The integration of a gentle, trauma aware yoga practice in trauma therapy offers the opportunity to experience a change in mental states, and the simple act of moving the body and reconnecting to the own breathe can create a major sense of accomplishment for people whose bodies have been frozen or numbed by their experiences. Yoga is about replacing old negative patterns with new positive ones, one step at a time.
Psychological Trauma is an affliction of the power-less.
Traumatic events overwhelm the ordinary system of care that give people a sense of control, connection and meaning.
They generally involve threats to life and or bodily integrity or a close personal encounter with violence and death. According to the Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry the common denominator of psychological trauma is feeling “intense fear, helplessness, loss of control, and threat of annihilation”.
“Traumatic events produce profound and lasting changes in physiological arousal, emotion, cognition, and memory. Moreover, traumatic events may server there normally integrated functions from one another. The traumatized person may experience intense emotion but without clear memory of event, or may remember everything clearly but without emotion. She may find herself in a constant state of vigilance and irritability without knowing why. Traumatic symptoms have the tendency to become disconnected from their source and to take on a life on their own.“
Judith Herman – Trauma and Recovery.
“Trauma causes the body to be frozen in a state of fear, terror, and hyper vigilance,” says Dr. Bessel A. van der Kolk, clinical psychiatrist and founder of the Trauma Center in Brookline, Massachusetts and a leader in the field of post-traumatic stress.
”So fundamentally, the effect of trauma is in relationship to one’s body. One’s body gives the signal that it’s not safe, and your body keeps fighting an existing enemy.”
Under condition of chronic childhood abuse the, fragmentation becomes the central principal of personality organization. Fragmentation in consciousness prevents the ordinary integration of knowledge, memory, emotional state and bodily experience. Fragmentation in the inner representation of the self prevents the integration of identity. Fragmentation in the inner representations of others prevents the development of a reliable sense of independence within connection. The sociologist Patricia Rieker and the psychiatrist Elaine Carmen describe the central pathology in victimized children as a “disordered and fragmented identity deriving from accommodations to the judgment of others”.
During a traumatic experience, the body goes through profound changes. These changes have become clearer over the past years because of breakthroughs in brain scans like functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI), which enables scientists to look at how the brain functions in real time, rather than just taking a still photograph, and get a deep understanding of how trauma impacts the body.
A key finding from these brain scans is that during traumatic stress, the speech center shuts down—one reason why many people cannot completely put what happened to them in word and why talk therapy can be limited in helping someone recover from or heal from overwhelming stress. Scans also show that the part of the brain responsible for experiencing what happens in the present moment—the medial prefrontal cortex—shuts down during stress. Yet another enlightening finding from scans shows that people who’ve experienced trauma have more difficulty processing information than those who haven’t.
Definition of “Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder”
(As defined by Judith Herman, Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School and Director of the Victims of Violence Program at Cambridge Hospital)
1) A history of subjection to totalitarian control over a prolonged period (month to years).
Examples include those subjected to totalitarian systems in sexual and domestic life, including survivors of domestic battering, childhood physic and sexual abuse and organized sexual exploitation. Examples also include hostages, prisoners of war, concentration camp survivors, and survivors of some religious cult.
2) Alterations in affect regulation, including
• Persistent dysphoria
• Self-injury and self-harm
• Explosive or extremely inhibited anger (may alternate)
• Compulsive or inhibited sexuality (may alternate)
3) Alteration in consciousness, including
• Amnesia or hypermnesia for traumatic events
• Transient dissociative episodes
• Reliving experiences either in the form of intrusive post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms or in the form of ruminative preoccupation
4) Alteration in self-perception, including
• Sense of helplessness, or paralysis of initiative
• Shame, guilt and self-blame
• Sense of defilement or stigma
• Sense of complete difference from others (may include sense of specialness, utter aloneness, belief no other person can understand, or nonhuman identity)
5) Alteration in perception of perpetrator, including
• Preoccupation with relationship with perpetrator (includes preoccupation with revenge)
• Unrealistic attribution of total power to perpetrator (caution: victims assessment of power realities may be more realistic than clinicians)
• Idealization of paradoxical gratitude
• Sense of special or supernatural relationship
• Acceptance of believe system or rationalization of perpetrator
6) Alterations in relations with other, including
• Isolation and withdrawal
• Disruption in intimate relationships
• Repeated search for rescuer (may alternate with isolation and withdrawal)
• Persistent distrust
• Repeated failures of self-protection
7) Alteration in systems of meaning
• Loss of sustaining faith
• Sense of hopelessness and despair