What is Trauma and How do I Fix It?

images-2Keeping it simple…


Trauma is any event that is negative and unexpected and makes you feel confused, overwhelmed and powerless.  The big things that fall into this category could include witnessing a crime, a car accident, child abuse, a near death experience, phobias, combat experience.  Things that sometimes get overlooked in the definition are things like bullying, losing your job, being shamed publically, etc.  Have you ever had something happen that you just can’t believe?  Do you say things like, “I can’t believe it”, or “I should have been able to stop it”, or “How could that have happened?”  When this happens, your brain creates a new neuropathway to bypass the emotional center of your brain and tries to protect you from it by splitting off the emotional significance from the rational, logical processing of the event.  When this happens you are sometimes caught in an emotional bubble where you can’t make sense of it while other times you can talk about it without any emotion at all.  Your brain creates a “vault” to keep it from overflowing into your daily awareness. This is very helpful in the moment, as it allows you to function and get through the event.  However, the problem is that your brain doesn’t know what to do once the moment is passed.  Since the event didn’t pass through the appropriate processes in the brain it doesn’t get stored properly, leaving it susceptible to triggers.  People who have experienced trauma often are triggered by smells, certain sounds and people or anything that reminds them of the event.  When you get triggered it is like experiencing it all over again.


Tell me more…

Functionally, when traumatic events occur, the brain gets too much oxygen to the emotional center of the brain blocking the receptors that would allow the brain to self-soothe and provide perspective.  When trauma happens, it changes the functioning ability of different parts of the brain. The Amygdala, the part of the brain that decides the emotional significance of the event, gets an overload of oxygen, blocking the pathway to the Hippocampus.  The Hippocampus is the part of the brain that determines if it is happening now or is something that has happened in the past.  As a result of trauma, the memories of the event retain a “present tense” feel that prevents the individual from being able to properly store and move on from the trauma.  Similarly, the Anterior Cingulate Gyrus, the part of the brain that distinguishes current dangers from traumatic triggers is also impacted.  Since one side of the brain experiences a higher physical and emotional level of arousal, at times the individual gets “stuck” in one of these emotional pockets and has a difficult time accessing the logical, rational part of the brain, preventing them from “moving on” from the trauma.  Further, Broca’s Area of the brain, which is responsible for speech, is reduced in functioning, in response to triggered trauma.  The client re-experiences the sounds, pictures, body sensations, and smells of the event. The result is PTSD.


I think I have it, how can I get rid of it?

Studies support Observed and Experiential Integration (OEI) as a very effective way of treating trauma, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxieties and phobias.  With OEI we are able to recreate the original neuropathway, allowing your brain to properly process and store the event, anxiety or phobia so that you can get on with life.  It allows those events to become more like old, faded, black and white photos as opposed to fresh, technicolor digital photos.  At Lighthouse Therapeutic Services our therapists are certified practitioners who want you to be free to experience life instead of hoping for a better past.  With OEI we are regularly seeing people healed of these types of injuries.


And the best part?

Because OEI is not a traditional talk therapy your healing is not limited to what you can remember or put into words, by the questions we think to ask or what you might think is relevant.  Your brain knows what it needs to collect in order to integrate an event, so with the right prompts your healing can often be much quicker and more thorough than talk therapy, meaning you are not committing to a lifetime of therapy.


So, if it’s time to take back your life, give us a call.