We don’t survive trauma as a result of conscious decision-making. At the moment of life threat, humans automatically rely upon survival instincts. Our five senses pick up the signs of imminent danger, causing the brain to “turn on” the adrenaline stress response system.

As we prepare to fight or flee, heart rate and respiration speed oxygen to muscle tissue, and the “thinking brain,” our frontal cortex, is inhibited to increase response time. We are in “survival mode.”

As the price for survival we are often left with an inadequate record of what happened and how we endured it. If we have adequate support and safety afterward, we may be left shaken, but the events will feel behind us. If the events have been recurrent or we are young and vulnerable or have inadequate support, we can be left with a host of intense responses and symptoms that tell the story without words and without the knowledge that we are remembering events and feelings from long ago.

No recovery from trauma is possible without attending to issues of safety, care for the self and reparative connections to others.

Worse yet, the survival response system may become chronically activated, resulting in long-term feelings of alarm and danger, tendencies to flee or fight under stress, debilitating feelings of vulnerability and exhaustion or an inability to assert and protect ourselves.

Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, one therapeutic approach, directly addresses the effects of trauma on the nervous system and body. Sensorimotor utilizes mindfulness techniques to facilitate resolution of trauma-related body responses first before attempting to re-work emotional responses and meaning-making. Long-lasting responses to trauma result not simply from the experience of fear and helplessness but from how our bodies interpret those experiences.

For further advice on dealing with trauma contact EAP Assist.