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 We all have these natural reactions. For some, it doesn’t fade away over time.

A running joke amongst therapists is a trauma therapist sees trauma everywhere.  It’s true!  Bessel van der Kolk, famous trauma researcher, describes “big T trauma and small t trauma”.  He refers to big T trauma as the commonly understood trauma, of experiencing grave danger or witnessing danger to another that may lead to a diagnosis of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). On the other hand, small t trauma, can be emotional slights, neglect, verbal abuse, bullying and many other events and circumstances that can also lead to PTSD or some trauma symptoms.

Trauma occurs when physical reactions are triggered, as result of a physical or other threat, that serve to protect the organism and help it survive. These reactions are based in the limbic brain and humans have many of these reaction in common with other animals. PTSD occurs when these reaction to danger get stuck in a negative feedback loop.  The original reaction designed to protect, repeats and causes continued stress, maladaptive reactions and prolonged suffering.  Clients are haunted by memories, or experience chronic hypervigilance, among other things. If you have ever experienced a dangerous situation or a “near miss” accident or attack, you may recall the feelings immediately following. We all have these natural reactions. For some, it doesn’t fade away over time.

There are a variety of treatment that help most people suffering from trauma reactions. Francine Shapiro, a VA psychologist, created EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). This and similar therapies bring great relief relatively quickly and have revolutionized mental health treatment. Processing occurs, consciously and unconsciously and “reprocesses the upsetting material leading to less or no more symptom.

It is fascinating that tapping into one more unconscious process can be so helpful. Ancient traditions, like drumming, dance, meditation, yoga, qigong, making art, chanting can also be very effective in healing many emotional conditions. It is apparent that the future of mental health lies in these unconscious processes.  We have much to learn from the past!

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