Overlooked trauma

For some time now, I have been reflecting on the meaning of the word trauma, or more precisely, what does it mean to say something was traumatic? It is not always the more obvious things that leave us traumatised. We can too easily dismiss an experience, when comparing it to other peoples "bigger " more obvious trauma.

In reality, a traumatic experience is not so much defined by the type of event, but more about how a situation impacts upon an individual, or community. It's defined by a meeting of an external situation with the unique intricacy of each person. It is too simple to say x event = x
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The power of empathy: how being heard calms the body.

For a while now I have been pondering how Focusing differs from Mindfulness and for me one of the key factors is the place of an empathic listener when we practice Focusing in pairs. This relationship with a companion or listener changes the whole process for me. There is a lot that happens in the interaction that changes the process so what I write next is about just one aspect of that.

It starts with this question, why does the presence of another matter and what do they bring to the relationship?

In 2013, I was lucky enough to be present at a day conference with Stephen Porges, a psychiatrist and researcher at the University of North Carolina. His studies on the nervous system are well known in Somatic Experiencing and other trauma healing disciplines. His model, the polyvagal theory has many dimensions to it but one essential aspect is what he calls the "social engagement system" - in essence this is all about how our safety is regulated by interaction with others.
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Meeting the demons

Fear is a powerful emotion. And something in us is scared of it! Fear of fear. Fear grabs you at such a visceral level that it often feels like all of you. If you examine it on a physiological level, then you can really see how powerful it is and for good reason. See my article on Trauma and Focusing for more on this.
Can we really meet the most scary places in us with Focusing?
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Welcoming the Tiger! - Working with Trauma in Focusing

Being alive means that we will at some point experience trauma - those events that are overwhelming or too much for us to be able to meet and assimilate. Inevitably when we turn our attention inside in Focusing (or other similar methods), what wants attention is what has not been met! and that includes what we could call trauma. Read more (PDF)
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