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What is "Trauma Informed" Anyway?

You might have heard the phrase "Trauma Informed" lately as it's kind of an industry buzzword. But what does it even mean?

Well, have you ever identified a pattern of thinking or behaving that isn’t serving you? Sometimes this awareness is enough for these patterns to start to transform and shift. Just by managing your mind you can step into a new version of yourself. It’s so empowering! Coaches help people do this all the time.

But sometimes our patterns run deeper and it’s a little trickier. Sometimes these patterns were developed when our circumstances overwhelmed our ability to cope.

When our brains detect a threat to our safety it triggers a nervous system response like fight, flight, or freeze. Just like in the wild, these physiological responses are adaptive to help us get out of the perceived danger. Muscles tense, our heart rate and respiration increases, and/or we’re hypervigilant or “on edge.” Over time our systems may go into a freeze state which is a collapsed helpless posture. In the wild this looks like “playing dead.”

All perfectly normal and adaptive to help us overcome the stressor and return to safety.

But in today’s world we don’t always escape the danger.

Sometimes it’s a function of childhood and not having control over our circumstances. Other times it’s because we relive the danger over and over again in our thoughts.

In any event, if we don’t complete these threat responses and return to safety or homeostasis, then this energy becomes stored or trapped in the body. Some call this trauma.

When this happens, things that aren’t actually dangerous, like an email from your boss or an argument with your spouse can “trigger” these old patterns. Our thoughts, feelings, and actions can be out of sync with the circumstance.

All “trauma informed” means, is having sensitivity to and awareness of this concept.

So when a client is beating themselves up with a lot of negative self-talk or is overeating or over drinking and isn’t able to transform these patterns with awareness, a trauma informed practitioner can zoom out and see that some trauma patterns might be keeping this client stuck.

And if the word trauma makes you want to run for the hills.…I get it. But identifying these patterns and what’s at the root of them can be quite liberating. And it doesn’t have to be dark and heavy. We can stay playful and hold it lightly, go slowly, and trust the body’s timing.

Or not. It’s always a choice.


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