Before, I only knew little about trauma. The only thing I have known about trauma is that my father has it because he got robbed in Brooklyn. But now, I have managed to learn almost every aspect of it. The broadening of my knowledge about trauma, trauma victims, recovery, medications, the body, therapies, and therapists has been made possible by reading The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel Van der Kolk and Stitches: A Memoir by David Small. The paper explores what I have learned about trauma and recovery that I did not know before.
First, I have learned that trauma can have different causes. Strong emotional or physical reactions are common when one encounters traumatic events. According to Van der Kolk (8), Tom had strong physical responses to Vietnam. It demonstrates that the through of Vietnam was traumatic due to his experiences there. Apart from Tom, Van der Kolk (9) describes how the narrator’s mother would get upset when asked about her childhood. The reaction demonstrated that her childhood was traumatic, so she does not want to harbor thoughts about it, as she had experienced childhood trauma. From these, I have learned that trauma is characterized by strong emotional and physical reactions that may be unpleasant. People struggle with relating to trauma victims due to these strong reactions.
Secondly, I have learned that any person can experience trauma. In his book, Small introduced different characters with different traumatic experiences, demonstrating that any person can be exposed to trauma. For instance, the narrator experienced trauma in the physical assault by his grandmother. He was forced to wash his hands using hot water, an experience that made him cry and become fearful of his grandmother (Small 94). Another character is exposed to the narrator’s great-grandmother, as she became more cruel toward her daughter-in-law after her son’s death (Small 94). These characters demonstrate that regardless of age or gender, any person can experience trauma.
Thirdly, people’s reactions to trauma depend on different factors varying. The common factors that determine how a person reacts to trauma include available support, the severity of the traumatic event, personality traits, and exposure to traumatic experiences before. Common reactions are in the form of behavioral, physical, emotional, and mental responses. According to Van der Kolk (10), most veterans flew into extreme rages due to minor frustrations, a depiction that reminded them of traumatic events they had experienced on the battlefield. For some people, traumatic experiences cause emotional numbness. Tom experienced emotional numbness, making it challenging to relate well with his family (Van der Kolk 14). Notably, reactions to trauma are normal and may subside with time. I learned that some reactions need intervention by therapists, as they may fail to subside during the body’s natural healing and recovery process. Soldiers struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder due to trauma and may need assistance from therapists. Therefore, reactions to trauma differ, and this may be due to different factors.
Also, I have learned that trauma causes a reorganization of the human body, mind, and brain. People who experience trauma in their lives experience changes in how they think, the things they think, and their capacity to think (Van der Kolk 21). For most people that have been exposed to trauma, most of their thoughts focus on the event. They attempt to view things from the lens of the traumatic event, which may make it challenging to relate with others. It explains why veterans view other people as outsiders because they believe they do not share their experiences. I have learned that the effect of trauma on the body, mind, and brain contributes to many veterans’ aggressive reactions to less-threatening situations. The stress hormone system of the veterans fails to perform the balancing act, which involves responding to threats quickly and returning to equilibrium (Van der Kolk 39, 73). Therefore, trauma victims view things differently due to reorganization in their body, mind, and brain due to the traumatic events.
Lastly, I have learned that medications and therapy are some ways of treating trauma. They help trauma patients cope with the symptoms they experience and improve the quality of their lives. According to Van der Kolk (90), unconventional techniques that are part of therapy are effective in treating trauma. They rely on vocal and facial communication, visceral awareness, and interpersonal rhythms, which help reorganize perceptions of danger and increase the capacity to manage relationships. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is commonly used to treat trauma (Van der Kolk 227). Besides therapy, medications are used to control trauma victims’ feelings and behavior (Van der Kolk 231). However, there have been concerns over the effectiveness of these medications. Notably, medications do not cure trauma; instead, they relieve its symptoms. According to Van der Kolk (214), recovery from trauma involves regaining control over oneself. It can include revisiting trauma so that one confronts the traumatic event. I have learned the role of medication and therapy in managing trauma. Self-awareness is vital during the recovery of a trauma victim.
In conclusion, I have learned much about trauma from the two readings. Trauma can have different causes, and intense emotional or physical reactions usually characterize it. Also, any person can experience trauma regardless of age or gender. I have learned that responses to traumatic events vary among people. The common reactions are in the form of behavioral, physical, emotional, and mental responses. Also, trauma causes a reorganization of the human body, mind, and brain. The treatment of trauma involves medications and therapies. Self-awareness is an essential aspect that trauma victims should have, as it helps them during recovery.
Small, David. Stitches: A Memoir. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2009, pp. 1-329.
Van der Kolk, Bessel. The Body Keeps the Score. New York: Penguin Publishing Group, 2014, pp. 7-348.