Deepwave -Trauma Truth Bombs

Trauma Truth Bombs

Trauma may be the single most commonly overlooked cause of mental and physical health issues in today’s world. And it is most definitely one of the most common causes of ‘systemic struggle’ in that the mainstream health channels struggle profoundly to provide safe and effective care for sufferers of PTSD and trauma


In this blog, we will take a closer look at what really causes trauma to get stuck in the nervous system. We’ll explore the biological reasons we are so susceptible to trauma and learn that those same reasons hold the key to healing trauma. And finally, we’ll briefly outline the present and future of effective trauma treatment from a patient-centered, practical and human perspective. But first, a bit of science is essential to set the stage.

Trauma & The Limbic System

The limbic system is the part of the brain where emotions are processed. Many of the body’s processes are hard-wired into the limbic system too. It’s very important to understand that the limbic brain is where our ‘fight or flight’ reflexes are activated and processed, but also where they can get stuck if they are not processed. 

Trauma can profoundly impact the brain’s limbic system, leading to long-lasting changes in how it functions. When a person experiences a traumatic event, the amygdala, which is involved in the regulation of fear and aggression, can become hyperactive, causing the person to experience intense feelings of anxiety and fear. The hippocampus, which plays a critical role in the formation and retrieval of memories, may also be affected by trauma. Research has shown that traumatic events can lead to changes in the hippocampus, resulting in the formation of vivid and intrusive memories of the traumatic event. These memories can be very distressing and can interfere with a person’s ability to form new memories and process information.

The impact of trauma can also result in changes to other functions that are regulated by the limbic system, such as sleep, appetite, and sexual behavior. People who have experienced trauma may struggle with sleep disorders, such as insomnia, and may have changes in their eating patterns. They may also experience sexual dysfunction and changes in their libido.

In addition to these physiological changes, trauma can also have a profound impact on a person’s emotional and psychological well-being. People who have experienced trauma are at increased risk for developing mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These conditions can further disrupt the normal functioning of the limbic system and make it difficult for individuals to recover from their traumatic experiences.

It’s important to note that the impact of trauma on the limbic system can vary from person to person, depending on the severity and duration of the traumatic event, as well as individual differences in genetics and life experiences. Despite these differences, however, it is clear that trauma can have a profound and lasting impact on the limbic system, affecting a wide range of physiological and psychological functions.

The Origins Of Trauma

Trauma and PTSD, and all of their associated symptoms, have their roots in the ancient biology of our body’s nervous system. In some ways, it could be said that persistent symptomatic trauma and PTSD are the product of overloaded survival software. It could also be said that biologically speaking, we are hard-wired for trauma, yet we are not hard-wired for trauma to get ‘stuck’ the way it so often does in humans.

To understand the biology of trauma, it is necessary to understand the survival needs of prey animals living in the wild. 

When a prey animal (like you and so many of your direct ancestors) is ambushed by a predator, there are three options that come up on the nervous system’s dashboard. ‘Fight’, ‘Flight’, and the seldom acknowledged ‘Freeze’

Flight is just about the most obvious and most ideal scenario for any prey animal when a predator shows up. Successful ‘Flight’ is also by far the most common outcome for most predation scenarios in the wild because most prey animals have become very good at it, which is why they are still here after a gazillion years of tooth and claw. Early detection of predators and quick evasion is nature’s Plan A for escaping predators.

The purpose of Fight is pretty obvious. Fight is predation plan B. There are certain instances where a prey animal is simply unable to escape, and the best course of action is to fight off a predator. Maybe the predator is just a juvenile, and you stand a chance of fighting it off. Sometimes fight offers the best chance of survival. 

Freeze is nature’s Plan C. It’s the program that initiates when there is no hope of escaping or fighting off a predator. If a prey animal is totally overwhelmed by a large predator, freeze makes more sense than you might think. Predators tend to bite a lot harder when they feel their prey struggle, and the freeze reflex overrides the instinct to escape. If the predator believes the prey is dead, there is a reasonable chance that it will release its bite and open the possibility of escape. 

Above all else, understanding that the unprocessed freeze response is the cause of chronic trauma and PTSD in humans. While animals have retained the ability to fully unlock and process their freeze responses with physical actions like shaking. We modern humans have unlearned these tricks, along with so many others. The good news is we can relearn!

Trauma With A Small ‘t’ – Trauma Truth Bomb

The word trauma is widely misunderstood in terms of understanding what experts mean when they use it. Whilst the average punter only uses the word trauma when referring to car crashes, assaults etc., experts use the term much more broadly.

The truth is that trauma can leave its mark on the nervous system any time that its capacity for ensuring stress is overloaded. And there are many moments in life and many individuals for whom this threshold can be surprisingly low. 

Trauma with a small ‘t’ is what tends to occur when some persistent or recurrent low-level stressor overloads the nervous system’s ability to cope. For some, this can occur in an unhealthy relationship. For others, professional stress can lead to small t trauma. For others, a sequence of stressful life events can build into some small ‘t’ trauma. 

A useful metaphor to help with understanding small ‘t’ trauma is the ‘repetitive strain injury’ RSI. In RSI, our tissues become injured over time through repeated small stress on the tissue. Big T trauma is like a classic sports injury, while small ‘t’ trauma builds with repeated low-level stress over time, just like RSI does in soft tissues. 

Those of us who are willing to acknowledge our small ‘t’ traumas and use the necessary tools to process them have a massive opportunity to improve the quality of our lives, relationships, careers and health.

Releasing Trauma – Shaking It Off

It’s all well and good understanding how significant an issue trauma is, what causes it, and how much more common it is than we assumed. What do we do about it? 

The key to releasing and processing big T and little t traumas is to release them from the body physically. And also to reconnect with the parts of the body that shut down when we were traumatised. Releasing! Reconnecting! 

EMDR Therapy, Somatic Experiencing & Trauma Release Exercises are the key to releasing and reconnecting. These three fundamental therapies that experts have developed are the cornerstones of trauma treatment for those who truly understand the nature of trauma and PTSD and how they are processed in the body. 

EMDR: EMDR helps reprocess traumatic memories in and of themselves. And leaves the memory intact but without the intense feelings associated with it. 

Trauma Release Exercises (TRE): Trauma release exercises unlock built-up and unprocessed freeze reflexes from within the body’s muscle tissue. 

Somatic Experiencing: Somatic Experiencing helps to reconnect the brain and the self with parts of the body that ‘shut down’ in response to a traumatic event. 

In addition to these mainstay cutting-edge approaches, there are other ways that you can effectively support your own trauma healing process, such as the following:

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Talk therapy

Talking about traumatic experiences with a trained therapist can help individuals process and make sense of their emotions, leading to a reduction in symptoms of trauma. While these therapies have been greatly overestimated in their value for trauma and PTSD sufferers, they are still a core requirement for many of us.

Person doing yoga

Body-based therapies

Body-based therapies, such as acupuncture, yoga, and massage, can help individuals release physical tension and emotional distress that is stored in the body as a result of trauma. There are many layers to how trauma is stored in the body, and these approaches can access some of them to great effect.

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Mindfulness practices

Practices such as mindfulness meditation, deep breathing, and progressive muscle relaxation can help individuals regulate their emotions and reduce trauma symptoms by promoting relaxation and reducing stress. These practices can help us reconnect with the parts of our body that old traumas and stresses are stored up in.

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Exercise can help individuals release tension and stress, improve mood, and reduce symptoms of trauma. Vigorous movement is thought to be one of the key ways in which animals process trauma.

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Art, music and dancing therapy

Engaging in creative activities, such as art and music therapy, can help individuals process and express their emotions related to trauma, leading to a reduction in symptoms. Allowing the body and mind to unwind and express blockages and knots can profoundly heal many trauma and PTSD sufferers.

Trauma Informed Care – The Future

Trauma-informed care is a way of delivering services that considers the impact of traumatic experiences on individuals. It’s about providing care tailored to the specific needs of individuals who have experienced trauma and promoting their well-being. This approach involves recognising the prevalence of trauma, creating a safe and supportive environment, and avoiding re-traumatisation. The aim is to empower individuals, build trust, and promote healing and resilience for those who have suffered trauma.

In addition, Trauma Informed Care is an acknowledgement of how many of our physical and mental challenges are caused by trauma. And the provision of tools that actually work in the releasing and processing of the trauma

We have a long way to go before trauma informed care is a mainstay within our public and private health systems. The first steps towards this are outlined in the article you just read. In many ways, ‘acknowledgement’ and developing the ability to ‘see’ our collective trauma and how it affects us is the beginning. 


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