Maybe you have experienced something traumatic and you are trying to understand why you react and feel the way you do in certain situations. Or maybe you have a friend or family member that often blows up at the drop of a hat or avoids certain situations now and you want a better understanding. One of the first steps to healing trauma is understanding and nurturing those feelings and reactions. When therapists use the term "trauma" it can refer to a number of different events in which a person felt afraid for their safety or someone else's. Many people often think of trauma as abuse, assault, war exposure, and natural disasters. However, there is a wide variation of what could be considered traumatic and it may also include major life events like divorce and loss of a loved one. Children may also experience the death of a pet, moving homes, and living in foster care as traumatic.
Just because a person has experienced something traumatic does not mean they automatically develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Every person and situation is unique and there are many different factors that effect how a person will respond after an event. For instance, support can make a great difference in how a person recovers from trauma. This article will help you to understand if someone is still struggling with their trauma and what responses are common. 
Because talking about specific traumas can be triggering for people, I am going to use a different scenario to explain the trauma reaction. Let's say that one day you are on a hike and suddenly a bear  crosses your path. Your biological survival instincts will kick in and you will automatically respond with a fight, flight, or freeze instinct. You will either fight the bear, run away ("flight"), or freeze and play dead. These instincts happen in a split second using the impulsive part of your brain instead of the rational, thinking portion of the brain. Your impulsive instincts are wired to keep you alive in a crisis and you do not get to choose your reaction. Once you survive the crisis, you may find it hard to switch gears back into the rational part of your brain again. You may start reacting impulsively in everyday life, living in survival mode. 
After your traumatic experience with the bear, you may start to avoid hiking or any paths that remind you of the trauma. Maybe you are just walking down the street one day and suddenly a squirrel runs across your path. Your reaction: 'Ah! It's a bear!' Your heart may race, you may fight, flight, or freeze again and respond as if everything crossing your path is that bear. It may be hard for you to see that it is actually just a squirrel and that you are still safe. This squirrel crossing your path may even set off a series of bad days in which you are stuck in the fight, flight, or freeze mode with every stressor and every person that comes your way. You may feel like everyone is out to get you just like that bear. You may feel angry, fearful, anxious and hopeless. You may even start to question everything, including yourself. You no longer feel safe and you no longer know who you can trust. Your body may continue to react and re-experience that bear's presence. It's hard to relax and it's hard to enjoy day to day life now that you are living on edge, trying to anticipate the next thing to go awry. Your friends and family just don't understand because all they see is a squirrel. They think you should just "get over it" since it's been over a year now, or they may not even realize that your reaction is related to the bear. You may not even realize that your reactions and emotions are related to the trauma. It is hard to see and think clearly when your brain is caught in the impulsive survival mode. 
The good news is, you do not have to continue living in survival mode. With the right support, understanding, and tools, you can learn how to take a moment the next time something crosses your path before you get caught in the fight/flight/freeze mode. You can learn how to stay grounded in the present moment and calm those intense reactions. Therapy is an excellent source of support and can help you find the tools you need. For more information on this and other tips, follow my blog at Exploring Inner Peace or call me for a consultation on how I can help you or your loved one. 

 

Written by Therapist Lindsey Lowrance at Exploring Inner Peace. Lindsey is passionate about helping people get in touch with their inner resources to find health and happiness. Helping you to Find Your Strength! For more information as well as other free resources on mindfulness and trauma visit: www.exploringinnerpeace.com Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Phone: 720-243-3993
© Lindsey Lowrance 2015- This article MAY be shared or reprinted as long as the information is unedited and the author bio, including contact information is printed along with the tips.