Most of us have experienced something in our past that we feel still negatively affects us today. Your mom wasn’t as available as you wish because she was depressed, had some other mental health issue, or drank too much. Your parents fought a lot—maybe even physically—and you remember hiding as a kid to try not to listen. You always felt criticized and belittled by the ones who were supposed to love you.

Or maybe the memories are even scarier: You were the victim of physical or sexual abuse. You’ve experienced sexual assault or have otherwise been the victim of violence. Your parents were addicted to drugs or alcohol or were in and out of jail. Your neighborhood wasn’t a safe place to live and you maybe even witnessed life-threatening crimes.

Does any of this sound or feel familiar?

“Be willing to have it so. Acceptance of what has happened
Is the first step to overcoming the consequences of any misfortune.”

William James, Founder of American Psychology

What is “Trauma?”

Psychological trauma is “an event, series of events, or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being.”  [See].  The event(s) does not have to be experienced by the person him or herself; it can also include scary events that one witnessed or learned about, generally involving someone they are close to.  See Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed., DSM-5, American Psychiatric Assn, 2013).  Trauma-based events may involve violent crime, sexual abuse or assault, physical or emotional abuse, neglect, domestic violence, school violence and bullying, homelessness, natural disasters, war, accidents such as a car or plane crash, among others. Sometimes the scary event happened one time.  In other cases, however, the experiences are chronic, prolonged and pervasive, such as childhood abuse and neglect.  Trauma is now proven to even be historical and intergenerational, that is, traumatic experiences that occurred in your family generations ago may still have emotional and psychological effects on you today.

How Does Trauma Affect Us?

A difficult experience may not affect everyone the same.  “Trauma is not what happens to us–trauma is the result of what happens inside of us based on what happens to us.”  And the fact that we generally endure it alone.  Gabor Mate, Canadian Physician.  In other words, it is not the event(s) that determine whether something is traumatic, but a person’s experience of the event and the meaning they make of it.  The more chronic the difficult experience and the younger one is when the experience occurs, generally the more likely it is to affect a person long-term.

When scary things happen, there may be lasting structural and functional effects on the parts of our brains that are involved in the stress response.  We may become more wired to perceive danger, even where it may no longer exist.  Because we are easily triggered to feel unsafe, we experience much of life from a framework of fight, flight or freeze to ensure we stay safe and get our needs met.  In this process, we may become disconnected from our feelings and the ability to be in the present moment.  We may carry shame about who we are.  We may never really learn how to self-regulate or manage our emotions.  As adults, we come to realize that the go-to reactions we once developed to help us survive may not be really working any more.  Our relationships suffer.  Our sense of self suffers.  We aren’t meeting our goals or perhaps can’t even figure out what they should be.

Early trauma can have a profound and lasting negative impact on both our mental and physical health.  The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study found that serious childhood traumas can lead to increased risk of depression and other mental health issues, suicide attempts, smoking, alcoholism and illicit substance use, adolescent pregnancy, multiple sexual partners and unintended pregnancies, heart disease, liver disease, intimate partner violence, STDs and even early death. See

I am no longer afraid of storms
For I am learning how to sail my ship

Louise May Alcott, American writer

What Can We Do About It?

Our work isn’t to forget the bad stuff.  Indeed, our experiences are part of what now make us unique and special.  Nor is our work to “fix” our wounded selves.  The insight and depth we gain from overcoming adversity is huge and should be cherished as our strength. 

Rather, our journey is to figure out how to let the past stay in the past, appreciate our strength in enduring it, and let our nervous systems heal and re-wire so we can live a more productive, calm and present day-to-day life.  Our own inner spirit, perhaps with some additional guidance and nurturance, will then transform our trauma into healing. 

In addition to supporting clients in recognizing, acknowledging and witnessing their trauma experiences, I also use “bottom-up” interventions to help their bodies and minds work through and release their trauma.  These techniques tap into ways releasing trauma from our cellular bodies and neural networks and help rewire the brain to allow more access to less reactivity and present moment joy. See the Interventions page for more information.

I honor and align with your natural capacity to heal.  While recognizing and validating your trauma, I believe that you are not defined by what happened to you. Together, we will approach your experiences with compassion and without judgment.  Together, we will work to place the hard stuff into perspective so that you can remember your True Self, the one that thrives and knows joy.

If this sounds like you and you are ready to move toward peace and wholeness, call today for an appointment:  828-691-4538