Pre and Perinatal Trauma
I completed the first training of the Intermediate Level of Somatic Experiencing this month. It certainly deepened my understanding of trauma. We focused on pre and perinatal trauma which is trauma that occurred before we had the language to express it. Trauma can occur in utero for the fetus if it is exposed to toxins and/or stress hormones. We have the ability to use the freeze response even this early in life. Once the spine has developed we then have access to the fight or flight response where we can use the spine to engage in a swimming movement to get away from what is dangerous. We can then have birth trauma and trauma in infancy. Often our nervous system never gets a chance to develop fully and we then have young nervous systems as we grow up into adulthood. How this appears in the nervous system is called Global High Intensity Activation. How this looks is the sense of being “on” all the time and only having an off switch when overwhelmed and collapsing with fatigue. Relationships are difficult to form since forming intimate relationships requires us to be able to use the social engagement system which never had a chance to develop. The social engagement system allows us to enter into relaxed states when we are interacting with safe people. Without it we cannot distinguish safe from unsafe people. Healing these injuries is a lengthy process as it takes time to develop some capacity in the nervous system. When I have worked with clients with these types of nervous systems we can spend a lot of time just learning how to stay present in the here and now. Just to let you know, this was me for a long time. It wasn’t until I found a counsellor who had some training in somatic psychology that I became aware of this. She pointed out that I had no awareness from the neck down and looking back, I lived in a dissociated state. I would live my life through cycles of taking on too much and then crashing from fatigue or overwhelm and burning bridges with relationships and in the workplace in the process. Sound familiar? It took a while for me to learn body awareness and to be able to stay present in my body for longer lengths of time. The amazing thing is that despite the early traumas, our bodies have an innate impulse to move towards greater health. Given the opportunity to complete protection responses that never got the chance to complete, we then have access to vital life force energy to then live our best lives.