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thoughts on Trauma

Most of us think of trauma as an event that is life threatening or an event in which one believes that he or she is in imminent danger of losing their life. Examples of a traumatic event would  be the recent mud slides in Washington state. The people involved in those mud slides may experience strong emotions They can experience feelings of fear, panic, guilt, anger and helplessness from that event, Another and unfortunately well know example is the trauma that many of our returning veterans witnessed and experienced during  their service in the middle east and other battle fronts.  Trauma often results in a condition that is called post traumatic Stress disorder or PTSD. The symptoms include hyper arousal, flashbacks, anxiety, depression disassociation and more.Suffers of PTSD might experience nightmares and they may try to avoid people or places that remind them of the event. Sounds, smells or sights can remind a traumatized person of the trauma,sending them into a fearful or panic state.In this state the traumatized person can experience the trauma event as though it is happening in that moment.
     Recently I read about a different kind of trauma. Phillip Bromberg in his book, "The Shadow of the Tsunami "(The Shadow of the Tsunami" [Kindle Edition])
Philip M. Bromberg , Allan N. Schore writes about what he defines as developmental trauma. Bromberg defines this as an early childhood experience in which the child ceases to exist in the mind of his or her parent(s) or parent substitute. A friend of mine once told me a story in which while my friend was a very young child , my friend witnessed her father do something that was very inappropriate for a young child  to see. As my friend was telling the story she looked at me and said, " when this happened to me it was as if  in my father's mind my father I had disappeared. In that moment my friend said she felt as if she did not exist.She no longer mattered. She was not important.This for me was a stunning example of what Bromberg termed developmental trauma.
     This type of trauma may go unnoticed but can play a role in the way we relate and interact with others in our relationships. Bromberg contends that this can lead to a type of disassociation that happens as we interact with others.  Developmental Trauma interferes with our ability to live life fully. Instead we  live hiding  parts of who we are.  These pieces of our selves which Bromberg calls "self-sates" are too painful to acknowledge. Associated with these disassociated self-states  is shame. According to Phillip Bromberg this shame is experienced in two ways. Internally and externally. In other words we are "ashamed" and "we are ashamed of our shame". I hope to write more on trauma and the role of shame in my next blog.
   

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