Trauma affects development in many ways and here are three problem areas. Issues with attention (ADD, ADHD), affect regulation (anger/rage/apathy) and relationship issues. It is not about the memory of the trauma it is about the formation of the self, the brain, the mind and bonding with others that is affected by traumatic experiences.

Attention: Being able to focus and be steady and consistent and attend to specific tasks while filtering other irrelevant stimulus out. The need to be vigilant can often appear as inattention when actually the person is over focused on the details around them because they feel unsafe. 

Affect regulation: We have emotions in order to tell us what to do and where to go in order to orient our minds and bodies to the reality around us. A reaction to being traumatized is to become too quiet or too extreme in reaction to upsetting emotions and getting stuck in this dysregulated state for extended periods of time. Not being able to recover from an upset without getting stuck and not able to let go of the bad feelings. Traumatized people try to calm themselves down and often use drugs and alcohol, self–mutilation, sex addiction and eating disorders to achieve this. These are chronic adaptations to this intolerable dysregulated state.

Relationships: A trauma client perceives the world as unsafe, that people will hurt them and they are helpless. They will position themselves as someone who needs to protect himself or herself by being arrogant, aggressive, distant or compliant (please others). The internal belief is if you stand up for yourself terrible things will happen to you.

In therapy sessions we have to go below the symptoms, diagnosis and labels to find the root causes of chronic destructive behaviors and moods that clients find debilitating later in life. Being able to talk about trauma may not resolve it, in addition, therapy needs to be experiential, non verbal and body oriented. The client needs to notice what goes on inside, notice their internal world, and become attuned to this. To be able to integrate that happened then and this is happening now.

What defines Trauma is that what we are dealing with at the time of the traumatic experience is beyond our resources and our capacity at this time of our life. We are afraid, overwhelmed, isolated and alone. We cannot move, take action, or make something happen at the time. We are left with feelings of low self esteem on the surface and below are shame and fear. The goal of AEDP therapy is to undo aloneness and access resilience within us and do this with a trusted engaged other (the therapist). This allows us to organize internally and to find a coherent quality from deep within us, to feel safe and secure, and find a new perspective of survival.

When we feel safe, calm and connected we can tolerate sensations of fear that accompany terror. The healing is in the integration of what happened from the past into what is happening now. From the current experience of a calm, safe presence we calm rewire the brain and calm down our hyper reactive arousal system. We can notice what goes on inside us, the cues from our internal world of sensations and feelings, and better tolerate the pain, fear, vulnerability we feel. We begin to stay in touch with our longings and needs while receiving comfort in a safe setting and this leads to our ability to organize internally in a healthy new way.


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