Trauma: Past and Present
“I became what I am today at the age of twelve, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975. I remember the precise moment, crouching behind a crumbling mud wall, peeking into the alley near the frozen creek. That was a long time ago, but it’s wrong what they say about the past, I’ve learned, about how you can bury it. Because the past claws its way out. Looking back now, I realize I have been peeking into that deserted alley for the last twenty-six years.”
― Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner
Trauma occurs when we are unable to make sense of an event from our past, resulting in an inability to integrate our feelings. This process intertwines with and taxes our nervous system, leading to an inability to process the original disturbing event. Traumatic memories then become trapped in maladaptive mental structures. People often report feeling “stuck” or “frozen” as a result of these experiences. Traumatic memories are not accessible by the logical or reasoning parts of the brain; they are instead stored in the nonverbal region of the brain.
People who have experienced trauma often have difficulty making sense of their story and the emotions that correspond with it. Symptoms attributed to trauma include (but are not limited to): flashbacks of the traumatic event, nightmares, negative thoughts of self, inability to recall key features of the traumatic event, etc.