Tag Archives: PTSD

14-1119_NegEmotionsCategorization of emotions into positive and negative—that is, seeing them as black and white—may not benefit us. Perhaps we can see emotions of all kinds as human experiences that give us information about ourselves. Emotions can also be a motivator for our actions and a precursor to reactions. For example, fear is supposed to warn us and help us prepare for danger, ultimately bringing us closer to safety. Anger can tell us when something feels wrong, which might give us the urge and strength to deal with an issue that we might otherwise ignore. Sadness can inform us about the pain of our loss and help us to look a little closer at it. Although they may feel uncomfortable, all of these emotions are completely normal and important. In fact, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross points out that there are five emotional stages that we all must go through in order to overcome grief; the stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. She explains that if we don’t get in touch with each feeling during each stage, we might get stuck in one of them and suffer even more.1

Sometimes emotions don’t tell us the truth. When we are stuck or triggered emotionally, our feelings might not tell us the whole truth, for example,when you are trapped in your grief and tell yourself additional stories, like Nobody will ever love me. I’ll be alone for the rest of my life. These beliefs are probably not correct, don’t serve you, and prolong your feelings of sadness. However, you might not know how to change the beliefs.

When you are scared of entering an elevator or afraid of dogs, or feel timid while driving on the freeway, you might have an overproductive fear that expresses itself through phobias or emotional roller coasters. The fear no longer tells you the truth because you are not in a dangerous situation, yet still your fear might lead you to believe that you are unsafe. This can be due to a prior trauma response that is on constant “protection replay mode.” “A trigger is anything that sets you off emotionally and activates memories of your trauma. It’s particular to you and what your experience has been.”2

Susanne-Babbel_Negative-Emotions-Q1Your emotions and your body are more connected than you might think. Robert Scaer explains that “feelings” have a physical cause and that physical sensations and emotional thoughts are inseparable.3 If you have been in an accident or a natural disaster, experienced abuse, or undergone any other trauma, your sensations might keep signaling your nervous system to stay in protective mode by preparing to fight, run away, or be still (fight-flight-freeze mode). It takes any sensory signal, such as sound, sight, smell, taste, or touch—but also inner conditions—to turn on the “alarm system,” and without thinking, you might automatically revert to “survival mode” by reacting from fear or other emotions. 

What can you do when your emotions don’t always inform you correctly? The first step is to be aware of your emotions and become a nonjudgmental observer. If excess anxiety is a problem for you, notice when and in what circumstances you become anxious.

Being compassionate toward yourself will help you ride the wave of anxiety, for example, accepting and naming your feelings in this way: Yeah, that’s my anxiety; it’s familiar. I’ve been here before, and it won’t kill me.

Giving “negative” feelings attention and acknowledging them (without necessarily acting on them) can set them free, whereas ignoring or minimizing them, being afraid of them, or denying them will only harbor symptoms in the long run. Eugene Gendlin developed a technique called “focusing,” in which he suggests, “Don’t go into the problem,”4 but access your felt sense instead. What do you sense in your body? You might sense butterflies in your stomach when you are scared. You might feel constriction in your chest. Instead of avoiding it, he suggests to stay with it until the feelings shift. “The ‘problems’ inside you are only those parts of the process that have been stopped, and the aim of focusing is to unstop them and get the process moving again.”5

Notes:

  1. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and David Kessler, On Grief and Grieving. Finding the Meaning of Grief through the Five Stages of Loss (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2007).
  2. Jasmin Lee Cori, Healing from Trauma: A Survivor’s Guide to Understanding Your Symptoms and Reclaiming Your Life(Cambridge, MA: Marlowe & Company, 2007), 30.
  3. Robert Scaer, 8 Keys to Brain-Body Balance (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2012).
  4. Eugene T. Gendlin, Focusing (New York: Bantam Dell, 1978), 201.
  5. Eugene T. Gendlin, Focusing (New York: Bantam Dell, 1978), 77.

Fear of Success

“Why are some people afraid to succeed but not to fail? Why are some more afraid of failure? How can one learn to embrace these two fears? What is the difference between them?”

A young Canadian woman wrote to me recently with these inquiries. I thought they were excellent questions, and decided to share my thoughts and findings here.

We are all so complex, and the way we react to situations and anticipate results is based on many physiological and psychological factors. So many, in fact, that it can be difficult to generalize why different personality types might handle success versus failure in such drastically polarized ways.

As a psychologist specializing in trauma and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) I’ve had firsthand experience coaching clients whose past experience feeds their current fear of success. For them, the excitement of success feels uncomfortably close to the feeling of arousal they experienced when subjected to a traumatic event or multiple events. (This feeling of arousal can be linked to sexuality, in certain cases where trauma has been experienced in that realm, but that is not always the case.) People who have experienced trauma may associate the excitement of success with the same physiological reactions as trauma. They avoid subjecting themselves to excitement-inducing circumstances, which causes them to be almost phobic about success.

Susanne-Babbel_Fear-of-Success-Q1There is another layer to the fear of success. Many of us have been conditioned to believe that the road to success involves risks such as “getting one’s hopes up” – which threatens to lead to disappointment. And many of us-especially if we’ve been subject to verbal abuse-have been told we were losers our whole lives, in one way or another. We have internalized that feedback and feel that we don’t deserve success. Even those of us who were not abused or otherwise traumatized often associate success with uncomfortable things such as competition and its evil twin, envy.

In order to have a healthy relationship with success (and it’s flip side, failure, or disappointment), the first step is to learn to differentiate between feelings of excitement and a “trauma reaction.”

 

 

Here is an easy exercise:

  1. Recall an event where you were successful or excited when you were younger, and notice what you are feeling and sensing in your memory. Stay with the sensation of for 5 minutes.
  2. Recall an event where you were successful and excited recently in your life, and notice what you are feeling and sensing. Stay with this sensation of for 5 minutes.
  3. Now tap into the sensation of a memory of an overwhelming situation. I suggest not to start with a truly traumatic event, at least not without a therapist’s support. Start with something only moderately disturbing to you.
  4. Now, go back to visualizing your success story. Do you notice a difference?

While corresponding with the young Canadian woman, I asked her to do look up bodily response to fear and excitement and let me know what she found. This is what she wrote back:

“I was looking up how the body responds to fear, and it said that when we sense fear the brain transmits signals and our nervous system kicks, in causing our breathing to quicken, our heart race to increase… we become sweaty, and we run on instinct. When we get excited or enthusiastic, doesn’t our nervous system work the same way?”

I assured her that, yes, the physical reactions to stress and to excitement are very similar. So, when we experience a traumatic event—such as a car accident or a school bullying incident—our body associates the fear we experience with the same physiological feelings we get while excited. Once we have been through enough trauma, we start to avoid those types of situations that trigger memories of fear. For this reason, trauma victims can tend to avoid excitement, and that can lead them to avoid success.

I work with trauma victims to get past their fears and associations and help them embrace and follow the path to success and healthy recovery.

Susane-Babbel_Childhood-Sexual-Abuse_TherapyThere are various types of traumatic events that can lead to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Sexual abuse is a particularly sinister type of trauma because of the shame it instills in the victim. With childhood sexual abuse, victims are often too young to know how to express what is happening and seek out help. When not properly treated, this can result in a lifetime of PTSD, depression and anxiety.

The trauma that results from sexual abuse is a syndrome that affects not just the victim and their family, but all of our society. Because sexual abuse, molestation and rape are such shame-filled concepts, our culture tends to suppress information about them.

According to childtrauma.org, in the U.S. one out of three females and one out of five males have been victims of sexual abuse before the age of 18 years. And according to the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress (AAETS), 30% of all male children are molested in some way, compared to 40% of females.

Some of the most startling statistics unearthed during research into sexual abuse are that children are three times as likely to be victims of rape than adults, and stranger abuse constitutes by far the minority of cases. It is more likely for a child to experience sexual abuse at the hands of a family member or another supposedly trustworthy adult.

Sexual abuse is a truly democratic issue. It affects children and adults across ethnic, socioeconomic, educational, religious, and regional lines.

Susanne-Babbel, MFT, Therapy, Childhood Sexual AbuseExactly what constitutes “sexual abuse”?
The Incest Survivors Resource Network states that “the erotic use of a child, whether physically or emotionally, is sexual exploitation in the fullest meaning of the term, even if no bodily contact is ever made.” It’s important to notice this clause about “no sexual contact.” Often, victims of sexual abuse will try to downplay their experience by saying that it “wasn’t that bad.” It’s vital to recognize that abuse comes in many shapes, colors and sizes and that all abuse is bad.

Outcomes of sexual abuse
By far the most common effect of sexual abuse is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Symptoms can extend far into adulthood and can include withdrawn behavior, reenactment of the traumatic event, avoidance of circumstances that remind one of the event, and physiological hyper-reactivity.

Another legacy of sexual abuse is that children abused at any early age often become hyper-sexualized or sexually reactive. Issues with promiscuity and poor self-esteem are unfortunately common reactions to early sexual abuse.

Substance abuse is a common outcome of sexual abuse. In fact, according to the AAETS, “specialists in the addiction field (alcohol, drugs and eating disorders) estimate that up to 90 percent of their patients have a known history of some form of abuse.”

Specific symptoms of sexual abuse:
(citation, the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress)

  • Withdrawal and mistrust of adults
  • Suicidality
  • Difficulty relating to others except in sexual or seductive ways
  • Unusual interest in or avoidance of all things sexual or physical
  • Sleep problems, nightmares, fears of going to bed
  • Frequent accidents or self-injurious behaviors
  • Refusal to go to school, or to the doctor, or home
  • Secretiveness or unusual aggressiveness
  • Sexual components to drawings and games
  • Neurotic reactions (obsessions, compulsiveness, phobias)
  • Habit disorders (biting, rocking)
  • Unusual sexual knowledge or behavior
  • Prostitution
  • Forcing sexual acts on other children
  • Extreme fear of being touched
  • Unwillingness to submit to physical examination

Studies have shown that children who experience sexual abuse tend to recover quicker and with better results if they have a supportive, caring adult (ideally a parent) consistently in their life.

Because most child sexual abusers were once abused themselves, it’s crucial for victims of sexual abuse to seek counseling and care so that they don’t end up repeating the pattern themselves.

Listening to this recording regularly can help you to cultivate a state of relaxation, let go of your thoughts and allow your body to rest so that your sleep might become more and more effortless.

The recording of Dr. Babbel’s CD’s started upon the request of her clients who found her voice soothing and comforting. As she continued to create guided meditations for her clients she was encouraged to make them public so that others might benefit from them as well. The intention of the CD is not only to create restful sleep but also to reach a sense of calmness, tranquility, and peacefulness.

Dr. Babbel is a certified client-centered hypnotherapist, licensed psychotherapist with a private proactive in San Francisco, and many articles related to trauma for Psychology Today Blog.

This CD is intended to enhance your sleep and to help you relax. It is NOT intended to be a substitute for any medical or psychological care. If you have any kind of mental, emotional, physical or neurological condition, we suggest you consult with a physician or therapist and use this CD under their supervision. Those with a history of seizure, epilepsy, or clinical depression should consult a physician before using this product. Do not use the CD while driving, operating any machinery, or when you need to be alert. Only listen to it when you can safely relax or sleep. Using the CD is at your own risk and Dr. Babbel does not assume any responsibility for any improper use of this CD. 

 

Incest as a form of abuse can be challenging to define, as it differs from culture to culture. Perceptions of incest vary across societies, and the degree of taboo around incest—not to mention the legal ramifications—depends largely on where you are from. In some cultures (and eras), marrying your first cousin is a perfectly acceptable practice.

In this article we’ll focus on the contemporary Western attitude toward and definition of incest. According to Incest: The Nature and Origin of the Taboo, by Emile Durkheim (tr.1963), “The incest taboo is and has been one of the most common of all cultural taboos, both in current nations and many past societies.”

Incest is a type of sexual abuse that can (but does not always) include sexual intercourse, sexually inappropriate acts, or the abuse of power based on sexual activity between blood relatives. The important thing to remember is that incest is a form of sexual abuse. As a form of abuse, it is highly damaging to a child’s psyche and most often results in prolonged Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Feminist.com says that “Incest and sexual abuse of children take many forms and may include sexually suggestive language; prolonged kissing, looking, and petting; vaginal and/or anal intercourse; and oral sex. Because sexual contact is often achieved without overt physical force, there may be no obvious signs of physical harm.”

Incest is a reprehensible form of abuse not just because it is cloaked in shame and stigma, but because this type of sexual abuse in particular affects young victims by implicating and damaging their primary support system. This can be very confusing for children who have been taught to be wary of strangers, but to trust in family. Because they are in the beginning stages of developing their value systems and trust models, the betrayal of incest can be utterly confusing, if not permanently damaging, to a child’s delicate psyche.

STATISTICS
The statistics on incest are extremely difficult to pinpoint because most cases of incest are never reported due to the intense level of shame associated with this type of sexual abuse. Aside from the misdirected shame that victims of incest often feel, there is increased pressure to keep it a secret because of fear of disrupting the family dynamic or experiencing blame or anger from other family members. However, it’s believed that the most common form of incest happens between older male relatives and younger females.

HOW INCEST PTSD MANIFESTS
PTSD as a result of incest can result in a variety of coping mechanisms including

  • Self-injury
  • Substance abuse
  • Eating disorders
  • Issues with disassociation
  • Promiscuity

HOW TO HANDLE A SUSPECTED CASE OF INCEST
The most important thing to remember when dealing with those who have suffered incest (especially if the victim is yourself) is that shame and guilt, while a common response, is not an appropriate one. The biggest immediate help you can offer to a victim of incest is to listen with respect and compassion… and belief. In other words, the first step is always to believe the victim.

RAINN (The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network) has a protocol in terms of who a victim can feel safe reporting an incest situation to:

  • A parent
  • A teacher
  • A school counselor
  • A friend’s parent
  • Your doctor
  • Your minister (or pastor, priest, rabbi, imam, etc.)

To report suspected incest to authorities, call Child Protective Services (See this directory.)

How to report child abuse and incest: http://www.americanhumane.org/about-us/newsroom/fact-sheets/reporting-child-abuse-neglect.html

Your Inner Child

Your Inner Child

Many of us have a younger part within us, also called the “inner child”, that has not been heard, seen, or treated the way it wanted or hoped for in her/his live. As a result, whether it is an inner child, adolescent, or younger adult, feelings of being ignored, abandoned, or not loved may be retained. The memories of these unresolved feelings are carried into our adult life and often become buried in the subconscious. However, the younger part within us remains waiting to be found, to be listened to and to be nurtured, and keeps acting out in attempt to be discovered and attended to.

Anna described having a deep sense of loneliness and struggling with depression. When she searched for the answers of where these feelings originated, she discovered her 9 year old inner child. Her little girl was feeling lonely, bored, and sad, waiting in her room for her mother to arrive from work, even though she knew she was going to be yelled at. Her mother was working many hours and wrapped in her fatigue and worries, she became blind to what her daughter needed. During this time this young girl came to a few conclusions and beliefs about herself, her parents, and the world around her. One conclusion was that she had to stay busy to distract from her pain; the other decision she made was that she needed to please her mother as much as she could in hope to be loved in return. A pattern of having to please everyone and staying busy had been ingrained to the current day and she eventually forgot where these habits were coming from.

Anna decided to contact her “inner child” and began to have age appropriately conversations with her. These dialogues felt strange at first and building a connection between the inner child and the adult took time and trust, and did not go smoothly in the beginning. But after a while, they both formed a beautiful relationship in which little Anna was finally heard and was able to express herself. Although Anna’s work did not change her childhood, it changed her habits and perceptions because she recognized that her habits were coping techniques that had no functions anymore. She also realized that loneliness was an old feeling that lingered inside of her and unconsciously colored most of her experiences. As her relationship with herself improved, so did her feelings of lonesomeness, her relationships with others and the world around her changed in return.

Depending on children’s ages they do not always interpret their environment and parents’ actions correctly. When connecting to the younger part, false memories can be uncovered and give the inner child a chance to understand and make sense of something that was misunderstood in the past. For example, a pregnant mother told the story of her 4 year old daughter Sophia who believed that she no longer was needed because her sister was going to be born in a few months. In a straightforward way Sophia claimed that it wouldn’t matter if she died. The surprised mother told her that it would matter and that she is the best thing that ever happened to her. Her daughter replied “but you have Mikaela now”, to which she explained that Mikaela could never replace her and that she could love both of them. Children are not always able to make sense of their situation the way an adult can and therefore sometimes form beliefs that are not based on reality but their conceptual ability.

Many leading authors such as John Bradshaw, Erika J. Chopich and Margaret Paul, Whitfield and 12 step programs have written about the importance of building a relationship with the “inner child” and found that it can help with many issues including loneliness, fears, depression and raising confidence. The journey of discovering younger parts within us can be surprising and awkward at first but may also be very rewarding.

Your original perceptions and filter of your world may have been altered through an overwhelming experience. In the absence of full processing of the experience you continue to have mental and physical manifestations of unresolved stress. Some of these symptoms begin shortly after the trauma; some develop later. Reactions you might have are:

Emotional Reactions:

_    You feel shame and not worthy
_    You overreact or are overemotional
_    You feel great sadness or anxiety on a regular basis
_    You have a very strong inner critic
_    You are afraid to be abandoned and feel lonely
_    You avoid certain situations
_    You can not feel emotions and are often numb
_    You lack confidence and self esteem
_    You have mood swings

Physical Symptoms:

_    Your body may stay in alert and stress mode until it knows it is safe (Hyperarousal)
_    You have a hard time relaxing and do not know how to settle down (Constriction)
_    You have difficulty sleeping and have nightmares
_    You have body image and weight problems
_    Your memory is not fully functioning
_    You feel numb and cannot feel your body (dissociation)
_    You are suffering from chronic pain
_    Skin disorders
_    Constipation

Relationship Patterns:

_    You may have developed specific patterns that you keep repeating
_    You try to control your partner, friends and family
_    You have a hard time saying no, setting limits or boundaries
_    Relationships can be difficult for you
_    You feel disconnected and detached

If you recognize yourself in these examples, you might have an unresolved traumatic experience.

Trauma symptoms can be expressed days, months, or even years after the traumatic event. Symptoms may suddenly arrive through a trigger in the environment and might appear as emotional, cognitive, or physical reactions. Sometimes the mind is not able to make sense of the internal signals, especially when the person has experienced an overwhelming event or stressful situation. The mind might continue to communicate to the nervous system the necessity to prepare to flee, fight, or freeze. Adrenaline is disbursed and the cycle might perpetually continue until the body-mind perceives that it is safe and recognizes it can rest.

If not addressed these can turn into long-term symptoms such as:

•    Panic attack
•    Avoidance behavior
•    Addictions
•    Risk taking behavior
•    Constant dissociation
•    Memory loss
•    Midlife crisis and fear of dying
•    Self-harming behavior
•    Obsessive or lack of sexual feelings
•    Feeling disconnected

Trauma leaves memories not only in the mind but also in the body. Sapolsky explains that PTSD is a physiological reaction to overwhelming and ongoing stress and is a fight or flight response. As a result, specific hormones are released that alter such things as skin sensitivity, alertness, heart rate, digestion, and learning skills. Additionally, hormones such as cortisol are excreted to expand pain tolerance. Cortisol can also cause hypervigilance, preparing the traumatized person to act at a moment’s notice.

Other physiological reactions include an adrenaline rush which can raise heart rate, cause heart palpitations, produce pupil dilation (increasing visual changes), and stop digestive physiology. Due to a disbursement of glucocorticoids, the body may react with constipation, diarrhea, headaches, and sleep disturbances. Epinephrine and norepinephrine slow down the blood flow to the digestive system and extremities. These hormones can even inhibit learning skills and cause attention deficit or confusion.

Studies have found that sexually abused women and veterans show a decrease in the size of the hippocampus, causing learning and memory loss.

PTSD affects parts of the brain that are associated with language, visual, and motor responses. During flashbacks, the Broca areas of the brain (responsible for verbal functions) slow down which may cause an inhibition of verbal expression of feelings while sensorimotor memories including visual images, tastes, sounds, smells, anxieties, fears, and pressures can still be recalled.

All non-verbal messages (such as those perceived by our senses) are collected in the implicit memory (subconsciously) whereas verbal messages are processed by the linear language centers of the brain and are stored in explicit memory (consciously) for easy access. Rothschild explains, “When PTSD splits mind and body, implicitly remembered images, emotions, somatic sensations, and behaviors become disengaged from explicitly stored facts and meanings about the traumatic event(s), whether they are consciously remembered or not.” van der Kolk emphasizes that contemporary research on the biology of PTSD affirms that stress hormones and memory processing are altered by traumatic events. It is now thought that people hold an implicit memory of trauma in their brains and bodies.

Candace Pert, author of Molecules of Emotions: The Science Behind Mind-Body Medicine, suggests that not only does the brain carry memories but that cells and proteins (referred to as neuropeptides) hold and transport them throughout the entire body. Levine points out that memories are not literal recordings of events but rather a complex of images that are influenced by arousal, emotional context, and prior experience. Memories may even transform over time as new experiences add layers of meaning to the images.

Levine asserts that psychological wounds are reversible and that healing comes when physical and mental releases occur.

In order to understand and recognize trauma responses one needs to be familiar with the concept of trauma and its symptoms. Originally trauma was associated with someone who was directly exposed to a traumatic event. However, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV) broadened the definition of trauma to include people who were not directly involved in the traumatic event but who learned about a traumatic event experienced by another. The DSM IV defines trauma as experiencing an event outside the range of usual human experience that would be markedly distressing to almost anyone; a serious threat to his or her life or physical integrity; serious threat or harm to his children, spouse, or other close relatives or friends; sudden destruction of his home or community; or seeing another person seriously injured or killed in an accident or by physical violence.

Trauma symptoms can be expressed days, months, or even years after the traumatic event. Symptoms may suddenly arrive through a trigger in the environment and might appear as emotional, cognitive, or physical symptoms. Sometimes the mind is not able to make sense of the internal signals, especially when the person has experienced an overwhelming event or stressful situation. The mind might continue to communicate to the nervous system the necessity to prepare to flee, fight, or freeze. Adrenaline is disbursed and the cycle might perpetually continue until the body-mind perceives that it is safe and resourced again and recognizes it can rest. We do not choose the emotions we feel, but we have choices about what we do with them. Bessel van der Kolk  explains that one important aspect of trauma treatment is to stay in the present without feeling or behaving according to irrelevant demands belonging to the past. Psychologically, this means that traumatic experiences need to be located in time and place and distinguished from current reality.

One tool that somatic psychotherapists employ is the tool of body awareness. This enhances our ability to stay in the here and now. There are many more tools and each theory has its own techniques. More than three out of four Americans can expect to be exposed to a traumatic event at least once in their lives. One third of those exposed to trauma develop chronic or at least transient symptoms of PTSD [Post Traumatic Stress Disorder]. Sapolsky explains that PTSD is a physiological reaction to overwhelming and ongoing stress and is a fight or flight response. As a result, specific hormones are released that alter such things as skin sensitivity, alertness, heart rate, digestion, and learning skills. Additionally, hormones such as cortisol are excreted to expand pain tolerance. Cortisol can also cause hypervigilance, preparing the traumatized person to act at a moment’s notice. Other physiological reactions include an adrenaline rush which can raise heart rate, cause heart palpitations, produce pupil dilation (increasing visual changes), and stop digestive physiology. Due to a disbursement of glucocorticoids, the body may react with constipation, diarrhea, headaches, and sleep disturbances. Epinephrine and norepinephrine slow down the blood flow to the digestive system and extremities. These hormones can even inhibit learning skills and cause attention deficit or confusion.

Studies have found that sexually abused women and veterans show a decrease in the size of the hippocampus, causing learning and memory loss. PTSD affects parts of the brain that are associated with language, visual, and motor responses. During flashbacks, the Broca areas of the brain (responsible for verbal functions) slow down which may cause an inhibition of verbal expression of feelings while sensorimotor memories including visual images, tastes, sounds, smells, anxieties, fears, and pressures can still be recalled.

Trauma leaves memories not only in the mind but also in the body. All non-verbal messages (such as those perceived by our senses) are collected in the implicit memory (subconsciously)whereas verbal messages are processed by the linear language centers of the brain and are stored in explicit memory (consciously) for easy access. Rothschild explains, “When PTSD splits mind and body, implicitly remembered images, emotions, somatic sensations, and behaviors become disengaged from explicitly stored facts and meanings about the traumatic event(s), whether they are consciously remembered or not”. Van der Kolk emphasizes that contemporary research on the biology of PTSD affirms that stress hormones and memory processing are altered by traumatic events. It is now thought that people hold an implicit memory of trauma in their brains and bodies.

Candace Pert, author of Molecules of Emotions: The Science Behind Mind-Body Medicine, suggests that not only does the brain carry memories but that cells and proteins (referred to as neuropeptides) hold and transport them throughout the entire body. Levine points out that memories are not literal recordings of events but rather a complex of images that are influenced by arousal, emotional context, and prior experience. Memories may even transform over time as new experiences add layers of meaning to the images. Levine asserts that psychological wounds are reversible and that healing comes when physical and mental releases occur. According to Levine somatic psychology offers tools to effect these releases by raising body awareness and first locating feelings in the body.