Trauma is psychological and often physical damage inflicted on a person by extremely stressful experiences – so much so that it can overwhelm the person’s sense of being able to cope with everyday life. Trauma is a subjective phenomenon, not an objective thing. What may overwhelm and traumatize one person may not have the same effect on another.
Traumatic experiences usually (but not always) include some form of direct threat to a person’s life, safety, psychological sanity or bodily integrity and security.
Whether a person becomes traumatized by such an experience depends on many factors, including the situation at the time and whether understanding support was available or not, and whether there was an opportunity for the person to tell others who could compassionately acknowledge what the survivor had been through.
Some Common experiences of trauma include:
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Often powerful one-off experiences like accidents, floods, bushfires, crimes, witnessing violent deaths, such as war veterans. Or repeated chronic experiences such as child abuse, neglect, physical violence at home, or intentionally inflicted deprivation.
Physical or verbal violence used in the home to control others, assert power and denigrate the others’ rights.
Often children or young people in particular are sworn to silence by the abuser, with threats of what might happen (breaking up the family) if they tell.
Using power to control others in a demeaning fashion, and deny them a voice, and their rights in the workplace.
Working with trauma is a delicate process. First, it is paramount that the person feels safe with the process. They must be able to feel they can trust the psychologist. The trauma survivor needs to know they will be given respect and have a voice in how, what, and when certain aspects of their experience is covered. Some traumatic memories may be too painful to return to, for a very long time, perhaps never. In the meantime, much ground can be made by re-establishing safety, trust, and a sense of being able to bring order and meaning back into one’s world – to feel empowered.
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