A trauma is any experience that overwhelms the brain’s ability to cope both in the moment and in the aftermath. Difficult things happen to us often and most of the time, we acknowledge it and recover, knowing we can move on normally. We are aware of the skills we have to cope with the disruption and we use them.
However, if the event is dramatic (or chronic), we experience it in a way that does not allow us to use these coping resources. As a result, we use other methods that, while useful at the time, don’t serve us in the long run. These other methods include repression of the memory, avoidance, substance abuse and social withdrawal. People who experience unresolved trauma may be quick to anger. They may avoid intimacy in relationships both emotional and physical. They also have symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Therapy offers various tools to confront and deal with the aftermath of trauma in our lives, whether it is recent or historical. For some, telling the stories in a safe place that challenges the negative ideas we have come to believe about our traumatized selves can relieve most of the effects. For others, storytelling isn’t enough and I can use other effective approaches