What is trauma?
Fight/FlightJust as with all other living creatures, when a person feels threatened or unsafe, their nervous system mobilises their body to defend itself. It can do this in a number of ways. Our primary defence systems are Fight and Flight, which require a great deal of physical activity. The body therefore has to mobilise a great deal of energy, which it does by:
- elevating the heart rate to pump more blood around the body
- speeding up the breathing to exchange gases (oxygen and carbon dioxide) more quickly
- sending blood to the muscles, bringing oxygen and glucose to where it is needed
- heightening senses so you are ready for action.
Freeze/FaintHowever, if a person cannot use the mobilised energy to defend themselves, the body has a third and fourth way of protecting itself which we call Freeze and Faint. This ‘shut down’ locks up the energy in the nervous system so that the person becomes silent and still. This was designed to trick our ancient predators to think we were dead so they would pass by and leave us alone. Once we were safe, we could then shake off any remaining Fight/Flight energy in the body and live to fight another day.Humans have learned to mistrust and fear the strong feelings and behaviours that accompany the natural release of the Freeze/Faint response. Even though the danger may have passed, they don’t feel safe enough to release the Fight/Flight energy:
- the necessary crying and shaking of release can be stigmatised as weakness and cowardice by society so we prefer not to show them
- the feelings themselves can seem so overwhelming that we prefer not to experience them.
How trauma might present itself
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- difficulty concentrating/distraction
- shorter attention span
- difficulty sitting still for long periods of time
- reduced ability to take in large amounts of information
- difficulty interacting with you and other members of the class
- intolerance to touch/physical contact
- triggered emotion from seemingly unrelated subjects.
TaskHave you experienced any of the behaviours described? Are there any other behaviours you have seen? How did you respond to them? Share your experiences in the comments section and respond to others.
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