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The Impact of Trauma by Knowledge is Power

Breathe, Release, Balance related to energy healing and how the body can recover from trauma.

How does trauma impact the body?

Over half of us have chronic disorder such as high blood pressure or autoimmune disease. Rates of anxiety, depression, PTSD and addiction are skyrocketing. Why? The roots of these issues and more can often be traced to trauma, adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), chronic stress and ultimately, nervous system dysregulation.

Understanding how trauma impacts us is critically important. There is a whole spectrum of experiences that can be traumatizing and adversely impact like accidents, assaults and natural disasters, which are often called "shock traumas". There is also developmental or relational trauma: when we experience chronic adversity, abuse, neglect, emotional neglect and lack of safety while growing up.

Many other experiences can be traumatizing, including chronic stress, medical procedures and adverse community environment like poverty, discrimination, and violence.

Autonomic Nervous System

Meet your automatic system, let’s call it “ANS”. ANS takes care of a lot of your automatic functions like heartbeat, digestion, and body temperature. ANS also manages your survival and stress response, working to keep you alive when your life is in danger. ANS functions as our built-in detection system, constantly scanning our environment for cues of safety and cues of danger. As ANS scans the environment it has 3 general responses, or states:

  • 𝑺𝑨𝑭𝑬: You feel calm, relaxed and connected to those around you.

  • 𝑴𝑶𝑩𝑰𝑳𝑰𝒁𝑬𝑫: When ANS detects danger, it sends a command and your I heart rate and breathing increase adrenaline and cortisol are released, and blood rushes o your muscles so can handle the threat. This is our fight/flight response.

  • 𝑰𝑴𝑴𝑶𝑩𝑰𝑳𝑰𝒁𝑬𝑫: When ANS detects that the danger is so great that you can't fight or run, it shuts you down. In this state, our heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature decrease and pain numbing endorphins are released. This is our freeze response. ANS does all of is automatically without us thinking about it.

ANS doesn’t just use these states for survival, it uses them to navigate through the world each day. When ANS functions well, it moves fluidly from when ANS functions well, it moves fluidly from one state to other: one-minute mobilized and ready for action and the next resting and recovering.

ANS will often blend states together: When we play, ANS combines the mobilized and safe states and when we are intimate with loved ones, it combines immobilized and safe states. When ANS can stay flexible and fluid like this it helps us manage and become resilient to stress and negative events. We're able to bounce back and move on.

Unfortunately, when we experience trauma and chronic stress, it can keep ANS from functioning in a healthy, regulated, and resilient way and can keep us stuck in states of survival. A friendly get-together can become frightening; a simple meeting at work can become threatening. For those with a history of trauma and chronic stress, the ANS detection system often becomes faulty constantly signaling danger, even when we are safe. It's like ANS is an alarm system, constantly signaling fire, even when there's no smoke and no flames. Constantly living in these survival state can be debilitating, and we often develop adaptive strategies like using drugs, alcohol, food, work or sex in an attempt to bring regulation and temporary relief.

Additionally, 𝒏𝒆𝒘 𝒓𝒆𝒔𝒆𝒂𝒓𝒄𝒉 in 𝒆𝒑𝒊𝒈𝒆𝒏𝒆𝒕𝒊𝒄𝒔 shows us that 𝒕𝒓𝒂𝒖𝒎𝒂 can be 𝒑𝒂𝒔𝒔𝒆𝒅 down 𝒈𝒆𝒏𝒆𝒕𝒊𝒄𝒂𝒍𝒍𝒚 at least 3 GENERATIONS.

In the past we’ve thought about trauma as events that happen to us. We now know that trauma is an experience, not an event. It is what happens inside of us as a result of what happens to us. It is our response to the event rather than the event itself. Over 20 years ago, Kaiser and the CDC launched a groundbreaking study of over 17,000 patients that showed a direct link between Adverse Childhood Experiences (or ACEs) and long-term health and wellness. In the study, two thirds of participants reported at least 1 ACE. Over 20% reported 3 or more. When participants reported 4 or more ACES, this corresponded to an increased chance for heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, obesity, suicide attempts, drug abuse, depression and more. With 6 or more ACEs, life expectancy decreases by almost 20 years. We are learning that many physical and emotional systems may emerge from a chronically dysregulated ANS. When ANS gets stuck in survival states, our biology shifts its focus from the tasks that keep us healthy, happy, and thriving to surviving the immediate perceived threat, many conditions and symptoms that are chronic and difficult to diagnose and they can be attributed to a dysfunctional ANS.

  • 𝑷𝒉𝒚𝒔𝒊𝒄𝒂𝒍 𝒔𝒚𝒎𝒑𝒕𝒐𝒎𝒔: digestive disorders, autoimmune diseases, chronic fatigue, chronic pain, migraines.

  • 𝑬𝒎𝒐𝒕𝒊𝒐𝒏𝒂𝒍/𝑩𝒆𝒉𝒂𝒗𝒊𝒐𝒖𝒓𝒂𝒍 𝒔𝒚𝒎𝒑𝒕𝒐𝒎𝒔: anxiety, depression, addiction, PTSD, challenging relationships.

Our childhood experiences can also keep us from connecting with others. This is vitally important because as children our number one survival priority is to attach to caregivers. When the people responsible for our safety aren't safe and we are living in chronic states of un-safety, ANS doesn't get wired correctly. The part of ANS that judges what is safe and what is not becomes faulty.

If intimacy and connection were unsafe as a child, as adults we'll often unconsciously reject attempts from friends and partners to connect. Even though intimacy and connection is what we want, ANS feels it’s unsafe and won’t allow it.

Trauma compromise is our ability to engage with others, replacing the need for connection with the need for protection. When there has been trauma, ANS can no longer differentiate between our unsafe past and our now safe present, ANS can't turn off the need to protect even though we are now safe.

So, what can we do when ANS becomes dysregulated? How do we recover from trauma and develop healthy, regulated, resilient nervous system? Fortunately, we can retrain ANS to feel safe again. This is best done with the help of others. Each one of us has an ANS and our ANS is constantly communicating with and attuning to the states of others.

We autonomically mirror the survival states of those around us. This is called co-regulation. We see it in herd behavior: If one animal senses danger, the entire group becomes more alert, increasing their chances of survival.

𝑾𝒆 𝒂𝒓𝒆 𝒆𝒙𝒂𝒄𝒕𝒍𝒚 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒔𝒂𝒎𝒆. When we are with others who are stressed, angry or depressed, it makes us feel worse. When we are with others who are calm and happy, it makes us feel better. Connecting with others who are safe, attuned, and present is the best way to restore a healthy ANS. For those struggling to recover from the impacts of trauma, there is an emerging field of innovative clinical therapies that have been developed to re-establish safety and regulation to ANS. We're also learning that many of the activities we intuitively know make us feel better. Such as spending time in nature, practicing yoga, breathing exercises, humming, singing, creating art, practicing gratitude, dancing, and helping others can help ANS become more regulated and resilient.

Healing from trauma and finding release from being stuck living in survival states develop as ANS becomes regulated. It increases its capacity for resilience and regains its flexibility. It's not about being calm all the time or mobilized all the time; it’s about having a flexible and resilient nervous system that can accurately assess safety and danger and responds appropriately. We are truly resilient when we can fluidly move from one state to another.

For those living with the impacts of trauma and chronic stress, becoming unstuck is like beginning a new life. For the rest of us, understanding how our nervous system states guide our behavior can help us become happier, healthier, and more empathetic human beings. Collectively, we have an epidemic of social issues that are rooted in trauma - intergenerational trauma. If we can do the work to heal past traumas and build healthy regulated nervous systems as individuals, families and communities, we can end the cycles that continue to reinforce our greatest challenges and create a safer, vibrant, and more connected world.


Trauma and the Nervous System: A Polyvagal Perspective by the Trauma Foundation. 𝑷𝒐𝒍𝒚𝒗𝒂𝒈𝒂𝒍 𝑻𝒉𝒆𝒐𝒓𝒚 𝒗𝒊𝒅𝒆𝒐 𝒕𝒐 𝒖𝒏𝒅𝒆𝒓𝒔𝒕𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒔𝒖𝒃𝒋𝒆𝒄𝒕 𝒃𝒆𝒕𝒕𝒆𝒓:

𝑳𝒆𝒂𝒓𝒏 𝒂𝒃𝒐𝒖𝒕 𝑨𝑪𝑬𝒔 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒉𝒐𝒘 𝒊𝒕 𝒂𝒇𝒇𝒆𝒄𝒕𝒔 𝒐𝒖𝒓 𝒉𝒆𝒂𝒍𝒕𝒉 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒔𝒉𝒐𝒓𝒕𝒏𝒆𝒔𝒔 𝒍𝒊𝒇𝒆 𝒆𝒙𝒑𝒆𝒄𝒕𝒂𝒏𝒄𝒚:

𝑳𝒆𝒂𝒓𝒏 𝒎𝒐𝒓𝒆 𝒂𝒃𝒐𝒖𝒕 𝒊𝒏𝒕𝒆𝒓𝒈𝒆𝒏𝒆𝒓𝒂𝒕𝒊𝒐𝒏𝒂𝒍 𝒕𝒓𝒂𝒖𝒎𝒂 𝒇𝒓𝒐𝒎 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒑𝒐𝒔𝒕 𝒃𝒆𝒍𝒐𝒘:

𝒀𝒐𝒖 𝒎𝒂𝒚 𝒃𝒆 𝒊𝒏𝒕𝒆𝒓𝒆𝒔𝒕𝒆𝒅 𝒐𝒏 𝒍𝒆𝒂𝒓𝒏𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒉𝒐𝒘 𝒔𝒕𝒓𝒆𝒔𝒔 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒕𝒓𝒂𝒖𝒎𝒂 𝒅𝒖𝒓𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒑𝒓𝒆𝒈𝒏𝒂𝒏𝒄𝒚 𝒂𝒇𝒇𝒆𝒄𝒕𝒔 𝒈𝒆𝒏𝒔 𝒐𝒇 3 𝒈𝒆𝒏𝒆𝒓𝒂𝒕𝒊𝒐𝒏𝒔.

𝑾𝒂𝒚𝒔 𝒕𝒐 𝒔𝒕𝒊𝒎𝒖𝒍𝒂𝒕𝒆 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝑽𝒂𝒈𝒖𝒔 𝒏𝒆𝒓𝒗𝒆 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒘𝒂𝒚𝒔 𝒕𝒐 𝒔𝒆𝒍𝒇 𝒓𝒆𝒈𝒖𝒍𝒂𝒕𝒆:

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