What creates trauma is anything overwhelming enough that the nervous system cannot regulate completely back to neutral afterwards. It’s like the stress gets frozen in time in the body, waiting for the stress to be over with. Even after the actual event has passed, feelings of distress can linger. Sometimes for years or even decades. And, one of the mysteries of trauma is that symptoms can take years to develop – which in and of itself can be confusing, and also potentially overwhelming.
The word ’trauma’ is frequently misunderstood. While the mind is part of what trauma effects, the roots of trauma are held in the body. And there’s no one thing that causes trauma. Trauma is in the nervous system, not in the event. What is intensely overwhelming to one person could be experienced completely differently by another. Another way to think of it is accumulated stress in the body, instead of “trauma”.
Symptoms of trauma can develop from chronic ‘lesser’ stresses. Since a healthy nervous system relies on regular intervals of rest for release of activated energy in response to stress, and regulation afterwards once the stress has passed – it becomes clear how the incessant nature of our modern world is enough to create overwhelm in a nervous system.
Accumulated stress in the body effects many people’s lives – sometimes very adversely. There are the “obvious” causes, such as war, rape, or natural disasters, and those are very serious events to live through. But there are plenty of other ways a person can be suddenly or continually overwhelmed in life. When the origin of these experiences or symptoms is a mystery, that by itself if can be ongoing stress. Thank goodness in Somatic Experiencing we don’t have to know the story or root of the problem to solve it!