More about trauma

There’s a lot going on! Between natural disasters, war-like conditions, and the continuing pandemic, I’m surprised any of us are functioning at all. My Weekly Forecast on Patreon that covers the week going into September said, in part, “…we can expect the microcosm to mirror the opportunities for ripping the bandaid off the infected and festering wounds of our trauma. Be prepared to do some deep foundational work this week. Whatever your ideas about your world, how things work, and how Things Should Work, be open and flexible to those not being exactly factual.”

Trauma is generally defined as an immediate response to a disturbing event which involved intense fear, helplessness or horror. Sound familiar? When the symptoms of trauma occur within the first month after a traumatic experience, but dissipate within four weeks, they are known as an acute stress disorder. When we don’t have the tools to process our trauma, it gets stuck, and we can develop varying levels of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.

When a person is within their window of tolerance, it is generally the case that the brain is functioning well and can effectively process stimuli. That person is likely to be able to reflect, think rationally, and make decisions calmly without feeling either overwhelmed or withdrawn.

Each individual’s window of tolerance is different. Those who have a narrow window of tolerance may often feel as if their emotions are intense and difficult to manage. Others with a wider window of tolerance may be able to handle intense emotions or situations without feeling like their ability to function has been significantly impacted.

The stress of a traumatic or otherwise negative event may have the effect of “pushing” a person out of their window of tolerance. People who have experienced a traumatic event may respond to stressors, even minor ones, with extreme hyper- or hypo-arousal. As a result of their experiences, they may come to believe the world is unsafe and may operate with a window of tolerance that has become more narrow or inflexible as a result. A narrowed window of tolerance may cause people to perceive danger more readily and react to real and imagined threats with either a fight/flight response or a freeze response.

In other words, the more trauma you experience, the lower your ability to deal with stress.

From a Shamanic point of view, when we have an unresolved trauma, we essentially leave a part of ourselves in that moment on our timeline. Any time something feels in some significant way like the original trauma, we boomerang back to that point in time and react from the self that dropped an anchor. So if my originating wound was when I was 10, I react to whatever is going on now as if I were a wounded ten year old.

Trauma can include surgery, severe illness, and being unhoused. It isn’t limited to war, sexual abuse, accidents, and robberies.

Trauma can be an ongoing or long-term stressor, it doesn’t have to be a singular event.

All that is required to process trauma, or even just feelings, is to be present.

Symptoms of PTSD include:

  • Binary thinking
    (“always” “never” “good vs bad with no grey area)
  • Hard to focus or concentrate
  • Forgetting how to do basic tasks at work and at home
  • Increased irritability or reacting rather than responding
  • A sense of heightened awareness
  • Circular thinking
  • Nightmares
  • Getting stuck in patterns and repetitive behaviors
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • There are ways to re-empower yourself, to take your power back from those anchors you have dropped, and to work through your stored trauma without creating more trauma. Once you have learned these tools, you can apply them to all sorts of things in your life. It doesn’t require years of expensive therapy to get un-stuck.

    With everything that has been going on, I have started offering a monthly workshop where you can learn new tools for moving through your own trauma and take your power back from the circumstances of your life, past and present. Because I like being in the solution when I can, and I really feel like we could all use some solutions and empowerment right now.

    This article originally ran in the September Newsletter, and on Patreon. If you you don’t receive the newsletter in your inbox and would like to, you can sign up here.

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