Thursday, March 29, 2012

What is trauma?

Trauma is something that leaves a seemingly-indelible mark on you. It can affect your feelings, your thoughts, your sleep, and your relationships. It may even affect how you think of yourself.

Typical examples of trauma include rape and war atrocities. These are but the tip of the iceberg. Bad events from childhood, death of a loved one, threats, bullying, witnessing a crime, domestic violence, specific encounters with scary things (perhaps a big dog), being in a dangerous situation, isolation, sudden break-ups, and medical issues like a surgery or amputation can all be traumatic. The abrupt nature of the event is traumatizing because the victim has no warning, no time to prepare defenses or use coping skills. This leaves a mark on the mind that causes a facet of the mind to attempt to prepare defenses after the fact. When those don't work, the mind becomes confused and attempts to replay the event until the defenses work; they cannot work, as the mind cannot create safety where it was not, and the result is flashbacks (when waking) and nightmares (when asleep).

Typically, in adolescents and adults, trauma manifests itself through crying, sadness, withdrawal, re-experiencing the event as if it were happening again, and nightmares. In children, the symptoms are more varied as children are less adept at compartmentalizing memories and coping with things like flashbacks in a situationally-appropriate way. With children, you find behaviors such as crying, aggression, anger, isolation, nightmares, mood swings, confusion, and irritability. These symptoms may persist the life of the victim, from the time of the trauma on. If these things come up at any time, the issue is not yet cleared and needs to be cleared. Even if "it only hurts when I do this, doctor," the answer is not "well, don't do that," but "let's make it not hurt anymore."

With trauma, the mind's gears grind to a halt and attempt to free themselves by repeatedly forcing the same action. Unlike other mental health issues, trauma is specialized in that the therapist must adjust that facet of the mind that is malfunctioning at the precise point of stuck-ness. This is not done by reliving the experience - or the mind would have done this during a flashback or nightmare. The commonly accepted technique is narrative therapy, which is the retelling and reframing of events so that the victim becomes the hero. This is a bending of the truth - or creating a better truth. A more effective method is Rapid Resolution Treatment. With RRT, you will be talking, laughing, losing stock in Kleenex, and staying present, in the moment, while telling - but not living - the experience, with the kinds of emotions you would have in an everyday conversation.

If you are interested in clearing your trauma, or want to refer someone you know, you can call 954-612-9553 and make an appointment in my Weston, Florida office. Trauma is my specialty, and can be easily cleared in 2 sessions, or about 4 hours. (Just as a comparison, narrative therapy takes about an hour a week for about 8 months.) If you do not live locally, I do travel frequently, and may be able to make arrangements to come to you, but the price will be significantly higher. Instead, you may find an RRT therapist in the US and Canada at the Institute for Rapid Trauma Resolution.

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