“Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.”
What is Trauma?
It is common to think about trauma as big dramatic occurrences such as war, a car crash, sexual abuse, rape (Big T trauma) however a more accurate definition of trauma could be ‘anything that overwhelms the mind and body’.
There are three main categories of Big T trauma:
- A single incident where you were afraid for your life or physical safety such as rape, car crash or a violent assault.
- An ongoing situation where you felt helpless to get away, such as sexual abuse or domestic violence.
- Developmental trauma (sometimes called relational or attachment trauma) which is the result of abandonment, abuse, and neglect during early childhood.
If our bodies and minds are unable to recover from the effects of trauma, we may develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The symptoms of PTSD will vary depending on the type of trauma you experienced.
Treatment for Big T Trauma and PTSD
Shelley has completed a post graduate diploma in treating complex trauma and PTSD and uses the three phase model of treatment, which is generally accepted as the ‘gold standard’ of trauma treatment.
Phase 1 – Safety and Stabilisation
People affected by trauma tend to feel unsafe in their bodies and in their relationships with others. They may have trouble regulating their emotions and feel overwhelmed. Regaining a sense of safety may take a few sessions, a few months or even longer depending on the type of trauma. During this stage of the treatment you will learn exercises and techniques to help you feel safer in your body and feel more in control of your thoughts and emotions. This phase of the treatment can also include working with horses.
Phase 2 – Trauma Memory Processing
This phase is also called Remembrance and Mourning. This involves the important task of exploring and mourning the losses associated with the trauma. This processing helps you make sense of the traumatic experience so you can integrate it rather than react to it in a fight, flight or freeze response. Processing techniques can include talking about the trauma, writing about the trauma, and noticing and exploring the effects of trauma in the body and helping it to release. EFT and Matrix Reimprinting can be helpful in this stage (see below).
Phase 3 – Reconnection and Integration
In this phase you move from surviving to thriving. You create a new sense of self and a new vision of your future by knowing who and what is meaningful to you.
The trauma becomes integrated into your life story but is not the only thing that defines you. This stage of the treatment can involve talking, writing and may include some work with horses.
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue.” Rainer Maria Rilke
‘Small t’ trauma
Not every trauma is dramatic, life threatening or a Big T trauma. We all experience many small t traumas. A little t event is one experienced as traumatic at a personal level, such as the loss of a pet or a relationship, difficulties with friendships at school etc Although small t traumas are often more common experiences, the emotional impact can be significant and the wounds as long lasting and impactful as Big T trauma.
Some may argue that being a human being in the world we live in is inherently traumatic.
Small t traumas tend to create unhelpful or ‘wounded’ beliefs about life. These may be beliefs about ourselves, e.g.’ I’m not pretty enough’ or beliefs about others e.g. ‘People will hurt you if they see who you really are’. Often these beliefs came from other people in authority such as parents, teachers, bosses.
Shelley works with small t traumas to help you uncover the origin of the beliefs, discover your wise and compassionate loving adult self and make new choices based on your truth. The core of this work is learning to love and accept yourself as you are.
“Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.”
Rainer Maria Rilke
Emotional Freedom Technique and Matrix Reimprinting
Emotional Freedom Techniques or EFT is a powerful treatment and self-help method that uses fingertip tapping on acupuncture points. Clinical trials have shown that EFT tapping is able to rapidly reduce the emotional impact of memories and incidents that trigger emotional distress. Once the distress is reduced or removed, the body can often rebalance itself, and accelerate healing.
EFT uses elements of Cognitive Therapy and Exposure Therapy, and combines them with Acupressure. A number of clinical trials have demonstrated that EFT is effective for phobias, anxiety, depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, pain, and other problems.
Matrix Reimprinting is a technique based on EFT developed by Karl Dawson, EFT Master, that connects people with their past traumas and core beliefs and elegantly enables them to transform them into supportive groundings for their lives.
Shelley may use EFT and Matrix Reimprinting techniques in the treatment of both small t and Big T traumas.
Shelley’s therapeutic style is heavily influenced by:
– the work of body based therapists such as Peter Levine and Pat Ogden
– Somatic Based Attachment work of Diane Poole Heller
– Inner Bonding, co created by Dr Margaret Paul and Dr Erika Chopich