Trauma is a situation in which we feel utterly helpless and overwhelmed and believe we may die. The fight or flight options of a high stress situation are no longer available, instead we freeze and fragment. The term Early Trauma refers to trauma experienced during our most vulnerable stages of development when neither fight nor flight is an option. This stage, beginning with conception, includes birth and the bonding and attachment phase of infancy. At this pre-verbal stage trauma is a subjective experience - for instance a baby temporarily separated from their mother at birth may believe they will die. The memory of trauma becomes unconscious and we store the split off emotions in our cells.
As a part of us splits off, our Identity is altered. We are no longer fully healthy: we retain a healthy part, but a traumatised part comes into being, is rendered unconscious and a surviving part guards this split. The traumatised part remains at the age it was when the trauma happened. Our surviving self works to distract us from this loss. We are no longer fully present to ourselves or others and may primarily be occupied with surviving behaviours to avoid our unconscious trauma feelings (see opposite). Surviving emotions such as anger, extreme optimism and even depression can also serve to distract us from our real feelings.
As a child of a traumatised mother or traumatised bonding system, we may unconsciously bond/identify with our mother's trauma and/or survival strategies. The fields of neuroscience and epi-genetics have now identified this phenomenon as trans-generational traumatisation. In our symbiotic need we do not discriminate and will bond with that which is available, healthy or not.
Identity-oriented Psychotrauma Therapy, using the Intention Method, facilitates "self encounters", in which we can safely, step by step, disentangle from trans-generational traumatisation.
Surviving behaviours after a trauma include:
Survival behaviours can range from the more socially acceptable distractions such as watching tv, sleeping, playing sport, working hard and shopping, to the potentially destructive tendencies such as OCD, self-harm, eating disorders and even suicide.