Can Trauma Really Be ‘Stored’ In The Body?

Stephanie Eckelkamp, ‘Can Trauma Really Be ‘Stored’ In The Body?’,, mindbodygreen (October 9, 2019)

Trauma is going to come to all of us sooner or later. (…) It’s true that some experiences are most obviously traumatic, like rape or war, but things like dealing with a serious illness in yourself or a family member, the death of someone close, the breakup of a significant relationship, or even losing a job or leaving a community that’s very important to you can be traumatic. (…) Trauma isn’t something that has to be one specific event. (…) The problem (…) is that the negative psychological and physical effects of any type of trauma don’t always resolve on their own, and may extend far beyond the actual event. (…) The primary response we often have to trauma is fight or flight. (…) The heart beats faster, blood pressure goes up, big muscles get tense and ready to run or fight, digestion slows down. The other reaction we can have—often when the trauma is overwhelming and inescapable, as might be the case with rape or an ongoing abusive relationship—is to freeze, or go into kind of a detached state. During these responses, which are mediated by the autonomic nervous system, areas of the brain responsible for fear, anger, and emotion, particularly the amygdala, become much more active, while areas in the frontal cortex, responsible for self-awareness, thoughtful decision making, human connection, and compassion, become less active. (…) A sort of healthy resolution of a traumatic event would be that you do experience that initial stress response and you are shaken up, but after about a month, the anxiety and recollections of the event diminish significantly or go away. (…) But others can get stuck in these fight, flight, or freeze responses—even when they’re not consciously thinking about the traumatic event. (…) When (…) traumatic thoughts and memories remain unspeakable or unthinkable for too long, they often impede our brain’s natural process of recovery after trauma. (…) Physical manifestations of trauma very much exist in our bodies—even when we may not be consciously thinking about the actual trauma. (…) When we experience trauma, we also experience it in our body. (…) There are two aspects of memory. (…) Every part of the body that has that tension may store some of the information about the trauma we experienced. (…) It’s important to work with the body, it’s important to work with the imagination, it’s important to work with more rational problem-solving side of things, it’s important to express ourselves and to connect with other people—all of those things are part of a comprehensive approach to trauma healing.