In this episode I'm talking about trauma responses.
I'm breaking down what they are, how they create a lack of health in our lives, and how we can gently change our internal state so that our trauma responses are LESS required, or not required at all.
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What is a Trauma Response?
First, a reminder of what trauma actually is. Trauma is too much, too fast, too soon.
Trauma is a shock to the system that has not been fully processed.
That means it gets stuck inside your body, creating a state of dysregulation and a lack of health. The lack of health occurs because in a moment of shock, our normal flow of life is interrupted by the shock of the danger or threat so that the body can use all of its resources to keep you alive and safe from danger. It takes a lot of energy for your body to engage in a survival response.
When we experience something really intense, or scary, we are meant to release all of energy and the shock of that experience. When we are unable to release that shock for any reason, that’s when we actually become traumatized.
It’s from here, this state of having trapped intense energy inside of our nervous systems and brains, that we develop trauma responses. Our body never learned that we are not in that emergency state anymore.
So, trauma responses are the body and brains’ way of coping with the destabilization and dysregulation that our system feels as a result of the pent up energy and shock of the trauma.
Another way to explain it could be that trauma response is a coping behaviour developed in a time of extreme stress or danger whether real or perceived. This is not a conscious process, but rather a decision your body made for you to keep you safe during the trauma.
Now, here’s where it gets more complex.
Trauma responses can begin in infancy. This is because trauma can occur in infancy. In the first years of life, ages 1 - 3, the brain is growing and developing at a rapid rate and it is taking in information at a pre-verbal level. The brain and body are fragile and underdeveloped. A newborn has no ability to self-soothe. To self-regulate. It needs the presence of the caregiver for that.
When in our earliest years of life we are inside of traumatic environments, abusive, neglectful, emotionally cold, or distant childhoods - they experienced stress not just to their emotions but also to the body and brain. When our caregivers are abusive, shut down, dealing with their own trauma, addiction, neglect us etc. They are in a state of dysregulation, they have their own trapped shock energy in their system. That means, they are unable to be fully tuned in and connected to us.
From ages 1 - 3, our brains and bodies learn about the world and about ourselves at a physiological level - that’s the level of the body and the brain. And this is where trauma lives first and foremost is inside the body. Our experience of ourselves. This is traumatic for babies, and impacts how their little system learns to cope with stress.
That means experiences that we can’t remember, before we are able to speak, get imprinted into our brain and nervous system. They impact how we experience the world and how we experience ourselves.
Because those of us who’ve experienced childhood trauma grew up in environments that were traumatic, we experienced little to no felt sense of safety or stability during that time, and so our nervous system, our bodies system for adapting and our brains developed in a state of constant stress and fear and chaos and sometimes feeling safe and secure if at all rather than in a state of safety and security and sometimes feeling scared, stressed, or afraid.
Because of this, Childhood trauma often causes us to confuse trauma responses (coping patterns we developed to deal with intense stress) with our personality traits.
I’ll say that again, often when we’ve experienced childhood trauma, we don’t realize that we are confusing our trauma responses - the coping patterns and thoughts and ways of being that we developed to survive the stressful experience. We think those are our actual personalities. But we know they are trauma responses when they impact our health and make it difficult for us to progress in life.
Trauma responses that were needed in childhood - before our systems were mature, and when we were babies, to keep us safe, can create a lack of health in adulthood.
Common trauma responses are: depression, anxiety, panic attacks, people-pleasing, emotionally shutting down, physically shutting down, aggression and anger, constant irritation, self-sabotage, not being honest about your emotions, pretending to be happy when you’re not, over-working, over eating, addiction, compulsions, obsessive thinking, chronic illness, tuning out, hyper-activity, ADD ADHD like symptoms.
When we reframe these behaviours in the context of trauma responses, we can start to take a real and holistic approach to healing and recovery. And, to how we live life itself. We can stop treating the symptoms and start healing at the root level.
In healing, it is our job, to gently teach our bodies and brains that it is safe to release the trauma response. The key is sending signals of safety to the body and brain that are felt. Once these are felt, we can begin gently releasing the trapped energy and responses that we were unable to release during the time of the trauma. This creates space in our system for us to be able to develop new, healthy ways of being.
Trauma Healing is less about stopping our coping mechanisms, than it is about changing our state of being, so that the coping mechanisms are less needed, or they are not needed at all.
Again, Trauma Healing is less about stopping our coping mechanisms, than it is about changing our state of being, so that the coping mechanisms are less needed, or they are not needed at all.
To come out of trauma responses, and regain our ability to consciously respond in a healthy, regulated way means that we are healing and regaining power over our lives in the present. We are regaining the power to create our lives, rather than being stuck inside loops of old sensations and body memories. We are free to access and create our true selves, make our dreams happen, handle challenges with grace, and receive the connection and support that makes life more enjoyable.
Healing is learning to respond consciously, and in an embodied way to the present moment. To our present experience. This is true freedom. This is a state of health and a state of repair.
So, how can you start to consciously respond to your life from a place of health and healing, rather than living in a trauma response?
To break free from trauma responses, you start by creating a feeling of goodness inside of your body. You want to be able to experience a felt-sense of safety and wholeness inside of you. Even just a little bit. As you do this, your nervous system and brain begin to sense that danger is no longer present - or, that less danger is present. This is a gentle process, and a lifestyle of creating a state and sense of safety inside of you. The more safety you experience inside you, the more you will feel safe to release the pain and intense energy of trauma that’s been causing you to live inside your coping mechanisms. The more you release the pain and intense energy of trauma, the less there is a need for the coping mechanism.
Healing is an inside job. It takes commitment, intention, support, and a gentle focus. In my 1-1 coaching work, I provide my clients with this support. Using simple, and practical tools, you will gently release the pain that keeps you acting from your trauma responses. Clients often see changes within the first month of this work, and the changes last because we are not pushing and forcing. Pushing and forcing is a trauma response in and of itself. So, you can’t heal from trauma using a trauma response.
You’ve got to approach from a completely new way. A gentle, healing way. And that’s what I provide my clients with. When you do this work, you experience a deep sense of safety and goodness inside of you that you haven’t experienced before. The results are - reduced depression and anxiety, increased ability to set boundaries and say no, feeling more connected to yourself and others, easier access to your creative flow, increased focus, a sense of acceptance of the past that allows you to truly move on. I invite you to go to shylacash.com/workwithme to book your free 1-1 consultation for this work, I’ll help you identify your trauma responses, and to find freedom from them.