By Kenny Hill
CADC II, ICADC,
Certified Brainspotting Therapist
July 24, 2019
Past Trauma Controls Future Choices
Lets Clarify “Trauma”
Many define this to be a survivor of a roadside bombing, a kidnapping, or something else of cinematic proportions. This is indeed trauma, but I want to simplify the understanding of this by widening the scope. Trauma is derived from the Greek word for “wound.” A quick Google search already clarifies the two main components: “deeply distressing or disturbing experience; physical injury.” So, an emotional or physical experience that triggers one’s fight, flight, freeze, and faint response. Psychology separates this into two sections: Small trauma and Large trauma.
Small traumas are not inherently life threatening, but throw our emotional functioning out of whack. Dad didn’t show up to the game, a bad break up or divorce, negative put downs/ verbal abuse, infidelity, the loss of something or someone important to you, harassment; essentially the things that society dismisses as “common” things you “should just get over.” The more of these that occur, especially at a younger age, the weaker one’s resilience can be over time. Thus, requiring help.
Large traumas seem much easier to identify, as they are life threatening. Sexual violence and assault, war zones (overseas or domestically), natural disasters (fires, floods, etc.), vehicular accidents; all the things that loved ones tell others to get help for.
Our Current Behavior Presents as a Reflection of our Past
Without making an argument of free will versus determinism (I am not smart enough to stake a claim on either side) it is clear that trauma is the best indicator of lost free will. This happens because the survivor’s neurobiology becomes emotionally stunted at the time of the event, and when triggered later in life, their reactions are similar to the reactions they would have used at the time of the original event. Similar to a street performer artfully puppeteering their puppet, the trauma survivor becomes puppeteered by the past.
Anecdotally, in my practice, if a client had trauma – small or large – they also had debilitating behaviors which were presented through mental health symptomology. These behaviors were coping mechanisms to help the person feel safe. The result of the behavior, being the symptoms, might be depression, anxiety, high impulsivity, or general affect dysregulation; but whatever the symptom was, it could easily be traced back to large or small trauma. For example, if the symptom was addiction, the client could – without fail – connect the dots back to specific traumas in every case.
The absence of free will is accompanied with the feeling of powerlessness and loss of control. It makes sense, then, that trauma survivors use these exact same phrases to explain their feelings with the traumatizing experience. When a core feeling, that is associated with a past trauma, is awakened in someone due to a current experience, they will act out inappropriately to cope with their past trauma, instead of the current experience. They lose the ability to evolve into the healthy person they desire to be. Healing from these past traumas is necessary to live in the current moment.
There’s a common saying that goes something like this: “If you have one foot stuck in the past, and the other in the future, then your pissing on today.” By attempting to ignore our traumas and move past them, our present is surely to be impacted. Many have taken their past traumas and effectively used the experience to gain resilience and become a better version of themselves.
For many, tackling the past is a deep timely dive, slowly tearing off the BandAid to allow for healing. With Recovery Hill, and the employment of Brainspotting, we can effectively rip off the Band-Aid to achieve quicker results. If you are ready to get your foot unstuck from the past, call or email Recovery Hill today for a free initial phone assessment.
What is Brainspotting?
Brainspotting is the tool Recovery Hill uses to take treatment to a deeper level. This modality allows the therapist to go beyond traditional counseling, and get to rooted issues that helped perpetuate substance abuse and other poor coping skills. Derived from EMDR, Brainspotting provides a neurobiological tool for accessing, diagnosing, and treating a wide range of somatic and emotionally-based conditions. Fears, resentments, grief and loss, work and sports performance, and all other traumas can be worked on in this process. By accessing deep regions of the brain via eye positioning, the healing process can be put in super drive. Metaphorically, if driving to San Francisco from Sacramento in the right three lanes represents traditional talk therapy, and the carpool lane is EMDR, then Brainspotting is taking BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit).
About the Author
Kenny Hill Sr, CADC II, ICADC, Certified Brainspotting Therapist. Kenny has a private practice called Recovery Hill in Sacramento, Ca, where he works with people for substance abuse and trauma. He also facilitates interventions. Kenny works with teens and young adults, to 65 and over. He works with all folks, and speacializes with Veterans and First Responders. He keeps a small caseload to ensure his clients and their families receive the attention they deserve. Kenny is a combat veteran and recovering addict, who has a passion for working with people. He considers his work to be an honor, riding shot-gun in other’s journeys.