Trauma is an emotionally painful experience that is so distressing that it overwhelms our ability to cope and leaves us feeling powerless. The sensation of wanting to “fight or flee” is activated and many times we are not able to respond in either of these ways, so we learn to somehow manage in the midst of the distressing experience. Overwhelmed with the stress of the experience, many find they end up living in a state of extreme anxiety. We are not made to sustain high levels of stress for long periods of times, thus we are lead to dissociate, numb or emotionally leave our bodies at times to just get by.
There are many different faces to Trauma. It doesn’t always look like the outward signs we have come to associate with trauma… physical abuse or sexual abuse. For many, it may look like extreme emotional neglect. World-renowned trauma researcher, Bessel van der Kolk, believes that there is no such thing as “Big T” trauma and “Little T” trauma… in fact the sustained, ongoing disconnection from a key caregiver during childhood can have catastrophic consequences for the child in the way they are able to create connection in any relationships throughout their lifetime.
Counseling around trauma can be a scary first step to take. You can go as slowly as you need to go. Ask your counselor a lot of questions to be sure you feel safe to step into this work. Your counselor will first focus on self-care activities, assessing your support system, creating a safe space for you to do your work, and building a relationship with you so that the counselor becomes a safe person too. All of this will be done before any work around trauma would begin.
The wounds of trauma can be incredibly deep. Counseling doesn’t erase your past and can’t take away the trauma, but it can help you begin to tell a new story about yourself. A story of strength. A story of resilience. You will become the narrator of your own story and begin to write a new chapter for your future.