Trauma and The Nervous System
My favorite definition for trauma is sourced from clinical psychologist, Dr. Peter A. Levine. Dr. Levine describes trauma as being anything that is “too much, too fast, or too soon” for the nervous system to process or integrate.
According to Dr. Levine, trauma occurs when the biological processes are overwhelmed and a person is unable to ‘discharge’ the energy of the event.
The modern world is laced with traumatic triggers that even our ancestors who lived two hundred years ago never had to deal with. Current scientific research tells us that the body has been developing for over 150,000 years.
Although the nervous system is absolutely intelligent in it’s design, ‘modern’ society continues to develop in such a rapid way that the nervous system hasn’t had time to catch up. In addition to surviving the day to day of highly stressed and over-stimulated societies, many of us have also been programmed since childhood to contain our emotions.
This internal oppression of our biological responses delay the release and healing of the trauma as they silence the body’s natural desire to heal.
When a traumatic event is unprocessed, it’s stored in the soft tissue structures and major muscles of the body. When a subsequent stressful event occurs that is not life-threatening, stress hormones will be released and energy will flood the sympathetic system, increasing heart rate, dilating pupils, increasing muscular strength and tension, and increasing acidity in the blood.
As the nervous system becomes increasingly stressed, it loses its ability to discern between stressors that are actually life-threatening, and stressors that are meant to be processed, released, and moved through quickly.
Remember – the body’s stress response is autonomic, which means no matter how analytical or brilliant our minds are – we’re unable to ‘think’ our way out of these challenges as the source exists beyond our rational control.
That means the way to resolve trauma is through a fully embodied, somatic experience.
Understanding trauma at a mental level supports us in developing compassion for ourselves and others as we walk down the path of healing – but it doesn’t hold the key to salvation.
To truly release the bondage of past traumas, we must do the work to develop healthy boundaries, create safe space for emotional release, and listen deeply to the messages of our bodies while learning tools to integrate and truly find freedom.
In our Womb Worker Professional Certification, we speak about the importance of creating trauma-informed space to support students and clients on their journey of resolving trauma.