The surgical resident interested in learning trauma will bypass a residency at a quiet community hospital for a residency at a fast-paced Level 1 trauma center treating a high volume of trauma patients. A Level 1 trauma center residency is far more rigorous-and not particularly glamorous-but the intensive culture of a dedicated trauma center will cultivate the decisive judgment and action required of a surgeon specializing in trauma. By choice or by chance, we must actively test our limits to know our capabilities.
I have come to the conclusion that human beings are born with an innate capacity to triumph over trauma. I believe not only that trauma is curable, but that the healing process can be a catalyst for profound awakening""a portal opening to emotional and genuine spiritual transformation. I have little doubt that as individuals, families, communities, and even nations, we have the capacity to learn how to heal and prevent much of the damage done by trauma. In so doing, we will significantly increase our ability to achieve both our individual and collective dreams.
Peter A. Levine
The thing that always interests me from a storytelling point of view is how that moment of trauma, whatever the trauma is, even divorce, your dog dies, whatever it is, the consequence, in terms of people's emotional lives and the way it resonates behaviorally for a long time is really the stuff that interests me.
The thing that always interests me from a storytelling point of view is how that moment of trauma, whatever the trauma is, even divorce, your dog dies, whatever it is, the consequence, in terms of people's emotional lives and the way it resonates behaviorally for a long time, is really the stuff that interests me.
I believe that at the beginning of the life of every artist there is some kind of trauma. We have a problem and all of our life we try to speak about this problem. My trauma was historical. When I was three or four, all the friends of my parents were survivors of the Holocaust; they spoke a lot about that. My father was hiding during the war, it was something totally present when I was a boy. It is sure that it has made me.
We're painting the same people all our life - it's just the way we look at them that changes. If you experience trauma, you can speak about it in so many different ways. You can speak about landscape, you can speak about your food; it's always different. Trauma is the beginning of life as an artist.
Trauma. It doesn't eke itself out over time. It doesn't split itself manageably into bite-sized chunks and distribute itself equally throughout your life. Trauma is all or nothing. A tsunami wave of destruction. A tornado of unimaginable awfulness that whooshes into your life - just for one key moment - and wreaks such havoc that, in just an instant, your whole world will never be the same again.
At least I've had to come to that in my life, to realize that this stuff called failure, this stuff, this debris of historical trauma, family trauma, you know, stuff that can kill your spirit, is actually raw material to make things with and to build a bridge. You can use those materials to build a bridge over that which would destroy you.
Dissociation is the common response of children to repetitive, overwhelming trauma and holds the untenable knowledge out of awareness. The losses and the emotions engendered by the assaults on soul and body cannot, however be held indefinitely. In the absence of effective restorative experiences, the reactions to trauma will find expression. As the child gets older, he will turn the rage in upon himself or act it out on others, else it all will turn into madness.
So, what role does memory play in the understanding and treatment of trauma? There is a form of implicit memory that is profoundly unconscious and forms the basis for the imprint trauma leaves on the body/mind. The type of memory utilized in learning most physical activities (walking, riding a bike, skiing, etc.) is a form of implicit memory called procedural memory. Procedural or "body memories" are learned sequences of coordinated "motor acts" chained together into meaningful actions. You may not remember explicitly how and when you learned them, but, at the appropriate moment, they are (implicitly) "recalled" and mobilized (acted out) simultaneously. These memories (action patterns) are formed and orchestrated largely by involuntary structures in the cerebellum and basal ganglia. When a person is exposed to overwhelming stress, threat or injury, they develop a procedural memory. Trauma occurs when these implicit procedures are not neutralized. The failure to restore homeostasis is at the basis for the maladaptive and debilitating symptoms of trauma.
Peter A. Levine
Trauma destroys the fabric of time. In normal time you move from one moment to the next, sunrise to sunset, birth to death. After trauma, you may move in circles, find yourself being sucked backwards into an eddy or bouncing like a rubber ball from now to then to back again... In the traumatic universe the basic laws of matter are suspended: ceiling fans can be helicopters, car exhaust can be mustard gas.
David J. Morris
Some people's lives seem to flow in a narrative; mine had many stops and starts. That's what trauma does. It interrupts the plot. You can't process it because it doesn't fit with what came before or what comes afterward. A friend of mine, a soldier, put it this way. In most of our lives, most of the time, you have a sense of what is to come. There is a steady narrative, a feeling of "lights, camera, action" when big events are imminent. But trauma isn't like that. It just happens, and then life goes on. No one prepares you for it.
If we don't accept any common beliefs, we can't exist in spacetime. But when we don't believe in age, at least we don't have to die because our numbers change. [... ] When you don't believe in birthdays, the idea of aging turns a little foreign to you. You don't fall into trauma over your sixteenth birthday or your thirtieth or the big Five-Oh or the deadly Century. You measure your life by what you learn, not by counting how many calendars you've seen. If you're going to have trauma, better it be the shock of discovering the fundamental principle of the universe that some date predictable as next July.
Let's say someone has experienced a violent trauma or betrayal: a child has been raped by a parent or has witnessed the destruction of someone he loves or has been so traumatized by the possibility of beatings and punishments that he's afraid to act. If the trauma is great enough, that person's life may become frozen, emotionally frozen even though he still gets up in the morning, is busy all day, and goes to bed at night. But there's this empty space that begins to fill with rage, rage toward everyone - the perpetrator, the people in the world who haven't suffered, even toward himself. (174)
I've seen people recover physical abilities, yet never get over emotional trauma after a serious accident. I've seen other people overcome the psychological and emotional trauma of a serious illness even though they may never fully regain their physical capabilities. Which is the greater healing? Which is the better recovery? If I had the option of choosing between a mediocre life with eyesight or the life I have today, even though I am blind, I'd stay blind and keep the life I have.
Traumatic events, by definition, overwhelm our ability to cope. When the mind becomes flooded with emotion, a circuit breaker is thrown that allows us to survive the experience fairly intact, that is, without becoming psychotic or frying out one of the brain centers. The cost of this blown circuit is emotion frozen within the body. In other words, we often unconsciously stop feeling our trauma partway into it, like a movie that is still going after the sound has been turned off. We cannot heal until we move fully through that trauma, including all the feelings of the event.
Susan Pease Banitt
The opposite of addiction is human connection. And I think that has massive implications for the war on drugs. The treatment of drug addicts almost everywhere in the world is much closer to Tent City than it is to anything in Portugal. Our laws are built around the belief that drug addicts need to be punished to stop them. But if pain and trauma and isolation cause addiction, then inflicting more pain and trauma and isolation is not going to solve that addiction. It's actually going to deepen it.
Those of us who work in the field of trauma and abuse, whether psychologists, psychoanalysts, social workers, doctors, counselors, or psychotherapists, have been provided with beautiful tools for understanding the impact of trauma. We become adept at understanding the dynamic of why the messenger is always shot and broadcast the Bionic insight of why the visionary is not bearable to the group. However, when it comes to military mind control, abuse within religious belief groups or cults, and deliberately created dissociative identity disorder, we enter the least resourced field of all.
Blame is a Defense Against Powerlessness Betrayal trauma changes you. You have endured a life-altering shock, and are likely living with PTSD symptoms- hypervigilance, flashbacks and bewilderment-with broken trust, with the inability to cope with many situations, and with the complete shut down of parts of your mind, including your ability to focus and regulate your emotions. Nevertheless, if you are unable to recognize the higher purpose in your pain, to forgive and forget and move on, you clearly have chosen to be addicted to your pain and must enjoy playing the victim. And the worst is, we are only too ready to agree with this assessment! Trauma victims commonly blame themselves. Blaming oneself for the shame of being a victim is recognized by trauma specialists as a defense against the extreme powerlessness we feel in the wake of a traumatic event. Self-blame continues the illusion of control shock destroys, but prevents us from the necessary working through of the traumatic feelings and memories to heal and recover.
Sandra Lee Dennis
In the power of my newfound strength, I saw clearly-even though I'd been empowered to have my old college finally address my 'horrific trauma, ' make me finally feel heard, this event would never have happened had I not first given myself my own voice, the permission to call my rape rape and not shame. In telling, I forced the school that silenced me, that minimized my trauma, that blamed me for the rape, to finally respect my voice and give me the platform they should have given me in the first place. I did not need the school to call it by its name; I did it myself, and they listened. I was the powerful party that brought the closure and empowerment I'd hoped, in first finding their invitation, that Colorado College would bring.
The DID patient should be seen as a whole adult person with the identities sharing responsibility for daily life. Despite patients' subjective experience of separateness, clinicians must keep in mind that the patient is a single person and generally must hold the whole person (i.e., system of alternate identities) responsible for the behavior of any or all of the constituent identities, even in the presence of amnesia or the sense of lack of control or agency over behavior. From p8 International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation. (2011). Guidelines for treating dissociative identity disorder in adults, third revision: Summary version. Journal of Trauma and Dissociation, 12, 188-212.
James A. Chu
Dr. Peter Levine, who has worked with trauma survivors for twenty-five years, says the single most important factor he has learned in uncovering the mystery of human trauma is what happens during and after the freezing response. He describes an impala being chased by a cheetah. The second the cheetah pounces on the young impala, the animal goes limp. The impala isn't playing dead, she has 'instinctively entered an altered state of consciousness, shared by all mammals when death appears imminent.' (Levine and Frederick, Waking the Tiger, p. 16) The impala becomes instantly immobile. However, if the impala escapes, what she does immediately thereafter is vitally important. She shakes and quivers every part of her body, clearing the traumatic energy she has accumulated.
Marilyn Van Derbur