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Trauma Theory - Traumatization occurs when both internal and external resources are inadequate to cope with external threat - The way we think, the way.

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Presentation on theme: "Trauma Theory - Traumatization occurs when both internal and external resources are inadequate to cope with external threat - The way we think, the way."— Presentation transcript:

1 Trauma Theory - Traumatization occurs when both internal and external resources are inadequate to cope with external threat - The way we think, the way we learn, the way we remember things, the way we feel about ourselves, the way we feel about other people, and the way we make sense of the world are all profoundly altered by traumatic experience. Trauma fragments the brain.

2 Fight or Flight Response Biological mechanism to protect from harm Happens whenever we perceive that we are in danger Each episode of danger connects to every other episode in our minds – the more danger we are exposed to, the more sensitive we are to danger What can we do? We must create a safe environment to counteract long-term effects of trauma

3 Learned Helplessness In traumatic situations, the victim is helpless Repeated helplessness changes our basic neurochemistry that allows us to self-motivate out of dangerous situations. In other words, we give up What can we do? Intervention must focus on empowerment while avoiding future experiences of helplessness

4 Loss of “Volume Control” We respond to stimulus based on the threat that stimulus presents Trauma destabilizes our internal system of arousal – i.e. our “volume control” that we normally have over our emotions, especially fear. Instead, traumatized people have only an “on/off” switch Substance use (drugs, alcohol, sex, eating, self-harm) to calm and control internal states What can we do? Blaming and punishment for destructive coping mechanisms is counterproductive. If folks are going to stop using destructive coping mechanisms, they must be offered better substitutes and a safe environment for cultivating those new coping skills

5 Thinking Under Stress – Action Not Thought Our capacity to think clearly is impaired when we are stressed When in danger, we are physiologically geared to respond with action, and do not have time for complicated mental processing Decisions tend to be based on impulse and a need to self-protect What can we do? Intervention efforts must focus on reducing stress and allowing survivors time and space to mentally process trauma and to calm the stress-induced hypervigilance that it creates

6 Remembering Under Stress Our way of remembering things, processing new memories, and accessing old memories is dramatically changed under stress When we are overwhelmed with fear, we lose the capacity for speech, and often the capacity to put words to our experience. Without words, the mind shifts to a more visceral form of memory – visual, auditory, olfactory, and kinesthetic images, physical sensations, and feelings Flashback: intrusive re-experiencing of those unverbalized memories – not really “remembering,” but rather “reliving” Without words, the traumatic events of the past are often experienced as being in the present. Words allow us to put the past where it belongs – in the past. How can we do? The implication of this information is that we must provide an abundance of opportunities for survivors of trauma to talk and talk and talk! We also must provide programs that focus on nonverbal expression – art, music, movement, etc.

7 Emotions & Trauma - Dissociation Dissociation “safety valve” Dissociation is a ‘disruption in the usually integrated functions of consciousness, memory, identity, or perception of the environment’ – it is splitting off experience from our feelings about that experience Repetitive T & D leads to emotional numbing & avoidance Avoidance symptoms (dissociation) combined with intrusive symptoms (flashbacks) = PTSD and hyperarousal What can we do? Recognize that these unhealthy coping mechanisms are effective and often necessary in the short-term, but are detrimental in the long term. Again, we must create an environment where survivors can process the past, and gain new, healthier coping mechanisms for the future

8 Endorphins & Stress – Addiction to Trauma Endorphins calm anxiety, improve our mood, and decrease aggression, but they are also analgesics related to morphine and heroin People exposed to prolonged stress and trauma can become “addicted” to their own elevated endorphin levels – creating a situation where they only feel calm while under stress, and feel irritable and hyperaroused when stress is relieved Trauma survivors may resort to behavior that triggers those same endorphins: self-mutilation, risk-taking behavior, compulsive sexuality, involvement in violent activity, binging and purging, and drug addiction What can we do? Intervention strategies must focus on helping people ‘detox’ from behavioral and substance based addictions – again by providing an environment that is calm and safe, and by educating folks about the effects of trauma on the brain and body

9 Trauma Bonding Trauma bonding occurs when strong emotional ties develop between two persons where one person intermittently harasses, beats, threatens, abuses, or intimidates the other. Imbalance of power Abuse is sporadic in nature Victim engages in denial of the abuse and often dissociates for emotional self-protection – an overloaded system causes them to distort reality What can we do? Survivors need direct experience engaging in relationships that are not abusive or punitive

10 Victim to Victimizer A victim is helpless and powerless- this is part of the trauma Some trauma survivors “reclaim” their power by assuming the power of a person who has hurt them, becoming someone who terrorizes and abuses others This abusive behavior can reduce anxiety and provide excitement – these two effects can be habit forming Cultural Influence and traditional gender narratives – Masculinity: does not allow for helplessness. You cannot be a victim and be male – Feminity: not only allows for, but encourages helplessness

11 So What? Frame violence not as an individual problem, but a symptom of the breakdown of social order – a community social problem “What’s happened to you?” instead of “What’s wrong with you?” When people receive understanding, it enables them to begin to understand themselves and make positive changes Create safety – physical, psychological, social, and moral – Safety involves not just prohibitions against violence to others, but also self- destruction (substance use, self harm) – In a community the violence one does to themselves and their body effects others – The real challenge is how to establish and maintain safety without invoking punitive, violent, and restrictive measures that add to the problem


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