The term “trauma” is a term that is used widely in our society and in caregiving circles. It can include anything from a physically damaging event like an accident or surgery to varied forms of child adversity. At Lakeside our training includes many categories of trauma, including:
- Attachment-Related Trauma
- Chronic Trauma
- Complex Trauma
- Chronic Toxic Stress
- Cultural/Political Trauma
- Developmental Trauma
- Medical Trauma
- Occurred in the Past Versus Currently Being Experienced
- Unprocessed Memories
- Vicarious Trauma
- War Trauma
Some trauma-experts have varied other categories that are defined in a number of ways. So even defining trauma can be quite awkward, confusing and sometimes inexact. There is just not an English word that properly captures the complexity of what happens to individuals.
One definition that is offered is by one of the most revered experts in trauma, Dr. Bessel van der Kolk. He describes trauma as “when internal and external resources are inadequate to deal with external threat.” This definition is both simple and all-inclusive of any high threat situation that one may encounter.
It presupposes that there is a perceived external threat that overwhelms and places us in a condition of inadequacy to cope with that external threat. It is understandable why people in this condition have difficulty regulating and finding the capacity to deal effectively with what is happening to them. Their responses will not be rational and may be extreme. When confronted with insurmountable situations we find ourselves in emotional duress. When experiencing that trauma, we just do not have the capacity to deal with that external circumstance.
Dr. van der Kolk provides a great deal of sophisticated neurological data to illustrate how the brain handles this incapacity. Even though trauma is more than we can handle, there are ways for us to guide individuals to find the tools that could help them with these challenges.
It is why Lakeside works so diligently to provide these tools to help those who have experienced trauma in finding resources internally and externally to cope with high threat situations. Trauma-impacted individuals are working through what any of us would be experiencing if we felt completely inadequate and overwhelmed with what we are confronted with in life. It gives us empathy, understanding and compassion, all of which are so vitally important to help those who have experienced the overwhelming reality of trauma.