Trauma is an incredibly complex topic and a difficult thing to understand. In this episode of Psychiatria, Anya Nyson and I do our best to demystify, define, and describe the effects of trauma in ways that are accessible and relatable. Trauma is commonly, and narrowly, understood as impactful, negative experiences, like combat or assault, that often lead to PTSD. The truth, however, is that trauma has a much broader definition and a wider range of expressions. Through the holistic lens, trauma, and especially childhood trauma, can be identified as the root of so much of the suffering we experience as humans.
In actuality, trauma is much more about the way our brains are affected by an event than an event by itself. In other words, it is the effects of an event that make it traumatizing, not the nature of the event itself. An event doesn’t have to be life-changing, notable, or even remembered to be traumatic. Alternatively, an event can seem quite dramatic and not be traumatic to the individual. Experiences leave lasting effects with us for a whole host of reasons, among them being our ability to understand the situation when it happened, repetitive recurrence of an event, and the response of our body at the time.
Anya and I explain all of this and more in the episode, and (spoiler alert) we arrive at the idea that everyone has trauma of their own kind. To me, this is not a message of doom and gloom, but rather a powerful recognition. If we can acknowledge simply that we are affected by things that happen to us, we can achieve a whole new level of self-understanding and self-compassion. This has undoubtedly been true for my own experience.
This understanding of trauma can feel daunting. If all of us are traumatized in one way or another, what in the world are we supposed to do about it? Well, as you know there is no answer, per se, but there is a practice: MINDFULNESS. Mindfulness, my friends. This practice-turned-lifestyle is arguably the most effective tool for moving through trauma. Anya breaks down how to start with this powerful practice with steps that look something like this:
- Pick a thing (showering, teeth brushing, walking, etc)
- Do the thing
- Narrate every single small detail of the thing to yourself as you do the thing
Through this narration process, we are literally teaching our brain to focus on and stay in the present moment. If we put our minds more on the present moment than on scary experiences of the past or fears of the future, if we are more here than there, we can be more at ease. We can remind our bodies and minds that the pain and fear we have previously experienced is there, not here. We can help to shift our circuitry into a pattern that suits our current selves better than the one we learned in childhood.
Anya and I go further into the practice of mindfulness in this episode and discuss how to apply these principles to our thoughts, emotions, and overall internal experience. This is where it gets really good. Curious about how that works? You’ll have to tune in to find out! You can find Psychiatria on your podcatcher of choice, embedded below, or at the links HERE.
If you’ve already listened – What did you think? Do you have questions you’d like to hear Anya and myself talk about in a future episode? Let me know HERE! I’ve set up a nifty little form for you to use to get in touch. Any questions, comments, or feedback are welcome! You can also find me on Instagram (@PsychiatriaPodcast) or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I can’t wait to hear from you! Stay curious, dear listeners.
You can also find Anya Nyson on her website: https://anyanyson.com/
Links from this Episode
- Nadine Harris on childhood trauma: https://www.ted.com/talks/nadine_burke_harris_how_childhood_trauma_affects_health_across_a_lifetime
- Brene Brown | Shame: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=psN1DORYYV0
- Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT): https://www.verywellmind.com/cognitive-processing-therapy-2797281
- Gabor Mate: https://drgabormate.com/
- Negativity bias: https://www.verywellmind.com/negative-bias-4589618
- It Didn’t Start with You by Mark Wolynn: https://markwolynn.com/it-didnt-start-with-you/
- Info on PTSD experience in The Body Keeps The Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk: https://www.besselvanderkolk.com/resources/the-body-keeps-the-score
- Historical Trauma in the US: https://bit.ly/2V7nMAg
- Epigenetics: https://www.cdc.gov/genomics/disease/epigenetics.htm
- Epigenetics & Mental Health: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7E7RHieSE8I
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