Whether or not we develop symptoms of trauma is a function of both the intensity and the consistency of the experience. It is also a function of our ego strength (our ‘emotional constitution’) and personal resources, and the support with which we feel from our attachment environment (that is, to whom we can turn and feel safe). The presence of trauma symptoms is also dependent upon lingering differences we may experience compared to pre-trauma functioning, that is, how much we are reminded of the trauma. (ie-the loss of a limb).
As a postscript to my recent blog post on Psych Central, I explain the current climate of trauma treatment. Treatment for trauma has been in existence for decades. As I formerly exposed, trauma is not new; it is the use of the word that has taken storm in the last many years. In fact, both Freud and Hay, who are formerly mentioned, had treatment for trauma. Freud said that if you reveal your unconscious conflicts, tied to sexualized energy, healing will occur. That is, your ego will be stronger to act as liaison between the id and the super-ego. Conflict will lessen as will anxiety when we have access to the road to the unconscious. Louise Hay, who passed away earlier this week, on the other hand noted, and to this day espouses, the idea of ‘You Can Heal Your Life’, the 1984 book that catapulted her into a publishing magnate with a fairly recent 2016 media version of the book, with many books in-between.
As I stated, when we become immobilized the trauma gets stored somewhere in our body, our neural networks; usually those networks lay down the tracks for other subsequent moments to build upon. If not discharged properly it sleeps in our bodies and in our souls. When it sleeps, it morphs and over time the symptoms of which become far removed from the trauma of origin, so much so we might not identify the connection. Without that connection, symptoms cannot truly resolve.
There are many places to turn for help, psychotherapy being the most popular.
The two most widely recognized methods for treating trauma today are Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), processing and some form of experiential treatment.
CBT to me is a kind of garbage pail term. Therapy, for the most part, is cognitive. When it’s not, it’s experiential. The type of CBT originally laid out by David Burns in 1980 in his groundbreaking book Feeling Good lays out a system of identification of the thoughts and ways to change the thoughts. There is trauma based cognitive behavior therapy where one learns their triggers and how to respond differently. That is not bad however most of the treatment for trauma today recognizes that pain, fear and whatever emotions are tied to the experience, are stored in the body and on neural networks, networks that connect tightly corresponding experiences.
Traditional psychodynamic therapies are still used, however, more expedient versions have taken shape and dominated the treatment trends. Diana Fosha’s (Fosha, 2000) Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy (AEDP) or Jon Frederickson’s (Davanloo, 2000) Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy (ISTDP) both go for the affect within the context of the presenting complaint. Once the affect is opened, there is a space for healing.
The other most popular form is processing affect through the body, actually mind, body and emotions, direct or indirect. Eye-Movement-Desensitization Processing (EMDR-Shapiro, 2016) and Somatic Experiencing (Levine, 1997). With EMDR, bilateral stimulation is presented to the patient during the retrieving of the traumatic event. It is through this process that the memory becomes consolidated in some way and the power of the event(s) becomes less. With it no longer having strength, it has less of an effect on our behavior.
With Somatic Experiencing, on the other hand, there is more of an emphasis on retriggering the event and moving through it in a different way. In this way, the memory of the event becomes un-frozen, reprocessed and also has less power over our emotions and behavior.
Training in both EMDR and Somatic Experiencing is specialized. It is not something every practitioner is trained in, nor offers. There are advanced trainings available with certification for these forms of trauma treatment.
Click here to see how I can help you with trauma.
Davanloo, H (2000). Intensive short-term dynamic psychotherapy: selected papers of Habib Davanloo. Chichester: Wiley.
Fosha, D. (2000). The transforming power of affect: a model for accelerated change. New York: Basic Books.
Hay, L.L. (1984). You can heal your life. Hay House.
Levine, P.A. (1997). Waking the tiger; healing trauma; the innate capacity to transform overwhelming experiences. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.
Shapiro, F., & Forrest, M.S. (2016). EMDR: the breakthrough therapy for overcoming anxiety, stress, and trauma. New York: Basic Books.