“There are wounds that never show on the body that are deeper and more hurtful than anything that bleeds.” – Laurell K. Hamilton
Have you had an overwhelming experience that still affects you? Do you suffer from anxiety, panic attacks, or GI problems? Do you have nightmares or trouble sleeping? Do small things trigger bad memories and cause you to panic or feel depressed or afraid?
Or, maybe you’ve never had a classic trauma experience, but you still struggle with the feeling that something just isn’t right.
Instead of asking, “What’s wrong with me?” It’s more helpful to ask, “What happened to me?” That shift in thinking can lead to healing and empowerment.
The discovery that brain science, our bodies, and trauma are all so closely connected has changed the way we do counseling at The Finding Place Counseling. It allows us to better understand human experience and how the brain heals. And it’s a very hopeful model.
Your Brain and How Trauma is Stored
The brain is like an onion, it has many parts and layers. When we think and talk, we use the prefrontal cortex. When we feel emotions and recall memories, we use the middle brain, or limbic system. The brainstem controls our basic urges and fight, flight, or freeze instincts. Trauma is not stored in the prefrontal cortex, the logical part of our brain; it is stored in the middle brain and brainstem.
Because classic talk therapy doesn’t tap into the part of the brain where trauma is stored, it can often fall short in treating trauma. Additional tools and techniques are needed to access and heal the parts of the brain where trauma resides.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
When most people hear the word “trauma,” they think about major life events or severe circumstances. We call this “Big T trauma”—a car accident, rape, fighting in a war, discovery of an affair, or a major life event. Big T trauma ignites our fight, flight, or freeze survival instincts and can literally reshape our brain.
In The Body Keeps the Score, Dr. Bessel van der Kolk explains how trauma doesn’t just affect the brain; trauma is actually stored in the cells of our bodies. When we feel symptoms of PTSD, we’re not reliving a memory in our mind; instead, our bodies are repeatedly reacting to trauma. It can cause everyday life to feel unbearable and lead to panic attacks, somatic ailments, hard to break habits, broken relationships, anxiety, and depression. Big T trauma is just that—big! It’s typically easy to identify, and people often seek treatment for it.
But I don’t have PTSD, so what’s wrong?
Let’s explore—Was your trauma caused by an explosion or a river?
Think of Big T trauma as an explosion. It’s big, loud, and gets a lot of attention. But there is another kind of trauma we call “Little t trauma,” and it is much more common than Big T trauma. We’ve found that Little t trauma is a more secret and destructive killer. Little t trauma is smaller in severity, but over time, small wounds add up.
Little t trauma is like a stream in a rocky landscape. No problem there, right? Actually, water coursing through a landscape continually erodes the rock. The Grand Canyon was carved by water, and if you were raised in a neglectful or abusive environment, developmental trauma and attachment wounds are Little t traumas that can carve canyons in your heart.
Little hearts learn to adapt to their circumstances. Proficient at living with abuse and neglect, little hearts learn to survive then come to reenact or even to prefer these environments. People do what they know because the familiar can be reassuring. Attachment trauma is much harder to find and treat than Big T trauma, but we are experts in helping our clients uncover patterns and beliefs of dysfunction and turmoil.
While many clients say they have little to no trauma, we have found that they often either minimize their suffering or are unaware of their trauma. Through their child’s mind’s eye, how they grew up was “normal” because it’s difficult to distinguish between what is appropriate and what is harmful as a child. It’s all normal. Therefore, their life experience IS normal to them, and a person can be unaware of the Little t Trauma they have suffered.
However, while the mind may be unaware of its Little t trauma, the body is acutely aware. As Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, writes, “Every cell in your body eavesdrops on your thoughts.” The body keeps the score, even when our conscious mind is unaware. Many people who come into therapy for anxiety, depression, panic attacks, self-harming, hard to break habits, or dysfunctional patterns don’t think they have any trauma to resolve, but our team of experts is able to help uncover their Little t trauma. Identifying the river that flowed around them for so many years is the first step to healing.
Our therapists are experts at treating PTSD, as well as developmental—or Little t—trauma. Our clinic offers outpatient counseling, multi-day custom intensives, and telehealth services. We incorporate the latest and most effective interventions including EMDR, brainspotting, mindfulness-based interventions, somatic experiencing, art therapy, and intergenerational trauma resolution. We are trained to “hold space” with your darkest moments.
Today is your chance to begin to break free from your trauma. Contact us. It is our joy and privilege to assist you on your path to healing.