The Impact of Trauma
Trauma is an everyday event, natural and widespread. Trauma impacts victims of “ordinary” events such as traffic accidents, falls, illnesses, sudden losses and abuse as well as “extraordinary” events such as natural disasters, violence, torture, terrorist attacks and war, labor camps and holocausts.
The majority of people exposed to traumatic events do not suffer from long-term emotional damage. However, twenty percent of the population exposed to trauma will develop PTSD, and a higher percentage will feel some traumatic effect on their lives.
Furthermore, events like the September 11 attacks, and the ongoing threats of anthrax, small pox epidemic, and bio-chemical warfare and terrorist attacks, impact the nation as a whole and the “collective nervous system” becomes activated and on edge. The population is on alert, feeling unsafe, overwhelmed and helpless when facing on-going unpredictability.
Trauma impacts directly the victims of terror and their families and friends. But the viewers of televised terror are also vulnerable to secondhand trauma; furthermore, there is a cumulative stress from the on and off exposure to the threat of terrorist attacks that impacts the collective nervous system. Traumatic situations have also the characteristic of awakening old traumas and activating dormant symptoms. The effects of trauma are often not immediately apparent.
The Cost of Trauma
The impact from experiencing a traumatic event can be pervasive and destructive to individual lives, families, communities and nations.
The cost of unresolved trauma to society is incalculable. Trauma has been correlated to physical and mental illness; learning disabilities; addictions; deviant or aggressive behavior; polarization of belief systems; racial, ethnic and religious intolerance and violence in individuals, in schools and communities, between groups and between nations.
Furthermore, traumatic reenactment or repetition is one of the most dangerous and daunting aspects of trauma. It creates a downward spiral of traumatic symptoms, gaining a life of its own called metaphorically “the trauma vortex”. When their trauma is not healed, people will likely continue to repeat or reenact their traumatic experience in some way or another. The “trauma vortex” has a magnetic pull and is contagious.
When whole nations have been traumatized by war, the implications are staggering.
- Trauma is treatable and preventable;
- Awareness of trauma and its effective treatment must become an underlying force in society;
- Trauma is a psycho-biological event. As it impacts the body, at the level of the autonomic nervous system, it needs to be treated at that level as well.
Cutting-edge short-term techniques have been developed. They treat psychological trauma effectively, as well as help develop resiliency to better cope with trauma and facilitate prevention. These techniques rely on the innate ability of people to heal and promote the “healing vortex”, which is also contagious when promoted with awareness. The “trauma and the healing vortexes” have been coined by Dr. Peter Levine.
The mission of the International Trauma-Healing Institute is to develop models that focus on treating the general population and help “deactivate” the ‘collective nervous system’. Deactivating the autonomic nervous system hyper-arousal allows people to restore balance and homeostasis. They can recuperate control over their physiology, emotions, thoughts, and behavior, and more easily return to their normal work and personal functioning.