… a deeply distressing or disturbing experience. Emotional shock following a stressful event or a physical injury, which may lead to long-term neurosis. -Oxford Dictionary
We may often assume that trauma is or results from a physically violent event. However, I believe that trauma can be the result of emotional as well as physical distress. It does not need to be physically violent; it can develop in life over a prolonged period. It can also result from both a unique or repeated experience.
Often people believe their experience is not traumatic because they think that others have suffered something worse. In my experience such assumptions are untrue; trauma covers anything that will be traumatic for us. If something troubles us years later then it is very likely to be traumatic and create dysfunctions in our life and our body. It can be a wide range of events: divorce, car crash, rape, sexual abuse, death, problems before during and after birth, infertility, job dissatisfaction, unhappy life, marital issues, loss, miscarriage, abortion, illness, disability, racism, gender inequalities, forced immigration, feeling inadequate, feeling unworthy, suicide of someone close. Even witnessing an event in which we are not primarily involved can lead to trauma, for example, witnessing a car crash or someone attacking someone else. The list goes on.
Sometimes we might not even remember or realise the significance of the event which is causing symptoms of trauma.
When something traumatic happens, we create an excess of energy that gets blocked in the body instead of flowing. We may then experience this as fear, guilt, shame, anger, frustration… According to Peter A. Levine, animals in the wild, after living a traumatic event, shake themselves to dispel this excess of energy. Humans don’t do that anymore, today we are not taught how to do it. And in many cultures codes of conduct, created over generations, ensure that we are no longer able to express our feelings.
Over time, repressed emotions create particular dysfunctions that can be translated into illnesses or accidents. This is clearly not the only reason but it can be one of them. Nutrition is another aspect and considering both at once can be a very effective way of encouraging healing.
I work mostly with women who have been through sexual violence but I do not exclude any other issues that you will come up with. What I am about to explain can be applied to any form of trauma.
Very often sexual trauma, leads to recurrent questions like “why me? What did I do to deserve this? Is it my fault? Such thoughts become ‘stuck in our minds’. Simply assuring the sufferer “this is not your fault” is not enough. It can take years, even a lifetime just to understand that indeed it is not the person’s fault. It often happens that we have a rational understanding of this process, but our body does not share it. This disparity can create personal chaos.
What is emotional trauma?
Responses to traumatic events
A traumatic event can trigger three responses to our knowledge today: FLIGHT/FIGHT and FREEZE.
The two first ones are easy to understand: We either fight back to whatever situation we are in or we go away, probably run. Fight or flight can potentially dispel trauma or a part of it because movement of the body is possible.
What is not often talked about is the FREEZE response. When someone cannot fight back or cannot run away, the body response for survival is FREEZE. This happens when we are sexually or physically abused by someone who has greater power, within the family or elsewhere; when we are in a situation which cannot be avoided or left.
Freezing is an intense response that is triggered for survival and it is entirely normal. However, many of us think about it over and over again, wondering why we did not fight back or simply leave. The FREEZE response is the reason why. The body shuts down for survival and does not allow any movement. Sometimes the victim simply blanks out the experience, as if leaving the body, and later has no recollection of the event. It is important to know that these are NORMAL responses. They are survival instincts and are neither better nor worse than FIGHT and FLIGHT.
Any sort of assault can bring a mix of fear, anger, frustration, sadness, guilt, shame or/and other emotions. In time this mix becomes explosive. The results are multiple: a burst of anger or rage, self harming, illness, accident, suicide attempts, depression and many other responses.
Each person reacts differently to the trauma they have lived. If you don’t recognise your reactions in what I am describing, it does not follow that you are not affected. And it does not follow that you cannot heal.
Exploratory work around trauma is like an onion. We take off one layer after another. And this process can lead to very strong emotional reactions, without adequate preparation this itself can be traumatic. If the body has functioned over the years with these emotions, they became like a type of subconscious or conscious companionship. Letting them go all at once is not advisable and often, not possible. The process is to readjust gradually the body and the mind to a new state.
If you have experienced sexual assault (in fact any kind of trauma), these emotions need to be addressed and released with care, and only when you are ready. Verbalising the assault is often a first step but not necessary so. Healing is messy; it doesn’t have a preordained order.
There are a few possibilities here. I focus on the energy point of view and the law of attraction. To make it simple, when someone experiences a traumatic situation, the body registers all these emotions of fear, anger, guilt, shame… and these remain stuck in the body. This, on a subconscious level, creates an energy field around our body that can direct us to others like us, or people who are looking to take advantage of others such as us. In terms of sexual assault, a predator can sense such an energy field. This is why often, we have not just one but multiple sexual assaults. When people have been abused from a very young age, the entire life experience is shaped around that experience. It can become so ingrained that they have a tendency to direct themselves toward someone who will treat them in a related way, thus creating a familiar situation.
A person who comes from an abusive family or has been raped or suffered violence can have difficulty when treated with Love and Respect because in such cases it can be highly unsettling; it can engender fear or even anger, rage, or/and physical violence as a defense mechanism. This explains why when a rape or abuse victim sometimes cannot cope with a loving relationship.
By releasing the trauma, not with our head but with our body, we create a new energy field, one which will attract different people and thus a different set of experiences. Once we understand how and why we attract certain situations, it makes us responsible for our life and changing from a victim status to someone who can make their own choices. As we break old patterns, we find we can create a new future. All this requires a lot of work, but it is possible.
If we don’t love and respect ourselves, we can have difficulty attracting or relating to one who loves and respects us. We can believe we love ourselves but often that is the mind talking. The energy of our entire Being might say differently. Healing the effects of a trauma requires time and focus. Amongst other things, it involves seeing and accepting the darkest parts of our being.
Working with the body and energy supports such a development in our energy patterns.
Why does it happen again?
Why am i always attracted to the same
violent /abusive /unstrustworthy type of person?