An Introduction to Trauma & Abuse

#aminext this photograph was taken after violence against women march in Cape Town, South Africa that asked for the South African Government to declare a state of emergency. This was as a result of the ongoing and increasing gender-based violence across the country. What I thought was fascinating about this photo was how it represented cycles. The monument is to General Louis Botha a Boer War veteran and first Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa after making peace with the British.  The statue can be taken to be representative of standardised ideas of the patriarchy and thus worthy of being defaced during a GBV rally.

What came first the chicken or the egg? Like seriously? Which one? That’s what I’m still trying to figure out here. What I can say is that there is a very intimate and complex relationship between Trauma and Abuse that as of yet has not fully been unravelled though we are now well on the way.

Trauma is something that I have been deep diving into over the last few months. I’ve been doing my best to compartmentalise in the human life span and what it means for both me and my clients. What has become clear is it’s not just one thing that traumatises us it’s multiple. That these traumas combined are a result of nothing less than systemic abuse, that as humans we have been expected to behave and operate in ways that are not natural to the human condition.

It’s clear that modern life traumatises us and that increasingly as both individuals and communities that have we have been left mitigating the symptoms of trauma as ‘health issues’ rather than accepting to impact of cause and effect. We are living lives far separate to our natural ways of being. Whether it be the home environment within which we live, the communities within which we operate or our places of work. We are all largely existing in lives that do not serve our highest potential of that of the planet’s. It’s all connected.

So what is trauma? That’s the whole thing it’s complicated. It can be caused by a ‘traumatic’ event or even a traumatic environment, children are far more susceptible to it. It switches on your whole brain in a fight, flight or freeze response. There is now evidence to suggest that there is also a fawn or face-off response too, especially in response abuse. We store negative memories in the brain far more prominently in the brain than positive ones as the result of an evolutionary glitch that is intended to protect us from threat can keep us trapped for years. That means that often we end up living in the past.

Symptoms of trauma are numerous and include disorientation, disassociation, anxiety, anger, rage, fear, terror, panic, depression and much much more.

More serious diagnosis of truama include Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Complex Post Tramatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD). PTSD is an extreme repsonse to one truamtic incident meanwhile CPTSD occurs as result of multiple traumas.

Trauma can occur as a result of naturally occurring events such as accidents, natural disasters and medical interventions.

More often though as I am discovering it is as a result of abuse, paradoxically though the abused often become abusers and starts a trauma cycle that can be hard to break. Abuse too can be hard to identify. When we think of abuse we often think of physical and sexual abuse however abuse can often be far more pernicious than that. ‘The Silent Treatment’ being a good example of this. Ultimately abuse can simply be characterised as a lack of both respect and boundaries in all areas of our lives. This can simply mean that someone might fail to respect your wishes and be dishonest about it. Emotional abuse can include invalidating somebody else’s feelings, ignoring the impact that our behaviours have on others or inflicting our emotional pain on others. Psychological abuse involves using mind games and lies to manipulate other people’s thoughts, behaviours and feelings and may involve threatening and controlling behaviour.  Physical abuse is violent. Sexual abuse can include molestation and rape but is not limited to these two acts. This link may help you identify if you are being abused within a home setting. It’s important to remember that abuse can also happen outside of the home. In the workplace of other areas of your life, this article offers a good outline of the nature of abuse.

With relation to the field that I’m interested in which is systemic abuse and trauma, the intersectionality of systemic trauma which creates slow and structural violence means that what might appear as the impact of a singular trauma can actually be indicative of multiple cases of abuse that are co-existing in any one person’s life over long periods of time, this can be defined as chronic truama. That generational, gender, religious, educational, land, institutional as well as economic abuse all have the ability to impact most humans alive today. That it isn’t just one story of personal violation it’s multiple and they are multilayered and crosssection society. That if we can create a deeper understanding of our own story we might be able to see beyond what is impacting us, as it is.

What is the most incredible thing is that in the last ten years as a society we have made such incredible leaps and bounds forward in trauma that with the right support it is now curable.

Here is a video of  Joe Dispenza & Gregg Braden talking about trauma how it affects the brain and how it can be cured.

Update June 2022:

This is a comprehensive article on the impacts of domestic abuse Understanding the Signs of Domestic Violence

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