In his famous book Waking the Tiger (1997), Peter A. Levine explains trauma as becoming so commonplace that most people don't even recognize it when it happens. This makes sense, especially since we see traumatic events and occurrences multiple times daily on t.v., in social media (FB, Twitter, etc). These include articles, images, discussions of shootings, violence, killing, abuse, betrayal, etc. Whether or not it is our own personal experience, we are exposed to trauma everywhere we turn.
If we are experiencing/dealing with something traumatic in our own lives, being surrounded by trauma (via television, the news, and social media) can be especially overwhelming.
This impacts us on a cellular level. Our body feels it; the clenching of our jaw, the increase in our heart rate, the tension in our shoulders. We may not be aware of how much we carry trauma with us; but it is aware of us. It creeps in slowly, waiting for the perfect moment to steal our joy.
For those of us that have survived various forms of trauma (that is everyone, by the way), symptoms can remain hidden in our minds and bodies for years; rearing their heads when triggered by something simple such as certain words that are spoken, a smell, a sound, a nightmare (or dream), even hearing of someone else's life struggles.
As Levine explains, "Both the causes and symptoms of trauma are incredibly vast and diverse...Today, it is understood that trauma is a common occurrence that can be caused by seemingly benign events (p. 42).
Levine gives the example of a person who has surgery for something that is viewed as necessary. Even though they are unconscious as the surgeon is cutting into their flesh and bone, their body registers this as a "life-threatening" event. It perceives danger at the cellular level. So while intellectually we understand the surgery is not life-threatening; to our bodies, it is in mortal danger and hence why surgery can cause Post Trauma Stress (p.54).
Betrayal from a spouse who has acted out in their addiction causes trauma. Research indicates that being told of the betrayal in detail and in a "staggered" way (i.e., every time the addict acts out) can actually elicit symptoms of PTSD in the partner.
For the addict, abusing substances can be extremely traumatic for the body. Putting one in harms way via their addiction can also create multiple traumas (whether it is via a toxic relationship, unprotected sex, over-eating with unhealthy food, being addicted to work at the expense of one's life, money-spending excessively or controlling excessively; and/or substance abuse).
Especially when it compromises someone's ability to make healthy decisions (for instance, getting drunk with someone you meet at a bar, going home with them in a black out and being a victim of rape).
I realize all of this sounds awfully depressing. But the AMAZING news is that trauma does not have to be a LIFE SENTENCE. We can heal from trauma, along with being pro-active to protect ourselves from being traumatized in our day to day.
The question is HOW?
- Avoid social media/tv; limit your viewing, especially before bed. Viewing social media before bed can impact getting a restful sleep
- Surround yourself with people who support you
- Get in RECOVERY TODAY!
- Talk to a professional! Work with someone who specializes in trauma (and whatever else you are dealing with, i.e., addiction or a spouse's addiction)Learn how to self-regulate (window of tolerance)
- Get connected to your body via yoga (best way to re-connect and heal trauma!!), exercise, walking
- Get a pet or love on your pet daily; animals are incredibly healing! Self care-get a healthy massage, pedicure, REST, play (in healthy ways!)
- The only way we can fully heal our bodies, minds and spirits, is by addressing recovery on all of these levels.
- It is in this way that we free ourselves from the illusive prison we are in and find an opening to WHO WE TRULY ARE.
As always, YOU ARE WORTH IT.