Trauma. Its a buzz word right now. Used in news, memes, and in every day conversation.
But what does it really mean?
Trauma- Dictionary: a deeply distressing or disturbing experience.
Psychology Today: Trauma is the experience of severe psychological distress following any terrible or life-threatening event. Sufferers may develop emotional disturbances such as extreme anxiety, anger, sadness, survivor’s guilt, or PTSD. They may experience ongoing problems with sleep or physical pain, encounter turbulence in their personal and professional relationships, and feel a diminished sense of self-worth due to the overwhelming amount of stress.
We each experience life through different eyes, brains, and genetic markings. So when something happens to us, some may perceive it as traumatic and some may not. Trauma can occur conscious and unconsciously. Often times our minds block out traumas, so that we can cope and move on. But other times, it doesn't work out that way and creates more barriers to healing.
-The sympathetic nervous system - fight, flight, or freeze - is the only system developed at birth, and when the familiar mother isn’t there to soothe the baby, the baby’s levels of cortisol shoot up. If the separation event happens before the language receptors of the brain are developed (age 0 - 3) they are encoded as implicit memory (no words/language to describe it).
-Adult adoptees will report, “sense of feeling lost or unrooted or like I don’t know where I am”; we could relate that back to the separation of adoption, before there are words to describe what happened.
-The baby hears and smells in utero - the baby knows the mother’s voice, the mother’s gait; when that separation happens, everything that was familiar to the baby is gone. It activates the sympathetic nervous system (fight, flight or freeze). When a mother and baby stay together, the mother acts as a parasympathetic nervous system, a soothing agent for the baby. The familiar mother can calm and soothe the baby. Crying babies can be given a piece of clothing with the scent of the biological mother and babies can be soothed by just that!
-Common themes for adoptees - separation anxiety, separations and transitions are difficult, activation of the nervous system, hypervigilance, anxious, difficulty self-soothing.
***Credit to AdopteesOn Podcast and Lesli Johnson***
Just some examples of what trauma can look like in people. Often times trauma reactions can also be confused with other mental health disorders. It is also important to note that not everyone who goes through trauma has the same experiences/symptoms.
Trauma is all around. Hidden in plain sight. So don't see it as a buzz word, but as something that we still need to learn about.