Trauma Release Approach


Trauma has played a part in almost everyone’s life and trauma arrives in many different forms. Some traumatic events are direct, for example emotional abuse or something completely unexpected like being dismissed from a job where you previously felt valued.

Sometimes trauma is indirect and much harder to understand but at the same time damaging. An example of this type of trauma could be a relationship trauma where there is no form of abuse but being in the relationship creates great unhappiness and lack of freedom and perhaps eventually ending the relationship would cause additional trauma.

Life is full of twists and turns, challenges and elation and in that life, we see, feel, hear, experience and understand events that can be traumatic. Everyone is different and responds to traumatic events very differently.

My dear father had a massive heart attack when I was just 17, I tried to get emergency help and it didn’t arrive, so I asked a friend to transport my Dad to hospital. This was a specific event that I know, without a doubt, traumatised me. I felt helpless watching my Dad go grey and suffer extreme pain in his chest. I felt helpless that I couldn’t get immediate help from professionals. I was fearful he would die. My Dad was also traumatised by this event.


Physiologically (Physical), trauma is straightforward. There is injury to the body and physical harm occurs. All our vital systems (nervous and immune) respond to the injury and the body begins to keep things stable and repair.

Psychological (Mind/Body) trauma isn’t that obvious at times. It’s not easy to see shock, fear, anger or disgust and the range of emotions that come with trauma as well as the body responses that correspond.

Trauma is a very personal experience, what is traumatic for one person is not necessarily traumatic for another. There are some things that we know are easy to spot that create the possibility of a traumatic response, these could include war, homelessness, relationship breakdown, imprisonment, medical interventions, illness, car accidents, sexual assault, child abuse in all its forms, including neglect and deep disconnection to nature and community.

Sometimes it’s hard to see the link of the trauma to the responses that may emerge later. However, you experience and respond to your trauma is ‘normal’ for you.

Trauma is our experience of and response to these experiences.
Normal, immediate responses include:

  • Fiercely standing our ground (fight)
  • The feeling of needing to run away as far as possible (flight)
  • An inability to move or respond (freeze)
  • Fainting or blacking out (flop/faint)
  • Quickly adapting to a situation in order to survive (fawn)

These responses are primarily regulated by the nervous system and that is why when getting help for your traumatic experiences it is important to work with your nervous system.

During physical or psychological injury, the autonomic part of our nervous system reacts to keep us safe. These reactions can happen even when there is no risk of physical harm.

Our perception of harm is enough, if we believe we are in harm’s way our nervous system believes it. Sometimes the nervous system can find it challenging to switch off and can appear to respond to everything that could be perceived as a threat. This could be loud noises, fast moving traffic, heights, closed spaces etc. The brain and body respond which leads to a release of neurotransmitters and hormones that fuel the stress response.

The interactions between the hypothalamus, pituitary and adrenal glands (known as the HPA axis), lead to the production and release of neurotransmitters and hormones that fuel the stress response. Based on the type of response experienced, one of the two branches of the autonomic nervous system dominates. Imagine the branches as operating on a dimmer switch; they both contribute to a defence cascade of responses.

For example, we predominately experience actions of the sympathetic nervous system during the fight and flight responses. Sympathetic action results in the heart racing, stomach-turning and all our senses are on high alert. Our bodies are literally preparing for a run to safety or a physical fight. This can be exhausting.

The parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system is the main player in the responses of freeze, flop/faint and fawn. Decreased heart rate, breathing rate and body temperature depict these responses. This can lead to disconnection and apathy.

According to Stephen Porges, there may a third “branch” of the nervous system that facilitates how we respond to trauma. Porges claims that an unexamined function of the tenth cranial nerve, the vagus nerve, plays a major role in our response to trauma and stress. He teaches that we ideally flow through the interwoven categories of “safe,” “mobilized” or “immobilized” based on our moment-to-moment experiences throughout the day.

The “mobilized” category corresponds to the fight and flight responses, while “immobilized” corresponds to the freeze and flop responses. The “safe” category is one of calm and contentment — the state we experience when surrounded by those we love and trust or while spending time in nature. According to Porges, chronic stress creates an inflexibility between states — essentially, we become stuck. This can be emotionally exhausting and frustrating.

All these responses are perfectly logical based on what we know about evolution. Humans are hardwired, primarily via the nervous system, with millions of years of adaptation toward survival. We react to traumatic events in a way that will most likely benefit us and, from an evolutionary perspective, allow us to live long, fruitful, fertile lives.

Within this context, it makes sense that our reactions to trauma vary widely from person to person. We all respond in different ways, and these different responses are perfectly normal. Men and women, for instance, probably respond to stressors differently due to reasons that involve both nature (born with) and nurture (taught to). Men tend to fight or flee, while women tend to “tend and befriend,” another way of saying they freeze, faint or fawn.


Present events can cause you to re-experience even a seemingly unrelated trauma. These are known as triggers.

I am sure you have heard someone you know say “I am feeling really triggered at the moment.” It could have been expectantly seeing an ex-partner, receiving texts from someone who has caused psychological or physical harm in the past.

It could be a smell, or a look on someone’s face. Perhaps a raised voice, a car driving too fast. There are so many triggers that we can recognise being connected to our triggers but often we often can’t figure out the connection.

Maybe all you know is that you have a ‘horrible’ feeling about something that just happened or is about to happen. It often doesn’t make sense, but your body knows what is happening. Perhaps your heart is racing, your head hurts or your tummy is doing a rollover.


The prolonged effects of trauma vary as much as the immediate responses. Historically, post-traumatic symptoms have been known by many names: hysteria, dissociation, shell shock, traumatic neurosis, post- traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), complex traumatic stress disorder and developmental trauma disorder.

Some people cope with trauma through action and expressive emotions, while others are reflective and withdrawn. Children’s responses are often different from adults. Beginning to wet the bed after learning to use the toilet or suddenly being unable to talk are characteristic responses in young children. Teenagers may feel guilt or display uncharacteristically destructive behaviours.

Some people have no noticeable repercussions and quickly rebound from a traumatic event! Again, as with our initial response, it is entirely normal for aftereffects to differ from person to person. It’s also helpful to remember that reactions to trauma can occur soon after the initial event has passed or many years later.

The takeaway here is that whatever your response is, it is your response, and it is normal for you. The encouraging thing is that many, many people, young and old and anywhere in-between can heal from their trauma and can learn to manage their trauma triggers.

Some initial reactions to trauma can include:

  • Sadness
  • Confusion
  • Anxiety
  • Numbness
  • Exhaustion
  • Physical or mental agitation
  • Shaking
  • Trouble concentrating

Delayed reactions to trauma can include:

  • Sleep disorders
  • Nightmares
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Fear of recurrence
  • Avoidance of emotions
  • Flashbacks
  • Lowered resistance to colds and infections

Another way to look at trauma responses is by looking at the type of response and how you might feel.


  • Workaholic
  • Over thinker
  • Anxiety, panic, OCD
  • Difficulty sitting still
  • Perfectionism


  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Stuck
  • Dissociation
  • Isolation
  • Fearful


  • Anger outburst
  • Controlling
  • ‘The bully’
  • ‘The Narcissist’
  • Explosive behaviour


  • People pleaser
  • Lack of identity
  • No boundaries
  • Overwhelmed
  • Co-dependent


Overwhelm happens as a shock to the body. Overwhelm is a different biology process than stress and causes lasting changes in the mind and body. Overwhelm is a trauma to the body because the body doesn’t bounce back to its prior state of health.

Having stored trauma does not always mean that you were abused, neglected or had terrible parents, although for some people this I the case. What stored trauma means is that there have been situations in your life where your body experienced not having enough resources and support. Your body became overwhelmed and the best way to manage was to ignore your natural or basic needs, push through and work harder.

When you don’t know your body is holding trauma, you don’t understand the reactions you are having to otherwise benign (perceived as nothing) stimuli in the world. It is hard to make sense of what you are doing. Unprocessed trauma can be very disruptive to an otherwise normal life. Maybe your trauma response puts you into overdrive where you think that people may hate you or you may feel like they are out to get you.

Everyone has the experience of trauma. Everyone is living compromised to some degree…we are all human. Your physical and mental health becomes compromised from the lasting effects of trauma on your biology. For a time, you can manage and cope but there often comes a breaking point.

In the world we live in now we do not recognise stored stress and overwhelm and its effects on our biology and our thoughts and emotions. You expect that you should be able to handle things just fine.

Maybe you are not handling things and you can always get the right support, guidance and therapy.

TRAUMA RELEASE – Finding relief

There are many approaches to healing your trauma. A trauma may feel so deep, so ungraspable, that understanding it intellectually simply doesn’t move the response to the trauma experience. This is where EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprogramming), EMIT (Eye Movement Integration Therapy) and Medical Clinical Hypnotherapy can make a difference.

Basically, EMDR and EMIT are memory/feeling focussed psychotherapies. Medical Clinical Hypnotherapy helps remodel the traumatic memory. There are many other helpful therapies that can provide relief; however, I will focus on these three for now.

A traumatic crisis activates the primal, survival – oriented parts of the brain, especially the amygdala, which is constantly scanning for danger and governs the fear response. This is a very old response but also useful. But, when the reaction gets locked into place – as it does when we are unable to move forward after a traumatic experience, it can create lasting damage.
So, in a nutshell, some of the lifesaving or perceived lifesaving responses are held long after the trauma is over. We can stay in the state that we experienced when the trauma occurred.

I know this too well after several and deeply traumatic experiences at the dentist both as a child and as an adult. I won’t go into the ‘gory’ details just in case you have a dental phobia. What I do know now is that the trauma of these experiences was locked in my body. Going to the dentist was always like a life-threatening situation for me. EMDR, EMIT and Medical Hypnotherapy really helped me to attend the dentist, with fewer scary responses but not with the same response and intensity prior to the therapy.

There is always hope.

There is always the opportunity for greater potential in your life.