Imagine this, it is Thursday evening, you’ve had a decent week and you are hungry! You go through the local drive-thru, get you a burger and ask for no ketchup. You’ve now arrived home and are excited to eat, but wait, your burger has ketchup... You feel a rush of anger fired up from the pit of your empty stomach, you whip around, and punch the wall closest to you. The loss of control feels satisfying for a moment. After a few minutes, though, you calm down and you see the remnants of your burger on the floor and there’s a size-able hole in the wall next to your wife’s favorite family photo.
You have flipped your lid.
Now flipping your lid or “losing it” can happen to anyone who has encountered enough stress or had a bad week, but what if this happens often for you even when everything seems to be okay? Some people have unresolved trauma that sits in their body and often we will find that outbursts of anger, black outs in memory, increased need for control, difficulty sleeping, and drug and alcohol abuse are just a few issues one might expect.
Unfortunately, we do not get to choose what is stored in our brain as trauma. In general, events are not traumatic, but it’s the experience that can become a traumatic event. For example, a group of people can all be participants in the same negative event, but maybe a few develop short term trauma, some have long term trauma, and others might not be impacted at all.
Now we’re back to the burger example, what was it about ketchup that was so triggering? Do you have hatred towards tomatoes? Or is it that you have unprocessed trauma that decides to present itself during the most inconvenient and unexpected times? If the latter is more relevant for you then you are not alone; 6 out of 10 men experience at least one trauma in their lifetime.
So what exactly is going on in the brain and body when you are holding on to unprocessed trauma?
Along with anger outbursts, we often see individuals ride on emotional roller coasters; living in a state of intense highs and lows. This can make it difficult to develop and maintain positive relationships with family, friends, and co-workers. Our brain does well with prioritizing safety and ensuring survival which isn’t necessarily conducive to building connection with others. In fact, when the brain is consistently sitting in a state of fight, flight, or freeze,
social interactions, eye contact, recognizing facial expressions, and awareness of the human voice all decrease. This might make drug and/or alcohol use look more appealing as a means of coping and grasping at some semblance of control.
Trauma held in the body can wreak havoc on its ability to maintain blood pressure, heart rate, digestion, and immune responses. Another key indicator of stress and trauma is weight gain, the body will trigger slower digestion in an effort to conserve energy (safety and survival, remember?). Many individuals I have worked with who have experienced or are experiencing trauma report getting colds or illnesses more often, this is due to the body’s decision to forego immunity support in favor of fuel storage or increasing pain tolerance.
How can therapy help?
Contrary to popular belief, therapy is not only talking about and identifying feelings, but also helping individuals understand the psychology behind behaviors and the science behind the psychology. Therapy is an asset in that you can come in, dump out your thoughts, and have a trained professional help you sort through and make sense of it all. After all, you may think that you’re just really upset about ketchup on a burger... it’s not just about the ketchup.
At mind Works Counseling Services in Lubbock, TX, we specialize in helping clients like you understand your trauma. Give us a call and get started on the road to healing today.
Learn more about the Trauma Counseling services that we offer.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment or to let us answer any questions you may have.