Effects of trauma leaving you suffering?
Why you feel worried and sick to the stomach
“Now, many people who don’t know a lot about yhe effects of trauma. They may think that trauma has something to do with something that happened to you a long time ago. In fact, the past is the past and the only thing that matters is what happens right now. And what is trauma. Trauma is the residue that a past event leaves in your own sensory experiences in your body and it’s not that event out there that becomes intolerable but the physical sensations with which you live that become intolerable and you will do anything to make them go away.” (Bessel van der Kolk)
Bessel van der Kolk is a Boston-based psychiatrist noted for his research in the area of post-traumatic stress since the 1970s. His work focuses on the interaction of attachment, neurobiology, and developmental aspects of trauma’s effects on the population.
The effects of trauma on you
The human brain is very adept at creating associations and is the process of how we recognise life events and store them as memories.
For instance, when that spider bites you and the pain is unbearable parts of our limbic system known as the amygdala and hippocampus work together to store the memory in vivid detail as part of a security mechanism to keep you out of harm’s way in the future. The Hippocampus is concerned with spatial memory and the facts of what happened. The amygdala is more concerned with the emotion and feeling behind the event.
The presence of adrenaline that is produced during a stress response assists in an efficient burning in of how we felt during the spider bite event and is stored as an implicit memory. The amygdala preserves that memory and places a high priority on not letting us get in to that situation again.
From that point on it is constantly looking out for what it perceives as a threat so it can initialise the release of stress hormones to force us to back away fast for self preservation and survival.
These survival hormones get our body ready to fight the threat, freeze so the threat doesn’t see us or flee to get away from the threat.
What is behind the effects of trauma
This is great right? Though we have one problem… The amygdala will always see any spider as a threat, even if the spider is in a glass cage that it can’t escape from to harm you.
The amygdala doesn’t have the capacity to distinguish between an actual threat, which would be a spider on your hand or a falsely perceived threat of a spider in a glass cage that can’t possibly hurt you. The mere image of a spider is enough evidence to warrant a stress response.
The neural pathway between your eye and the amygdala is more direct and myelinated, meaning it passes signals much faster than say the pathway between the eye and your conscious thinking mind.
The stress response acts to send out the chemicals and hormones that make you sweat, increase heart rate, blood pressure, quickened breath, shunt blood from your gut to your extremities all in an attempt to get you ready to deal with the threat. The blood being shunted away from our gut to our muscles etc has shown to be why we feel sick to our stomach when we are worried about a future based or current event.
This low road response happens within thousands of a second, much quicker than we have the conscious ability to try convince the amygdala that the spider cant hurt us and that we are in fact safe. By the time your conscious mind realises that the spider is in a glass cage and that there is no real threat its too late and the stress response is underway affecting the mind and organs.
This stress response is at the heart of the big 5 fear base anxiety disorders: GENERALISED ANXIETY, POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER, OBSESSIVE COMPULSIVE DISORDER, PANIC DISORDER and SOCIAL PHOBIA.
These disorders are generally treated using psychological talk therapies and in some cases drugs to sedate the now insecure security guard (amygdala). These psycho-therapeutic interventions can be very successful at treating such disorders.
I’ve been trained in psychotherapy, which enables me to counsel those suffering the effects of trauma and also implement mindfulness stress reduction techniques to assist overcoming anxiety related afflictions. The main difference between my counselling a client and using hypnotherapy as part of that process is that hypnotherapy goes a step further in assisting communication with the amygdala as its bypassing what we call the critical faculty.
The critical faculty is the part of our reasoning process that makes judgements on the current situation based on past experience. It’s function is to sort through what we deem as useful information vs what should be discarded as useless information.
It’s the part of our mind that thinks it knows what’s best for us though is not as reliable as we would like it to be. It allows us to cut through the crap and in the process miss out on valuable life changing information.
In fact it can be responsible for keeping us in maladaptive patterns of behaviour that are supporting a heightened stress response to stressful stimuli in our lives.
You may relate bypassing the critical faculty as the “Ah ha moment” when something finally makes sense and is absorbed as truth. This has the potential to effect real change in our lives.
Hypnotherapy has proven to be effective in calming down the thought processes that lead to the physical stress and worry sensations. These sensations can leave us debilitated, feeling out of control and avoiding things that used to add quality to our lives.
How do we treat this heightened response to stress?
We need to teach the amygdala that it is safe and secure in day to day life. We need to release ourselves from what we can deem a constant state of survival mode free of the effects of trauma.
Typical traits of a heightened stress response:
- I found myself getting upset by quite trivial things
- I tended to over-react to situations
- I found it difficult to relax
- I felt that I was in a state of nervous tension
- I found myself getting impatient when I was delayed in any way, eg: traffic lights, shopping centres
- I felt I was rather touchy
- I found it hard to wind down
- I found myself getting agitated
- I found myself being irritable at family members and colleagues
- I found it hard to calm down after something upset me
- I found it difficult to tolerate interruptions to what i was doing
If many of the above traits resonated with you, it’s likely that you may have a heightened stress baseline. This may be impacting on your life and negatively affecting your mind and body health.
Book an appointment to start making this important change to your daily life.
Clinical Hypnotherapist, Qualified NLP Practitioner, Mindfulness Stress Reduction Teacher, and holds Certificate 4 in Fatigue Management.
I believe that we have all the resources within us that are needed to heal ourselves, although having someone that has walked the walk and undertaken the training needed to facilitate you in effecting the change is essential. Find out how you can work with me here.
BY: Scott Allerton
Holistic Health and Wellbeing, Hypnotherapy, Overcoming Anxiety, Overcoming Fear & Phobias, Stress Management