What is Trauma?
At Firebird Healing we know that experiencing trauma can impact every aspect of your life. Unresolved and unhealed trauma can take its toll on your mental and emotional wellbeing, your body, work, relationships, creativity, and spirit. It shapes how you see others and the world.
Trauma is often what underlies conditions such as depression, anxiety, addiction, conflicts, difficulties, or a lack of joy and satisfaction with living. The experts at Firebird Healing have found that addressing trauma and engaging the support, healing, and tools to triumph over trauma is one of the most profound, expansive, and life-altering choices you can make.
Trauma has many traditional definitions such as witnessing or experiencing threatened death, physical or sexual violence, or injury. However, with years of clinical experience treating trauma, we here at Firebird look at trauma to more broadly include experiencing situations that are deeply overwhelming, creating intense fear, horror, shame, physical or emotional pain, or helplessness. This can also include witnessing these painful experiences occurring to others.
With these traumas, whether large or small, an individual can get stuck in the pain of past events, and retain a sense that they cannot move on from them. Present-day activities, situations or interactions can trigger a traumatic response and make them feel as if they are experiencing the original trauma all over again. This may come with a sense of powerlessness, helplessness, or hopelessness. People may turn to food, drugs, alcohol, or other addictive behaviors to numb the pain and shame of these feelings and memories.
“Trauma is a psychic wound that hardens you psychologically and then interferes with your ability to grow and develop. It pains you and now you’re acting out of pain. It induces fear and now you’re acting out of fear. Trauma is not what happens to you, it’s what happens inside you as a result of what happened to you. Trauma is that scarring that makes you less flexible, more rigid, less feeling and more defended.”
— Dr. Gabor Maté
Symptoms of trauma:
• Hyperarousal: increased heart rate, rapid or difficulty breathing, cold sweats, tingling, muscular tension
• Constriction in the body and narrowing of perceptions
• Dissociation: feeling disconnected from or out of body
• Feelings of helplessness, immobility, and freezing
• Intrusive imagery or flashbacks
• Extreme sensitivity to light and sound
• Exaggerated emotional and startle responses
• Nightmares and night terrors
• Abrupt mood swings: rage reactions or temper tantrums, frequent anger, or crying
• Shame and lack of self-worth
• Reduced ability to deal with stress
• Difficulty sleeping
• Panic attacks, anxiety, and phobias
• Mental blankness or spaced-out feelings
• Avoidance behavior: avoiding places, moments, activities, memories, or people
• Attraction to dangerous situations
• Addictive behaviors: overeating, drinking, smoking, drugs, etc.
• Exaggerated or diminished sexual activity
• Amnesia or forgetfulness
• Inability to love, nurture, or bond with other individuals
• Fear of dying or having a shortened life
• Loss of sustaining beliefs (spiritual, religious, interpersonal)
• Excessive shyness
• Diminished emotional responses
• Inability to make commitments
• Chronic fatigue or very low physical energy
• Immune system problems
• Psychosomatic illnesses: headaches, migraines, neck and back problems, chronic pain, asthma, skin disorders, digestive problems
• Depression and feelings of impending doom
• Feelings of detachment, alienation, and isolation
• Reduced ability to formulate plans
• Re-enactment of the trauma
(From the Wisdom of Trauma Companion Booklet, thewisdomoftrauma.com)
We know at Firebird Healing that each person’s experience with trauma is subjective and unique to them. Therefore, it is essential that a trauma treatment program be specific and tailed to each individual. If you have experienced or are currently going through trauma, there is hope. There are amazing tools, healing modalities, and empowering choices that you can make to truly thrive. Please see our compendium of resources, programs, and list of practitioners to find out more.