What defines trauma?
What makes a stressful,ordinary event turn into trauma? It is how we respond to it. Do we attend to ourselves? Do we notice our sensations? Do we notice how we feel? Do we get support from friends or a professional who understands trauma? Can they validate how we feel? Can they accurately reflect it to us? Do we feel seen and understood? If we do take care of ourselves (not suck it up) we can tap into our innate resiliency.
Trauma is about overwhelming stress which the brain and body cannot absorb or process. It robs one of the ability to think, to be productive, or to experience pleasure, joy, or creativity. It, in essence, robs one of the ability to feel alive. It robs one of life.
Goals of Treatment
The goals of trauma treatment are to release the trauma energy, thereby allowing access to well being. It is also to promote internal emotional regulation. One way of doing this is to connect to the sensation of the trauma activation while simultaneously connected to a safe resource or positive experience. Thus the nervous system does not go into overwhelm, and the messages of distress which the trauma imprinted on the brain and nervous system are gradually reprogrammed.
This process of connecting to the experience of distress while simultaneously connecting to a positive experience is sometimes referred to as “our leading edge”. For example, if I am feeling really anxious about something, and it is so strong that the impulse to act on the anxiety is about to take over, but I calm myself by connecting to a positive experience such that I can notice the anxiety but it is not in charge, I remain present to the moment, and have access to my thinking brain, this is my “leading edge”.
This approach can be effective for both single traumatic events, or for chronic trauma experiences which are in the environment. This is just one tool for treating trauma. There are many others.