“Trauma that is not genuinely felt will be reenacted in either symptom or behavior and ultimately recreated in intimate relationships.”
— Robert Naborsky, MD
The valuable information below is cited from thebody.com, to read the complete article click HERE
Everyone experiences traumatic events; it is not the presence of trauma but how an individual deals with a traumatic event that determines the impact it will have on his or her life.
If left unresolved, the feelings surrounding trauma can persist, impairing our judgment and effectively “freezing” us into harmful patterns of behavior, including sexual risk-taking, substance use, and poor self-care –
Making sense of traumatic experiences — how they affect us and how they can trap us — is the first step in healing the wounds of trauma.
Common Symptoms of Unresolved Trauma
Intrusive thoughts, flashbacks
Attractions to dangerous situations or high-risk behaviors
Dizziness, trembling, fainting
|Sleep Disturbances, nightmares
Extreme sensibility to heat or cold
The Trauma Continuum
Trauma can take many forms and occur at any life stage. The impact of trauma is especially pronounced in childhood. For children, even seemingly minor events — such as schoolyard bullying or an encounter with an aggressive dog — can have profound effects. Infancy and childhood are the most critical developmental periods; the human brain completes 75% of its total development within the first six years of life.
A child’s earliest experiences, even those beyond conscious recall, play a crucial role in his or her behaviors, attitude development, relationships, and sense of self in later life. A stable childhood can provide some protection against the effects of trauma, but no one is completely immune. Cataclysmic events, such as riots, natural disasters, and war, can traumatize entire groups of people, regardless of their past experience or current resilience. Diagnosis of a life-threatening illness can traumatize even the most self-confident individual.
Trauma must always be considered in the context of each person’s individual perception. What may be traumatic to one individual may not be traumatic to another; it is the subjective perception of “threat” that determines the intensity of each person’s reaction. In the field of trauma therapy, traumatic events are classified as degrees on a continuum: “big-T” trauma, “little-t” trauma, and cumulative trauma (also called chronic unremitting stress).
Big-T trauma is generally associated with discrete, identifiable events and usually involves distinct memories that the individual can recall. A person who has suffered rape, severe childhood abuse, or a catastrophic illness or injury; unexpectedly lost a relative or friend; or witnessed violence or war has experienced big-T trauma. In the short term, these traumas generally exert the most debilitating physical and psychological effects.
|Common negative beliefs associated with big-T trauma:“I should have done something.”
“I am powerless.”
“I can’t protect myself.”
“I am in danger.”
“I am weak.”
Little-t trauma and cumulative trauma, in contrast, are associated with continual or recurring situations and have more global and lasting effects on the individual. Little-t trauma stems from situations that may seem insignificant or only mildly distressing, but which can lead to extreme reactions. These may include physically uncomfortable experiences like dog bites, dental procedures, or minor automobile accidents, or emotionally painful experiences such as criticism or verbal abuse, repeated failures at school or work, intermittent childhood neglect or isolation, or being bullied or teased.
|Common negative beliefs associated with little-t trauma:“I am insignificant.”
“I am a failure.”
“I am unlovable.”
“I can’t trust anyone.”
“I am broken.”
“I don’t deserve to be happy.”
|Common negative beliefs associated with cumulative trauma:“The world is unsafe.”
“I need to protect myself at all times.”
“Nothing will ever change.”
“There is no point in trying.”
For young people, little-t traumas may also include “empathic failures” on the part of caregivers. Continual dismissal of a child’s feelings — for example, with words like “you aren’t hurt” or “don’t be sad” — represents a caregiver’s failure to empathize, or perceive and understand the child’s emotional state. When this occurs, there is no “relational home” for the child’s feelings, no sense of the safety or security required for the child to express emotions and learn to regulate them.
The effects of cumulative trauma result from recurring situations or experiences. The constant pressures that contribute to cumulative trauma make it extremely resistant to treatment; it cannot be easily alleviated or temporarily managed through common stress-reduction techniques. As with other trauma, pain inflicted over time can become “frozen” into physical symptoms. Cumulative trauma can lead to a state of apathy, hopelessness, and even rage. Examples of cumulative trauma include extended exposure to frightening or stressful situations, homophobia/heterosexism, racism, sexism, classism, poverty, and neglect.
Long-Term Effects of Unresolved Trauma
The brain is the central processing organ for all sensory information and the primary regulator of all mental and emotional functions. It is divided into two hemispheres that regulate different mental attributes. The right hemisphere (or “right brain”) regulates non-verbal information, visual-spacial perception, autobiographical details, abstract thinking, creativity, and intuition. The right brain deals with procedural memory, which is long-term memory of skills and procedures, such as driving a car or tying a shoe. The right brain is the locus of the unconscious, where self-awareness begins. The left hemisphere (or “left brain”) is associated with logical, linear, analytical thinking. It is the primary center for linguistic and verbal functions and declarative memory, which is the conscious recall of information and events.
An important feature of trauma is how traumatic experiences become encoded in the brain as memories and throughout the body as sensory information. Big-T trauma is usually associated with specific large-scale events that elicit strong “affective sensations” (sensations accompanied by a strong compulsion to respond, such as the reflex of withdrawing one’s hand from a hot object) as well as powerful visual images, called “snapshot memories.”
Being both sensory and visual, the memories of big-T traumas are stored in both hemispheres of the brain, but primarily in the right hemisphere. Conversely, “little-t” traumas are not discrete events or situations, but rather continual attitudes and sensations that a person experiences over time (such as ongoing criticism or neglect). Little-t traumas are primarily recorded in the right hemisphere as “memory imprints” (such as negative self-concepts, negative beliefs, or feelings of isolation).
In a simplistic sense, in order for any traumatic experience to be processed, it must be felt by the right brain, then analyzed, interpreted, and understood by the left brain. Otherwise, a traumatized person may relive an event over and over again without examining it and coming to terms with what it means.