“Traumatic events are extraordinary, not because they occur rarely, but rather because they overwhelm the ordinary human adaptations to life”
Judith Herman from Trauma and Recovery
We now know that we don’t have to be a combat soldier in war to have encountered trauma. The word “trauma” is used to describe experiences or situations that are emotionally painful and distressing, and that overwhelm people’s ability to cope, leaving them feeling powerless. Trauma has been defined in reference to circumstances that are outside the realm of normal human experience. Trauma is a development obstacle to normal human development. Therefore, it can hinder or stunt us intellectually, emotionally and physically. With trauma there is a breakdown or a split between the mind and the body and that is why helping people to overcome childhood trauma and/or single event in adulthood is an integrative process. Individuals who have suffered physical, emotional, sexual abuse or neglect in childhood will find themselves suffering from an un-integrated sense of self.
Sometimes in an attempt to cope individuals can dissociate or feel that they are disconnected from their sensory experience, sense of self, or personal history. Dissociation is usually experienced as a feeling of intense alienation or unreality, in which the person suddenly loses their sense of who they are, or what they are doing. This is sometimes described as an “out-of-body” experience. However, dissociation can be distressing when it continues to occur, even when people are engaged in everyday activities. At other times individuals can engage in self-destructive behaviors or consume addictive substances to self-soothe and to cope. Therefore, psychotherapy is the most effective form of treatment for trauma. Therapy can enable people who have experienced trauma, develop plans to stay safe and grounded in their own bodies.
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