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So when can I say some event was traumatic?
Traumatic experiences arises from events that threaten the integrity of the self – physically or psychologically. The experience usually involves a threat (actual or perceived) of death or serious injury to yourself or a loved one. Aside from the very threatening situation, it is an event in which you respond with feelings of helplessness or horror. (Children may respond with disorganized or agitated behaviour.)
Hearing about the death of someone you love, can thus be traumatic, and not just being highjacked together with that same person. There is an event – and there is how you respond in that event. We are all different and different things threaten us differently – often depending on our past experiences as well as our personality and general coping styles. An accumulation of traumatic events may also over time erode your defences, until you suddenly find yourself not coping with a seemingly unimportant or ‘small’ traumatic event.
Trauma effects our perceptions and beliefs about ourselves and others, the world (as a safe / unsafe place… for example) as well as of God. Therefore it is always useful to take a bit of time to reflect on the impact of a traumatic event, before you move on. Doing so can also lead to a strengthening of beliefs, and you can for instance move more towards life itself, perhaps deciding to take more time for fun and family than before.
When you’re not coping with trauma for whatever reason, and you find yourself responding with increased intrusive (i.e. nightmares, flashbacks), avoidance and arousal symptoms (i.e. difficulty concentrating, hyper-vigilance, difficulty staying or falling asleep) – more professional help is needed.
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