When you first hear the word ‘trauma’, what comes to mind?
A sexual assault? A car accident? A natural disaster? The death of a loved one? Abuse or neglect? War?
If so, you would most certainly be correct. All of these experiences can be incredibly traumatic and can greatly impact how someone navigates the world around them. Anxiety, nightmares, chronic pain, feeling overwhelmed, being “on guard”, and difficulty concentrating are just a few of the possible responses.
AND, ‘trauma’ has a much more expansive definition than what typically first comes to mind when we hear the word. What happens when we allow ourselves to name all of our traumas?
Traumas are anything that overwhelms, shocks, or disrupts our nervous system, which means that damn near anything can be registered in our body as traumatic. Anything can be traumatic for your system when it is too much, too soon, too fast. Or not enough, for too long. This all may seem a bit new or confusing. Let me give some examples of experiences that can often be felt in this way.
A pap smear. Navigating this world in a body that is a minority (person of color, female, larger body, non-binary, etc). Getting yelled at by a teacher. Infertility. Having had an emotionally unavailable caregiver. A surgery. A “fender-bender”. Moving to a new city. Living in poverty. A break-up. Placing a child for adoption. A c-section. The list is truly endless because trauma is not actually in the event itself. It is all in how the event is registered in your nervous system. Anything that sends your body into a fight, flight, or freeze response can be interpreted as overwhelming and traumatic.
So, coming to therapy for “trauma work” doesn’t mean you have to have been assaulted, abused, or experienced a natural disaster. It can mean that. And it is not limited to that.
Trauma is not a competition.
Anything that is registered in your system as overwhelming is worth processing through so it doesn’t get stuck in your brain, body, and behavior patterns.
So, if you’ve found yourself struggling but told yourself that the experience wasn’t “bad enough”, it might be worth exploring with a trauma specialist. This person can validate your experience and help you to understand why an event may have “seemed minor” but is causing a lot of distress.
There are many ways to heal from trauma. There is not a one-size-fits-all solution. I offer a body-centered approach to therapy and healing, informed by neuroscience. The trauma modalities I offer include EMDR, Trauma-Informed Yoga, and Somatic Experiencing in conjunction with traditional talk therapy.