Defining trauma and attachment

What is Trauma?

Simply put, trauma is anything that overwhelms the nervous system and that threatens emotional or physical safety. When we feel threatened we often respond by engaging in a fight/flight response (our adrenaline increases and we prepare for action) or a freeze/fold response (we disengage and prepare to endure rather than act). Both processes are evidence or our amazing brains’ ability to survive. However, if the threat is chronic, unpredictable, or outside the realm of what we can reasonably manage our survival responses may stay engaged. When fight/flight remains engaged we may experience sleep disturbances, high resting heart rate, high blood pressure, irritability, anger issues, anxiety, and panic. When freeze/fold remains engaged we may experience depression, numbness, over compliance, avoidance, and feelings of powerlessness. These are only a few examples of symptoms and it is common to experience a combination of these.

There are numerous factors to consider when addressing traumatic experiences and it is important to work with someone who is not only safe but understands the complicated process of moving through hard experiences. I explain this process more in my  philosophy of and models of treatment.

What is Attachment?

To put is simply, attachment is how we love and receive love. Humans were created for connection and without connection our emotional, psychological, and physical health is impacted. Attachment begins in utero and continues to develop through childhood. No parent is perfect and connection with caregivers is interrupted intermittently due to life circumstances. Most of the time parents reconcile their connections intuitively which communicates to the child that disconnection is tolerable and temporary. Sometimes, however, as in the case of abuse or neglect, the child learns that human connection is unreliable or unsafe. This results in an unhealthy attachment pattern that makes it difficult for the child to connect to others appropriately in the future. This impacts areas of trust, intimacy, communication, and the ability to tolerate feelings.