Life can be comfortable, and we can feel relaxed and happy with things just ticking along in our lives, then, out of nowhere, something can come along and shock us. Sadly, this is something we can’t change or predict. The issue with things that shock us, is that we can never be prepared for these things and there is nothing we can do on a conscious level to change the reactions we have. At moments of shock, we are never responding on a conscious level; your flight, fight, and freeze response is in control of how you react to what is happening. This is something essential to support us and keep us safe. If shock blows our mind, then this could cause long term psychological effects. This is why our primaeval mind is always ready to leap into action, to soften the blow of shock and to protect us by pushing our minds and bodies into survival mode. If we blow our inner fuse board in our mind, then this can have a devastating effect on our mental well-being. We still know so little about the deeper levels of the mind, as these parts of our mind are so hard to study. We hear of many amazing things that people have achieved with the power of their minds, but knowing how to harness this easily, is something we don’t understand yet. On the negative side, many severe but quite rare psychological issues can come as a result of shock and trauma, and we don’t fully understand these or know how to easily treat these conditions.
Here is one such condition; for nearly two decades Sweden has been battling a mysterious illness, called Resignation Syndrome. It affects only the children of asylum-seekers, who withdraw completely, ceasing to walk or talk, or open their eyes. The health professionals who treat these children agree that trauma is what has caused them to withdraw from the world. The most vulnerable children are those who have witnessed extreme violence, often against their parents, or whose families have fled a deeply insecure environment.
Some parents have spent years with no change in their child, once a happy bright child that can sing and dance, to a child that is unresponsive and has to be in intensive care and fed through tubes. It has been seen as a sickness that has to do with former trauma, not the fact that they are asylum seekers. When children witness violence or threats against a parent, their most significant connection in the world is ripped apart. At that time, the child understands, my parents can’t take care of me, and they just give up hope, because they know they are totally dependent on the parent. This is not just the only condition that can be caused by shock and trauma; Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is the most common one, and there is Post-Acute-Withdrawal Syndrome and Traumatic Withdrawal Syndrome. These sorts of conditions show just how much trauma and shock impact our well-being.
With our inner minds taking control in these situations of shock, we have to accept that the fight, flight and freeze response is there to protect us. Which is great and often life-saving for our minds. But what we must understand, is that in these moments, our minds send the signals to our bodies to react in certain ways. We can feel withdrawn and distant, for some people they feel that they are not grounded or fully connected to the world around them. The other thing that can happen is that we can find we have stomach issues, in those moments of shock, our fight, flight and freeze mechanism switches off our digestive enzymes. This is because our mind knows that we don’t need to waste our time digesting our food when we can use all that energy to power our legs to run or our arms to fight.
Another thing that can happen is that our neck, spine, and hips can lock, this is because if we are running from a situation, looking back isn’t often going to help us. If we are being chased by a grizzly bear, turning around to see what is chasing after us, could one, slow us down, but also could mean that we could freeze in fear at the sight of the grizzly bear and then get killed. Also, this response sets our hips and legs into the best place where we can run for our lives, which is amazing for our survival in life and death situations.
The evolutionary process is something that can take thousands of years, and even though for many of us, particularly living in our western world, we are much safer than we have ever been in our existence on the planet, this doesn’t mean that our bodies have started to change how we respond to shock and trauma.
After practising now for 28 years and specialising in trauma and PTSD, I have seen many people who have tried to reset their bodies after a traumatic event. Often people can struggle to let go of the trauma trapped in their bodies and nervous system. I believe for many people until they have dealt with the emotional impact of what the shock and trauma have caused, the body can stay locked in trauma. But when people work through trauma on a deeper, unconscious level, it can make a transformational change to their physical issues, as well as their emotional ones. After releasing trauma, people often sleep better, people can also find they have a reduced resting heart rate and reduced blood pressure. People who have tried with lots of physio on their neck and back issues, find that these locked physical trauma and tension responses can now start to release, after dealing with the trauma on a deeper level.
There are lots more transformational things that can happen to us when we change on an unconscious level. Our minds need more exploration and a deeper understanding to help us find out more about how our minds work, particularly in traumatic and shocking events. If you are suffering from physical issues that seem hard to shift, it might be worth trying to reflect on when these started. Also, you can use the EMDR session on the MindHealth App, and process down the event, or, if you don’t know the event, you can also process down the physical issues. The App session has an intro to it that explains what to do, or you can seek support from someone like myself.
Don’t stay stuck in the past, choose to change and heal today. Sara x