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Trauma is unresolved pain that hums in the background of our lives, stealing our peace. 

One does not have to be a soldier or veteran to experience trauma. Trauma happens to us, our family, our neighbors, our friends, and it often occurs at a very young age, sometimes continuing for a very long time. 

Bessel Van Kolk, MD, Director of the Trauma Center in Boston, a clinical researcher best known for his work with posttraumatic stress and active in the field of mental health since the 1970’s shares in his book, The BODY KEEPS the SCORE, research conducted by the Center of Disease Control (CDC): 

  • 1 in 5 Americans was sexually molested as a child. 
  • 1 in 4 children has been physically beaten by a parent to the point of a mark being left on their body. 
  • 1 in 3 couples engages in physical violence. 
  • ¼ of us grew up with alcoholic relatives and caregivers. 
  • 1 in 8 children witnessed their mother being physically beaten and hit. 

Trauma does not discriminate. 

The harsh truth about trauma is it happens to us; it happens to those we love; it happens around us every day. Some traumas, like war, rape, natural disasters, car accident, physical abuse, leave visible marks. Some, like witnessing a crime or an accident, the abuse of power, serious illness, job loss, family or parental abandonment, betrayal, divorce, or a loved one’s death, do not. 


The promising part is that we are a remarkably resilient species. Once we become aware of and acknowledge what trauma is, we can rebound from the violence, disasters, and betrayals in our lives, rewrite our own story, and influence a remarkably different future for ourselves and the generations that follow. 

What Is Trauma? 

Trauma is any response to a distressing experience or event that overwhelms a person’s ability to function, cope and causes feelings of helplessness, a diminished sense of self (self-worth), and an inability to feel a full range of emotions and experiences. 

The three categories of trauma:  

Acute trauma is often associated with a single event or experience that threatens an individual’s physical, emotional, and physiological safety. Acute trauma can have a lasting negative impact on one’s psyche and sense of self-efficacy. 

Acute trauma can occur as a: 

  • Car accident 
  • Natural disaster 
  • Theft, mugging, robbery 
  • Job loss 
  • Childbirth 
  • Witness to a violent attack/crime 
  • Severe illness or medical trauma 

Symptoms to watch for: 

  • Severe panic or anxiety 
  • Confusion or easily irritated 
  • Insomnia 
  • Disassociation or feelings of being disconnected from oneself and their surroundings. 
  • Lack of self-care and poor grooming 
  • Loss of focus or production at school or work 

Chronic trauma is often repetitive exposure, several instances, more than one occurrence, or prolonged overwhelming traumatic events extending over time. 

Chronic trauma can occur as: 

  • Undergoing treatment for illness 
  • Domestic violence 
  • Childhood abuse 
  • Sexual abuse 
  • Bullying 
  • Sexual harassment and misuse of power in the workplace 
  • Exposure to war or combat situations 

Symptoms to watch for: 

  • Unlike acute trauma, symptoms may not surface for an extended period – sometimes even years. 
  • Flashbacks 
  • Anxiety 
  • Rage 
  • Chronic fatigue 
  • Headaches and nausea 

Complex trauma results from exposure to varied traumatic events or experiences, often within the context of interpersonal relationships. It commonly occurs in childhood and can be especially damaging. 

Complex trauma can occur as: 

  • Interpersonal (between people) 
  • Planned, intentional, extreme, ongoing acts 
  • Child abuse 
  • Neglect 
  • Adverse childhood experiences 
  • Community violence 
  • Domestic violence 
  • Civil unrest 
  • Cultural dislocation 
  • Sexual exploitation and trafficking 

Symptoms to watch for: 

  • Feelings of being “trapped.” 
  • Feelings of shame and guilt. 
  • Destructive coping strategies with alcohol, drugs, disordered eating (under and overeating), sex, and self-harm. 
  • Periods of losing attention and concentration (disassociation) 
  • Headaches, dizziness, chest, and stomach aches. 
  • Isolating and distancing from friends and family. 
  • Relationship difficulties. 
  • Difficulty with daily function. 

Traumatic experiences leave their traces in the body, festering until we invite healing, address the trauma, and very often discovering along the healing path that it can be the real-life stuff that turns into true tales of triumph, resilience, hope, and survival.  

In this month’s trauma series, we are shining a light on:  

  • what is trauma 
  • where it comes from and how it affects our bodies – the manifestation of autoimmune disease and really every part of life.  
  • resources to modern and ancient therapies, the practices for healing.  

Here’s to YOU, healing YOU!  

Be sure to register for our March Tea & Talk (below) which is all about Trauma.

Tea & Talk - March

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