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Individual and Couples Counselling in Calgary

  • Writer's pictureRovena Magidin

The Wisdom of Trauma

Gabor Mate's Wisdom of Trauma movie poster

“Can our deepest pain be a doorway to healing?”. Dr. Gabor Mate

After watching “The Wisdom of Trauma” movie and a series of talks that were created to support it, I wanted to share some of my takeaways, as well as a list of trauma informed resources.

Dr. Gabor Mate defines trauma as: “Trauma is not what happens to you, trauma is what happens inside you as a result of what happens to you." Trauma is not the event that happened, it’s the response that happened within us, that still affects us, emotionally, mentally, psychologically, physiologically, sometimes years after the event itself.

For some people it’s not a single disastrous event that happened, for many it starts in their childhood as a continuous experience of neglect, abandonment or abuse.

Again quoting Dr Gabor Mate, “When something happened to you, as a child, who did you tell? No one. That’s trauma”. The pain is there, but no one to share it with.

Trauma is disconnection from self. The pain is too great to deal with, so we disconnect.

Trauma overcomes our capacity to cope, to stay present, to use our resources, to tolerate our emotions.

We learn not to pay attention to our feelings because that’s the only way we can survive. We learn to dissociate.

Being flooded with adrenaline and cortisol, we get stuck in a fight or flight response, or we collapse and freeze. This impacts our ability to deal with stress, to self regulate or co-regulate. The mechanism that is designed to help us deal with stress, becomes a habitual response, affecting our ability to make decisions, cope, feel, play, trust.

That becomes a life long dynamic. In relationships it can show up like this: when I get hurt I immediately disconnect and withdraw, or attack in an angry outburst, cause I don’t know how to deal with my pain. People are not overreacting, they are just not reacting to what happening right at that moment, they are reacting to what happened years ago.

We get it all wrong as a society, we ask “What’s wrong with them?” instead of “What happened to them?”

Many people in positions of power or helping profession do not get adequate or any training in trauma; doctors, teachers, police officers, judges, therapists …. Our systems are not set up to actually understand and treat the root cause of many issues that people are dealing with.

Trauma can show up in the body as many physiological symptoms (insomnia, chronic pain, headaches, memory problems, problems with concentration) or psychological symptoms (depression, anxiety, irritability, shame, self hatred, panic attacks, substance abuse), but if symptoms are being treated only medically, it’s not going to help to heal the whole being.

Attachment trauma can show up in relationships - as inability to create or maintain safe, secure attachment. As being attracted to “wrong” partners, as love addiction, as staying in abusive relationships. As inability to trust, or not recognizing the signs of when not to trust. As inability to leave even when the relationship is not working for you. As emotional outbursts that seem to be disproportionate to what's happening at the moment. (and so many other ways.)

Here's a quick 2 minutes video where Dr. Julie Gottman talks about impact of trauma on relationships:

Trauma can show up as an addiction, as a normal response in dealing with profound suffering. In order to heal addiction we need to heal the trauma, to see the wound and the pain that’s underneath it.

There's so much we need to talk about to understand trauma and its impact on people are relationships.

What's most important is that

  • we are designed to heal,

  • we CAN heal and

  • we are not meant to do this alone.

Here are some resources you might find useful:

Books on trauma:

Myth of Normal book cover

Crisis support

In Calgary

Calgary Distress center 403-266-HELP (4357)

Calgary Women’s shelter 403-234-SAFE (7233)

Adverse Childhood Experiences Score

Trauma-informed resources The list of resources created by the directors of the Wisdom of Trauma movie:

If your relationship is imacted by trauma and you are looking for support, individually or as a couple, I'd be happy to talk to you about how I can help. Book your free consultaiton here. I'm an Individual and Couples Counsellor in Calgary AB, and around the world online. I also offer Sex Therapy, if (as it often does) trauma had an impact on your relationship with sexuality and initmacy.


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