Trauma "held within the body"
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Deborah Briggs. BSc (Hons) Counselling and Psychotherapy. MBACP
6th April, 2015
Trauma can be cumulative, this means it builds up over time more like a dull ache than an acute pain. This can develop for example from toxic relationships or the repeated witness of violence. Research based in Harvard USA has described five different types of traumatic events:
1. physical abuse
2. emotional abuse
3. sexual abuse
4. witnessing violence
They found that the single type that causes most difficulties was neglect. The reason being for a child neglect is life threatening and is considered to happen over the long term. No one type is any less significant to the person affected.
It is not realistic to be able to describe how cumulative trauma affects an individual any more than to expect everyones experience of grief to be the same. It has been found that trauma is held within a person's physical body. This could be described as a body memory. For example, a smell or a physical touch can cause anxiety without necessarily making sense to you.
This type of anxiety could be experienced as a stomach upset, headache perhaps physical shaking. Normally such symptoms are a result of triggers experienced by the body. An apt description is "body hijacking" like the physical body has a mind, it is trying to speak without words.
Body psychotherapy is a type of therapy that helps the body to express the pain it holds. What can be surprising is that no physical touch is required, as this of itself may be traumatic. The results of body psychotherapy have been described as quick, gentle and surprising.
About the author
Deborah Briggs is trained in sensorimotor psychotherapy, a body therapy for the treatment of trauma.
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