What is Trauma?

TRAUMA and our approach.

There is currently a very exciting revolution in the realm of healing occurring, thanks to the ground breaking work being done by world leaders and researchers in the field of bottom up processing, Somatic Therapies, Neurobiology and Energy Medicine.

In the past the body was left out of the psychodynamic, psychoanalytic or cognitive therapeutic approaches to therapy. Therapists were skilled at listening to the language and emotion of the client, tracking psychic conflict, distress and defences, registering the narrative threads of clients, and seeing how the patterns and childhood stories may be repeating themselves in the present, and much more. Therapists in the past were trained to notice the clients body movements posture and subtle changes for sure, but working DIRECTLY with the clients EMBODIED experience was viewed as a peripheral approach.

The Sensorimotor Psychotherapeutic wholistic approach I take when working with clients does build on the traditional psychotherapeutic approach but holds the BODY and the nervous system CENTRAL in the therapeutic field. Both “top down“ (Cognitive) and “bottom up”(Body), approaches are integrated in the Totally Alive  Integrated Trauma healing technique (ITH).


Trauma happens to all of us, our friends our families. No one is exempt to experiencing some trauma, to what degree trauma has affected you varies from mild to severe. Examples of experiences that may cause trauma in the body are:

 Sexual abuse, growing up in a family where there was alcoholism, violence, verbal abuse emotional abuse, attachment bonding disorders, generational trauma, external events, medical procedures, unnecessary intrusive birthing procedures, and so on.

Trauma can be defined as any event from any time, that creates utter helplessness, often combined with abandonment by potentially protective caregivers. Physiologically it has characteristic hyperarousal (over activated nervous system) symptoms and are likened to tortured animals that are unable to take any action to find a way out. This eventually causes a cessation of “trying to find a way” out, a stopping of the natural fight or flight response, a collapse or a physiological “freeze” in the body/mind and is often responsible for PTSD.

The best predictor of something becoming traumatic for humans seems to be a situation in which you can no longer imagine a way out, when fighting and fleeing is no longer an option and you feel overpowered and helpless. This often happens in childhood when you are literally powerless and vulnerable,  but also as an adult in accidents and overwhelming experiences, or too much happening too fast for your physiology to bounce back from.

The emotions of disgust, fear, anger, shame that occur naturally in traumatic situations have a survival function to communicate to others to back away or protect me! In trauma this is not achieved. The predator does not back off, and no-one protects you, resulting in the victim failing to achieve any action that could help them, rendering them helpless. Sadly, shame depression and self-loathing often occur in the wake of such helplessness.

Most people with traumatised parts learn to disassociate and slit off or compartmentalize, often appearing competent and focused most of the time but then can collapse into primitive and uncontrollable states of emotions and immobilization, when confronted with situations that may trigger buried trauma.

We now know that TRAUMA has a profound and potentially long-lasting effect on the body and mind. So many people who have been traumatised report unregulated body experiences like intense pain, uncontrollable emotions and physical sensations and often sadly, chronic disease. According to Peter Levine the mental states associated with trauma are important, but it is the body that initiates responses and the mind follows. Consequently, the therapist in this field of trauma needs to be able to recognize, see and hear the voice of the body - this is a deciphering of the nonverbal realm.

Traumatic situations, no matter what they are, are experiences that have induced a HIGH state of physiological arousal /activation in the Autonomic Nervous System without the freedom to express emotionally or physiologically process this energy in the body. These primitive survival responses and emotions get stuck in the body.

How then can a human being easily access and feel safe to feel and complete these powerful survival states? With trauma therapy at Totally Alive we are trained in recognizing the psycho- emotional and physical signs of frozen trauma in the body of our clients.

In the therapeutic processing of trauma, we are inviting the full and carefully graded, expression and completion of these instinctive responses. This allows the traumatised person access to the restoration of vitality, life force and re-membering of their intrinsic goodness.

This new understanding of how trauma operates in the body, emotions mind and nervous system has created a re-definition of what has been often been labelled and known as psychological and even mental health issues.

However, due to the advancements of neuroscience, interpersonal neurobiology and the inclusion of a more scientific and holistic approach, issues that were previously defined as Psychological depression, anxiety, self-harming, vague and undefined body pain and varied body symptoms, addictions, or a variety of health issues, have now been inexorably connected to early childhood, and other forms of trauma. There is now a recognition that emotional, mood, and physical disorders are most often the outcome of earlier traumas. The need for taking clients beyond talking cognitive approaches and to heal the parts of them that are frozen in the past is now substantiated with convincing research.

This  new paradigm of healing is tipping the scales of traditional approaches and assisting the client to reconnect with their inner wholeness aliveness and spirit, however as our minds desperately try to leave the trauma behind our bodies keep us trapped in the past, with wordless emotions and feelings Sadly these inner disconnections cause disruptions and disconnections in intimacy and social relationships with disastrous effects on marriages families  and friendships and sometime the ability to be social at all. 

As human beings we are an extremely resilient species we have rebounded from endless wars, countless disasters and the betrayal and violence in our own lives and reality. But as resilient as we are, we now have an opportunity to understand and take responsibility for the awakening of our consciousness to realize the degree in which we need this for social healing, personal healing, and for a deeper understanding of our intrinsic humanness. 

Until we understand just how endemic rather than exotic trauma is, in our society and how much it influences people at all levels from governments to families in the decisions and choices we make, we will inevitably recreate and repeat these unconscious trauma situations , both privately and publicly locally and globally

Recently the understanding of the transgenerational nature of trauma (trauma passed down through bonding) has also come to the front  makes it an even larger challenge in that if ignored,  it sadly is passed down regardless , Including family secrets ,hidden losses and transgressions that are  imperceptibly carried  through generations leaving emotional and energetic traces in our bodies and nervous systems.

Our minds and bodies do have a natural innate movement towards integration and healing, which becomes frozen in trauma (PTSD). We now have amazing applications of a neurobiological framework of work that embraces the non-linguistic and neural processing of the individual, the understanding of the need to readapt the flight fight response to its natural orientation and completion, and the vital place for emotional and energetic release in the healing process.  Wholeness and life force can re awaken and healthy emotions can flow.