Incidental Trauma and Developmental Trauma
We have got to clear up what we mean by trauma, as the word itself is heavily loaded.
Trauma means anything that leaves an emotional residue in the system and interferes with its normal function. Thus, our definition of trauma is taken into a wider context, putting it on par with what we call conditioning.
A highly pleasant sensation can also leave an emotional residue in the system due to a developed attachment. This, in turn, can set up a negative pattern of craving, which will interfere with the organism’s normal functioning.
The various facets of trauma are innumerable; however, we can categorize them roughly into two categories:
- developmental trauma
- incidental or shock trauma
Trauma plays itself out always on all levels: mentally, emotionally and physically. Regardless of how it enters the system, all aspects of the human being are involved. The mechanism of trauma, however, is similar in all cases.
- An impact, which can be physical or psychological, incidental or developmental, is not fully met and leaves a residue in the psyche and nervous system.
- There is a rationalization of the event leading to a protective mechanism called dissociation.
- Replaying or reenacting the event, trying to solve, understand or overcome the impact of the event, feelings of guilt, blame and self-reproach are all inherent within the dissociation process and keeps the trauma in place.
- The nervous system is either hyperactive or hypoactive, which often leads to detrimental effects on normal daily functioning and manifests in a variety of pain symptoms, syndromes, and in severe cases with amnesia of the initial event. Peter Levine puts it like this: “It is as if our instinctive survival energies are all dressed up with no place to go”.
To unfold and resolve trauma one has to look at and reverse the dissociative processes. What is most acute for someone who is traumatized is the interpretation of the event as it is colored by feelings of guilt, blame, and self-reproach.
Letting the story unfold while emphasizing emotions and related body sensations allows the person to reclaim responsibility for his or her well-being and releases emotional residue stored in the nervous system.
Having passed through the barrier of guilt, blame, judgment and self-reproach, energy is freed up in the nervous system and emotions can be seen for what they are. This leaves the person in a neutral space after release. Patterns that were put in place as a result of trauma can now be used as constructive strengths.
Using body sensation to understand and unfold Post-Traumatic Stress is an effective and generally short-term approach to resolving the effects of trauma.