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The Nature of Trauma

Excerpt from Chapter 10 - Psychology

By definition, (Oxford, 1980), emotional trauma is "emotional shock producing a lasting effect on a person." This implies that whoever is traumatized is stuck in shock and has been that way since the onset of the traumatic event(s). If there is no shock, there is no trauma. Evidence for this shock is the presence of unexplainable symptoms that often result. Such symptoms include fear of abandonment, unexplained rages, blaming/judging of others, sudden tears, sickness, phobias, anxieties, sexual dysfunctions, sleep difficulties, bouts of depression and loss of memory.

Let me use Pol, my then 10-month-old golden retriever, as an example of trauma shock. Pol was a frolicsome high-energy dog without fears, not even of cars or big rigs. Despite my efforts, one day he ran from a warehouse straight into the path of an oncoming station wagon, breaking his leg. He suffered obvious physical pain from the time of the accident until about 24 hours after his first surgery. During that surgery, a temporary pin was inserted in his leg. For the next month after the surgery, he was still the same frolicsome high-spirited dog, and he showed no fear of cars, trucks or station wagons! Where was his memory? Then he went into surgery again for removal of the pin, during which sodium pentothal ("truth serum") was used as an anesthetic. Afterwards, as he was being led down the hall toward me, he was obviously still under some influence of the anesthesia as he wobbled along drunkenly. When he saw me, his legs gave way and he collapsed on the floor. His whole body shook fearfully, strongly and almost violently, as I stroked him gently. His eyelids fluttered and his eyeballs moved in the same manner as when he dreamed. After approximately one minute of this shaking, stroking and eye movements, his fear and shaking subsided. He opened his eyes and picked himself up to leave the clinic. Immediately upon opening the outside door, a truck went by noisily, and he was afraid! Great!

But, what had happened? Pol's experience directly parallels those of people in automobile crashes. They often lose memory of the crash, also memory of events near in time to the traumatic event. They too will sometimes regain memory when they become ready to face the feelings that were too much for them at the time of the crash. This also happens to those who are doing significant early childhood work in therapy. Their memories of many early events are regained (or expanded in many details), as they face the traumas involved.

What is locked up in the shock of trauma? Words, emotions, sensations and thoughts are four important prisoners incarcerated by partial or complete loss of memory. Freeing any one of these prisoners will help to heal the trauma. The concept of a trauma knot may be useful, a knot in which words, emotions, sensations and thoughts are all intertwining strands within the knot. Depending upon the size and complexity of the knot, loosening one or two strands may or may not completely untie the knot (permanent healing).

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© 2008 by Thayer White
Finding Your Soul in the Spirituality Maze


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Excerpt from Be Your Own Therapist: "Materialism is not just the gathering of goods to me but also includes the belief that if I can't sense it with one or more of my five senses, then it is suspect. The idea that one might choose to believe something before actually sensing it is considered daft."