Post traumatic stress – one of our greatest – and most neglected – public health issues
Any event(s) can be traumatic when too much comes at you so fast that it overwhelms your usual capacity to cope. Unless trauma finds a way out, the impacts of traumatic events live on in the body.
Dr. Daniel Siegel asks, How can the pain of trauma be so often missed? Perhaps, he proposes, the use of words, both in talk therapy and to describe trauma, diverts attention from the experience of trauma. Trauma becomes an abstract concept that more easily fosters a state of denial; that makes it easier for people to look away from the impact – the disruption – of trauma in the daily lives of so many people.
How can Return to Your Senses help?
Fear of reliving the pain of trauma prevents many affected people from seeking therapeutic interventions.
The flood of sensations during many traumatizing events overwhelms the brain’s rational, thinking and verbal functions. If left unprocessed, these sensations live on in the body and often trigger inappropriate reactions and harmful behaviors.
I am revising Return to Your Senses, the handbook that I uses with Trauma TouchTherapy clients, and would like to share part of it.
• Return to Your Senses supports learning new responses to post traumatic triggers
in present time – without reliving past trauma.
• Return to Your Senses helps people reduce the emotional charge of trigger reactions, so it becomes less threatening to work with them.
Trauma often disrupts sensory awareness.
• Return to Your Senses exercises help restore the brain’s capacity to identify and integrate sensory awareness.
Sensory awareness is expressed in simple words and phrases. For some people this is like learning a new language.
• Return to Your Senses supports fluency in body-centered language to facilitate engagement with, and communication of, your inner world.
What is Trauma Touch Therapy?
- a body-centered approach that may use touch and non-touch modalities,
according to each client’s preference and needs.
- an effective adjunct to talk therapy that addresses “issues in the tissues” that “talk”
therapy cannot access.
- an approach that follows Dr. Judith Herman’s instruction that, people recovering from trauma must be the author of their own recovery.
Who benefits from Trauma Touch Therapy?
These days, post-traumatic care is frequently recommended to
•survivors of accidents and illness
•survivors of natural disasters
•survivors of war and the terrible things we do to each other
Less recognized is Compassion Fatigue – aka Vicarious (secondary) Traumatization – which is common among those who witness suffering and trauma.
• first responders
• social workers
• caregivers and all who witness trauma and suffering
Dr. Naomi Remen says, The expectation that we can be immersed in suffering and loss daily and not be touched by it is as unrealistic as expecting to walk through water and not get wet.
In 2011, after a bombing in Mumbai I received the following email from a Mumbai social worker:
I am at a loss as how I should piece this together.
There is so much rage and so much sorrow within;
the healing will take a while.
Survivor’s guilt? Possibly.
But also the fact that as a society we’ve let this grow within us. Is this natural?
Is there a way of getting it out of our system?
Do we work towards cleaning out little corners of the
world and hope that eventually we will have a cleaner world? I don’t have answers;
I don’t even have the questions.
I only hope that someday the questions and the answers
will be there;
and we will in some way be able to right this wrong.
In addition to terrorizing events, there’s the devastating effects of wars that continue to draw attention to the far-reaching effects of post traumatic stress on soldiers, their children, friends, loved ones, and to the recognition that, without successful post traumatic trauma care, we’ll all POWs.
General Peter (Walter Reed Army Hospital), says that it’s tough trying to change attitudes toward PTSD and suicide because he’s fighting a military culture that doesn’t believe that injuries that can’t be seen are as serious as visible injuries.
That belief, combined with doctors, therapists and other care givers who often feel overwhelmed by not knowing what to do, also thwarts public support for trauma care efforts.
What if not knowing5 is a powerful place to be?
In my personal and professional work, I discovered that when I substitute knowing what to do, with curiosity about what is happening in the moment, trauma often directs us to the way out. So, ironically, the experience of not knowing what to do, becomes a chunk of the solution.
Return to Your Senses invites people to create safe space:
• to step back from being overwhelmed
• to not know
• to discover the internal resources that support new learning in ways that are kind and gentle.
Remember to take yourself through the experiences slowly enough to integrate your new learning — and to be aware of opportunities to include joy in your journey.
2017, revision # 3
Carol Springer 2017, revision # 3
Daniel Siegel in Trauma & the Body, A sensorimotor approach to psychotherapy, Pat Ogden, Kekuni Minton, Clare Pain, Norton, 2006; p. xiv.
I don’t know image: http://clipart-library.com/images/rTLozrEEc.png
Find Joy in the ordinary image https://soundingsliterary.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/find-joy1.jpg