In the first of a series of blog posts exploring trauma reactions, we take a look at why it is that experiencing a traumatic life event can have such big psychological implications.
Most people know through the media, that trauma is affecting many people at any given time. It is often only once somebody experiences a traumatic event themselves that they can fully empathise with the feelings that this can induce. This is because traumatic experiences are usually so different from anything that most people have ever experienced in their life before.
Traumas usually happen suddenly and unexpectedly. During most other new experiences in your life there is often some time to adjust to the change. Usually the more time you have to get used to a new situation, even very difficult ones, the better you will be able to cope with this new experience. This is because you will already have had time to begin to change and adjust your expectations of life accordingly. However you don’t plan a trauma. It usually just happens completely unexpectedly and suddenly.
Because of this, when you experience trauma, your whole system- consisting of the interplay between your mental, emotional, and bodily functions- has to adjust rapidly and cope as best as it can under the circumstances. There is often no time for mental preparation on how to react and cope while it happens. Usually your body’s survival system takes over.
When you look back with hindsight, you might find that the way in which your system made you act during your trauma is not the way you would have chosen to react under normal circumstances. Often people therefore feel that the way in which they acted during a trauma doesn’t make sense, or fit with their usual way of being. This can lead to very unsettled feelings and a sense of lacking control as a result of a trauma. It is often as if the bubble of safety has burst, leaving a feeling of vulnerability in it’s place.
Our human system has special ways of coping with the intensity of the feelings that a trauma can bring to the forefront of our minds, and we will go on to explain these reactions to trauma in the next blog post.