” ~ Dr. Gabor Mate
“If your brain changes in response to experience, then you have the opportunity to deliberately help your brain change again based on new experiences you create.” ~ Michele Rosenthal
Traumatic stress is memory, trapped in the mind and body, that keeps getting triggered into present awareness.
If we go through too much stress, we may dissociate.
It lets us adapt to overwhelming events.
If we dissociated, we may not have processed the event, and it remains as memory, to be triggered over and again in the present.
Trauma can make us think, feel, and respond differently.
Our life can become more limited, as we avoid the triggers that remind us of the root memories.
We question ourselves and the world.
We criticize ourselves because we can't "get over it", "let it go", or even be mindful (present awareness without judgement).
Using EMDR and mindfulness techniques while acknowledging the negativity allows the mind and body to neutralize memories from the past, letting us live fully in the present.
"A human being is a part of a whole, called by us the universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest... a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation, and a foundation for inner security." - Albert Einstein.
“Mindfulness is about being fully awake in our lives. It is about perceiving the exquisite vividness of each moment. We also gain immediate access to our own powerful inner resources for insight, transformation, and healing.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn
"I am much more powerful today than the old programs and mind viruses that I absorbed."~ Wayne Dyer
"One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. The latter procedure, however, is disagreeable and therefore not popular." ~ Carl Jung