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Fight, Flight or Frozen: our response to trauma

Emotional and psychological trauma is the result of extraordinarily stressful events that shatter your sense of security, making you feel helpless in a dangerous world. Traumatic experiences often involve a threat to life or safety, but any situation that leaves you feeling overwhelmed and isolated can be traumatic, even if it doesn’t involve physical harm. It’s not the objective facts that determine whether an event is traumatic, but your subjective emotional experience of the event. The more frightened and helpless you feel, the more likely you are to be traumatised. An event can lead to trauma if:

  • It happened unexpectedly
  • You were unprepared for it
  • You felt powerless to prevent it
  • It happened repeatedly
  • It happened in childhood

Trauma can be caused by an overwhelmingly negative event that causes a lasting impact on the survivors mental and/or emotional stability, such as:

• Natural disaster
• Severe illness, injury, or accident
• The death of a loved one
• Witnessing an act of violence
• Ongoing relentless stress, such as living in a crime-ridden neighbour hood
• Commonly overlooked causes, such as surgery (especially in the first 3 years of life)
• The breakup of a significant relationship
• A humiliating or deeply disappointing experience

If you think/remember for only a moment about the details of an experience that was hurtful or upsetting to you, a part of your history that you haven’t yet fully processed and let go of, your heart rate will increase, your blood pressure will raise, your pupils will dilate, all of the symptoms of stress. This can happen years after an event occurs.

PTSD is a chronic state within the cells of the body where we experience waves of recurring trauma, reliving all of the biological responses to experiences of the past every time a situation arises that consciously, or unconsciously, triggers the memory of our experience.

Each time we think of what has happened before, our body responds as if it is happening now, for the cells don’t differentiate between the past and the present, they respond to the vibration of our thoughts and emotions and our thoughts and emotions are always now.

However, rather than being clear cut, our response to a traumatic event sits along a continuum, somewhere between the flight and fight is a frozen element, where we are simply stuck in the trauma and can’t seem to move in one direction or another.  Or we might not understand we are stuck, perhaps something just doesn’t feel right in your life or you notice repeating habitual patterns that don’t support your wellbeing and ability to thrive and enjoy life.

This continuum can lead us towards the depth of fear and the same process can work towards increased health as well.

There is an emotional and mental response to opiates. As we now know, the body can create its own opiate ligands, thus creating its own sense of euphoria and pain relief. This led to research into how we trigger the production of opiate ligands.

Research found that when we hug someone we care for, when we nurse a child, when we learn something new that we are curious about, when we exercise, when we laugh, when we eat chocolate, when we do anything that we feel good about, we produce ligands, in this case endorphins, which travel throughout the body and brain, positively changing the chemistry of every cell in the body, making us feel warm and happy. Not only this, all we have to do is think about any of these experiences, and we produce endorphins.

Trauma stored in the body, as unconscious, unresolved emotions, fears and longing, lowers our vibrational frequency. This understanding makes it very clear how important it is to bring the unconscious into the conscious for processing, putting into context and within a broader picture.

My specialist area of work, through massage, energy therapies, essential oils, yin yoga, meditation helps support the release of that frozen element and moves you along the continuum away from fear and toward an ability to enjoy life once more, to shine and thrive.

Call me if you wish to chat through things or attend one of my 6 week therapy courses.

Jayne