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Trauma

Trauma is not just a bad or distressing thing that happens to us. Trauma is an event that changes our neurobiology because we experience life-threatening powerlessness.

Understanding Trauma

‘To be traumatised’ means that there are fundamental changes in the way that our bodies and brains react to perceived threat, process information and store and retrieve memories. It is not just being upset at a bad thing happening.

When we experience trauma, there is a fundamental shift in the way that we perceive the world, other people and ourselves.

Trauma disconnects us both from ourselves and from others. It profoundly impacts our ability to manage our emotions and stay in ‘the green zone’.

Psychotherapy for trauma survivors is fundamentally different to ‘regular’ therapy: the brain is geared for 0 or 10, of avoidance and amnesia, or overwhelm and flashbacks.

We need to understand how trauma changes the brain and body in order to recover from it. We need to treat trauma with the respect it deserves, but not assume that its impacts are irreversible.

Explore our resources below, especially our ‘Trauma and the Body’ Online Training to find out more.

Resources

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Trauma and the Body: Dissociation and Somatisation

Trauma and the Body: Dissociation and Somatisation

Trauma doesn’t just affect the mind and the emotions. It profoundly affects the brain and the body too. Often ‘the body remembers’ what the mind cannot, manifesting not just in long-term psychological difficulties but in physical ones too. Trauma is not something ‘all in the mind’, or something that we can just think or talk ourselves out of. On this course I look at how there is no real split between ‘body’ and ‘mind’ – and certainly not when it comes to trauma.

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Mental Health and the Body: Treating Trauma

Mental Health and the Body: Treating Trauma

Trauma is a supremely physical phenomenon, manifesting not just in our emotions and mental states, but also in our bodies. Trauma results in significant emotional distress and fear-based dysregulation, but also in long-term bodily inflammation and sleep disturbances, which in turn inhibits the processing of traumatic memory. And so it makes sense that our bodies also need to be involved in recovering from trauma: this course shows you how.

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Dissociation and DID: The Fundamentals

Dissociation and DID: The Fundamentals

When faced with overwhelming trauma, dissociation can be the only logical thing our brains are able do to help us to survive. Join me as I explore what happens in the brain during trauma, why dissociation is the brain’s best way of surviving when overwhelmed by life-threat, how dissociative disorders develop and how best to support trauma survivors rediscover a sense of safety with a dysregulated nervous system.

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Podcast: #11 – Recovering from developmental trauma

Podcast: #11 – Recovering from developmental trauma

Recovering from trauma takes time. In this podcast, I look at how we often missed out on developmental stages during childhood, and how we have to learn what we were not in a position to learn as children - not least our ability to regulate our emotions, which isn’t a sign of character deficiency, but simply the loss of opportunity.

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Podcast: #12 – What does recovery from trauma look like?

Podcast: #12 – What does recovery from trauma look like?

Recovery from trauma is a journey, an orientation, a direction, not a specific location. Just head north - where you're at is less important than which direction you're headed in. In this podcast, I discuss why we can feel that recovery is impossible, how recovery perhaps doesn't look as we imagine it to, and how society needs to help with 'public transport' to help us on our way.

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Podcast: #15 – Trauma is not just a distressing event

Podcast: #15 – Trauma is not just a distressing event

Trauma isn’t something we’re supposed to get over easily. It’s supposed to impact us. It’s supposed to change us. That’s part of why it’s so hard to shift. The problem isn’t with us. In this podcast, I talk about the impacts of trauma and how it isn’t something that we can get over easily.

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Podcast: #16 – Trauma needs a solution

Podcast: #16 – Trauma needs a solution

Trauma teaches us that we are helpless to act in the face of danger. But recovery from trauma involves learning to act, learning to take steps, learning to start to find and create the solutions. In this podcast, I talk about the symptoms of trauma and how they drive us towards a solution.

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Trauma and the bears – a fable

Trauma and the bears – a fable

Recovery from trauma starts with acknowledging the existence of bears. It requires the involvement of a safe tribe. It necessitates the telling of our story and the healing of our wounds. And it requires action to keep us safe from further bear attacks.

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Why can’t I just get over my trauma?

Why can’t I just get over my trauma?

‘If I could just get over it, I would,’ I say, and I’m trying not to sound irritated or hurt but I’m not quite sure what emotion my face is displaying and my throat is tight and my fists are clenched and really I’d rather not be here, and neither am I convinced that I’m a good enough actor to hide all of this.

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The Trauma Traffic Light

The Trauma Traffic Light

The 'trauma traffic light’ represents three physiological states that the body can shift gear between, depending on levels of threat or security in the world: the green zone, the amber zone or the red zone. Join me as I explain this concept that I developed from Stephen Porges' polyvagal therory.

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Why the symptoms of trauma make sense

Why the symptoms of trauma make sense

So this was me, then: a tick-box list of symptoms demonstrating how screwed up I was. ‘Loser!!’ it screamed at me, casually. The more items I ticked, the more it screamed: ‘Bigger loser!’ Forty items – tick, tick, tick: ‘Biggest loser in the world!’ And so shame sat like a heavy puddle of tar in my stomach.

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Three challenges of trauma: why recovery is so hard

Three challenges of trauma: why recovery is so hard

We don’t fail to heal from trauma quickly because there’s something wrong with us – because we’re stupid, because we enjoy being victims, because we’re mentally ill, because we’re lazy, because we’re weak. Trauma is difficult to heal from. It’s meant to be.

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Why do we avoid talking about the trauma in therapy?

Why do we avoid talking about the trauma in therapy?

We need the capacity to cope with the pain of facing our trauma. We need confidence that things will get better. And we need a safe therapeutic relationship ...

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What is psychological trauma?

What is psychological trauma?

Trauma is an event or series of events that are so overwhelming and threatening to life or sanity that a person cannot cope. The mind may switch off (dissociate) during the event or, at the very least, it will not be able to hold together the different elements of the event afterwards and ‘integrate’ them or join them together.

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What are the usual responses to trauma?

What are the usual responses to trauma?

The way we respond to trauma is not a matter of choice – it is a biologically preprogrammed set of responses which happen in a predictable sequence. Here we look at the five ‘F’ responses to trauma.

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