Recently, I have been engaged some intensive training in the area of trauma studies. It has been quite a challenging and enriching experience.
One question that often arises is: why do some people develop significant symptoms while others don’t in reaction to the same trauma? Trauma, by definition is a subjective experience. It depends on a complexity of factors, including one’s previous history and exposure to traumatic events, extent of security and safety in one’s interpersonal relationships, temperament, coping style, and support system following the trauma, just to name a few factors.
Trauma is both psychological and neurobiological. It overwhelms one’s capacity to cope. At the psychological level, people often end up feeling broken, and vulnerable, disconnected from parts of their emotional selves. Their life force energy and their sense of meaning and purpose is shattered. At the neurobiological level, the brain has been hijacked. The networks become disconnected. The thinking brain can’t think. The emotional brain releases stress hormones, such as adrenal cortisol throughout the main organs and the system goes on overload. The person is now reacting from a survival point, having been pumped by the stress hormones to act to ensure protection from harm. The heart rate increases, the breath quickens, the muscles get activated to take action. That is the reason why when you are engaged with someone who is in a high emotional state, you cannot reason with them. They are in the survival mode, focused only on defending and protecting themselves.
The long-term consequences of this overactivity of the nervous system are that the person lives constantly in the survival mode. The life force turns inward to deal with the internal chaos caused by the perceived constant threat.
This is a master book in understanding of the interconnection of the body and the mind during the establishment of the trauma and in the process of healing from trauma.