In my private practice, I will often hear people referring to their painful patterns as trauma, or their trauma as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). But sometimes I can’t actually sense that specific signature in their system.
And sometimes, the reverse happens; someone will tell me about their “problem” as if it’s just a silly challenge they’re having a hard time navigating, but I can feel it is active trauma or even PTSD, something much more acute than what they are describing, or its something with a number of interwoven belief systems behind it, etc.
I’m a clairvoyant and I love listening to everyone’s unique body/mind; it’s so gorgeous to listen to how people are uniquely put together! And so I find myself sharing what I am sensing as true in regards to their description, because I think that it helps to have it spelled out very clearly. So here are some basics to consider.
First, dysfunction or painful patterns are not all trauma, and all trauma is not Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Dysfunction is a conditioning or toxic pattern. It is felt as a dark, painful pattern that triggers fear. That fear comes in the shape of control, worry, doubt, confusion, panic, etc. Example: when your partner/kid doesn’t communicate to you about what time he/she will be home, and you start to feel abandoned and start to get pissed off, or even threatened that he/she won’t come home or is in danger, even though you know this is ridiculous and not real. That is what we might call a challenging pattern that needs healing.
Trauma, then, is like adding an additional electrical charge around it. Example: When your partner or kid doesn’t communicate, you go into a panic, and your body freezes, and you can’t remember suddenly and your mind goes blank. It’s like ice inside you that very suddenly disconnects you, and there is fear, obviously lots of fear, but more is a feeling of being lost. Perhaps lost somewhere inside of yourself.
Now PTSD is an electrical fence that is connected to a series of electrical fences, and once one goes off the rest go into alarm, which makes the first go off again. It’s almost like dogs barking in suburb at night: one dog starts barking at a sound or a raccoon or something, and the others soon follow, which inspires the first to start in again even though the raccoon has passed, and it goes on and on and on. If you can imagine, this is what PTSD feels like inside of you.
PTSD in Detail
I happen to be so familiar with this particular form of emotional pain that I feel like I could document every single sensation. So, perhaps this is more detail than you need, but there are a number of different patterns to PTSD.
For instance a soldier returning from war has a signature slightly different than a child who has been in those same wars. But this is a different pattern of PTSD than a child who has been methodically and ritualistically tortured, and that is still different than a adult who lived in an internment camp, etc. (I work with a lot of survivors!)
But the general signatures for all is a metallic or tin flavor in the mouth which is because of large amounts of adrenaline on chronic cycle in their bodies. Then there is an immediate low or high level of dissociated experience. This sometimes feels like becoming a very small child—not acting like one, but actually becoming one, seeing through the eyes of a three year old, at a world that is only filtered by a three-year-old’s understanding, including feeling your body as you did when 3 years old. Or the dissociation takes the form of a profoundly clear sense that you are no longer the body—feeling like you are not here, instead you are somewhere above or below yourself, or somewhere deeply hidden in the body, and something else is animating my body. Sometimes it’s an entirely different personality, or just a mystery is running the ship. Sometimes it feels like a full blackout, which is to say, nothing is noticed until a few hours to days later when you come back to reality and you notice you don’t have recall for the last few days. (Or in my case, aren’t sure what town you are in, or what happened to your car!) And when you track back, you recognize missing hours or days. Sometimes it includes a profound panic, sometimes it just feels empty. And it can take anywhere from 3 hours to 3 days to come back into the ground of being this person once again, but only once they are in a safe environment. (In my book, Freedom vs Fear, I talk in more detail about this system and how innocent and perfect this behavior is and how intelligent a system PTSD really is. I also share about how to navigate the time it takes to return.)
But unlike dysfunctional conditioning or painful patterning, with both traumatic signatures, you will have these 4 ongoing challenges:
1) Very reactive to urgency.
If something comes up with an “urgent” appeal, a person with trauma will go suddenly into an “overdrive” and over-compensate, and singly focus on the appeal. I put a lot of importance on this because we need to understand this about ourselves. Our friends and family can innocently come in with “life emergencies”—like a cat is sick, or a boyfriend didn’t call—and if we don’t understand that we will respond as if its an actual life and death emergency, with our body systems slowing down and adrenaline taking over, we will rarely get any peace!
We need to know how to define an emergency for ourselves, and how to mostly become non-responsive to emergency-like situations. We need to train to turn away and let other bring in solutions. Or at least pause for a good amount of time to clarify what is real before it costs your system a lot metabolically.
2) A seemingly very real understanding that life is pain, and pain is life.
This can be a chronic running system in the background that feels like “If I’m not in pain, something must be wrong.” or “If this isn’t painful, its not something I can trust”. Which, sadly, makes relationships very dramatic and toxic.
This is so, so common for traumatized individuals. There is such a deep groove of experience that always points to some kind of pain, that it’s almost too hard to relax and lean on something more effortless, or find ease. Ease is just not “real” or trustworthy, and it feels too rudderless, like it is not going to last.
3) Overwhelmed into defeat with very small triggers.
By small trigger, I mean something like the oven door didn’t close all the way and the cake didn’t cook in time. Or you feel cold in the night, but it would wake people up to get a blanket. I mean small.
It’s tragic how these very small life events will create a feeling of being totally overwhelmed in a person with active trauma. And it’s important to know this in advance, because knowing it is a trigger and not “true” can empower the person to creatively problem-solve, pulling them right out of overwhelm and into creative expression instead.
4) Tons of buried rage.
Often surprising to the traumatized is how intense and how vast the rage in their system is. Usually this is deeply buried, and more available are feelings of grief or depression, but the rage explodes in the same way contents under immense pressure tend to explode. And those explosions are really mysterious, and painful to live through for everyone. And then usually the traumatized are shamed for exploding.
But trauma is created by actions that were committed in total offense to your personhood—basically, a violence that denied your rights as a person. And so, intelligently, there is a lot of anger around that. Assuming we all understand that anger is the expression of a boundary, specifically when a boundary has been crossed, over-stepped. And if that anger is not getting pressurized, it is agency for the beautiful “No!” that is an essential part in some ways for how you get to “Yes!” But with trauma, lots and lots of high pressured NO. And sadly, it is so often misunderstood.
And it so often explodes unconsciously. Someone with trauma is usually mortified when they come conscious to be exploding in anger. And because it’s unconscious, it can’t be helped. And then, well, we all the know the public and family shaming and blaming and accusation that gets attributed to exploding rage.
It’s worth repeating that it is often really surprising to traumatized people, once they get in touch with it, the huge amount of rage in their systems. But rage and trauma go hand in hand. Brother/sister. Necessary allies.
So, hopefully this article gives you some sense of clarity around what your system is generally dealing with, or clarifies your parents for you, or your partner, or your kid. And perhaps this can open the door to even more of an honest dialogue.
All my love and blessings,