003: Trauma 201

Allison Sweatman & Andrea Coston

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Ali & Andie go deeper into the concept of trauma and the far-reaching implications it has for us personally and societally.

To access the transcript for this episode, click here.


Nothing on this show is meant to replace treatment from a licensed mental health professional

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Trigger Warning

We talk about traumatic events such as abuse, but not graphically. 

Summarizing previous Episode

Talked about how each person can experience potential traumatic events AND traumatic events differently because we are each different organisms. 

Discussion of the ACES study

Vincent Feletti 

“Adverse Childhood Experiences”

Used in many different fields because the findings are very important. 

ACES are things like experiencing or witnessing violence, abuse, or neglect, having a family member attempt or die by suicide, instability due to parental separation or parent being in jail or prison, substance misuse, early adverse medical experiences are all examples and general broadstrokes of what ACES are. 

All happen before the age of 18. 

There are issues- 

Those with these childhood experiences show lasting health consequences, 

Original study of 25,000 people, insurance carrying, mostly white, insurance carrying people. 

About 61% of adults surveyed across 25 states reported that they had experienced at least one type of ACE, and nearly 1 in 6 reported they had experienced four or more types of ACEs.

If study was redone, the implications would be more widespread.

ACES are potentially traumatic events that can affect the developing brain. 

The likelihood that these experiences end up as Big T trauma is higher than the likelihood that they were little t trauma. 

Some experiences that were not included on the ACES, which is a criticism, but in general Aces is a decent baseline in spite of criticism. 

Circumventing traumatic events:

A big factor in circumventing traumatic events/ ACES is returning to community and safety. 

Supportive community, a family system, an adult who is safe.

Not the relationship that creates the healing, but the creates a potential to heal within that safe place. 

Comparison to Adoption and creating safe places within Adoption. 

Discussion on Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs within potential traumatic events in childhood. 

9/11 Studies Concerning Safe Places:

People with support (somewhere to go… a safe place to process) did not develop PTSD

Those who had no safe place developed PTSD

So, a large part of the effect of a potentially traumatic event is the environment you are in afterward and the level of support you receive 

Proximity to trauma was a factor. 

Do we even have the ability to acknowledge that the symptoms of trauma are within us?

Easier to do when we have had safe places to process. 

The risk of acknowledging symptoms/unmet needs can be re-traumatizing. 

We will subconsciously seek these unmet needs in relationships, partners, and therapeutic relationships. 

“People will marry their father or mother.” 

Attachment Styles 

Book Club Offer

Book Club for The Body Keeps the Score coming in September! To learn what’s included and how to join, go to allisonsweatman.com/fallbookclub 

The Body’s Role in Trauma:

Most important paradigm shift for understanding trauma: Trauma’s storing in the brain/body system. This might not make sense at first, but stick with us.

Comes back as sensations in the body (hence, TBKTS)

Discussion on how the Brain stores memory and sensations. 

Our society supports disembodiment.

Personal Story from Andie concerning sensory memory.

Trauma is not a memory that needs to be erased, but a body that continues to live in fear. A traumatized body experiences the world as a threatening, frightening place.

Brain stuff

The brain is made to help us stay attentive to the important details in life. It helps us filter out everything that is not important. Trauma makes that selection process faulty. This translates to many different ways the traumatized person experiences and shows up in the world. A traumatized person’s experience is often that they cannot trust others, they are not able to be loved, they are unable to build a sense of self from which to show up and make decisions and move through the world. The reward system in the brain changes and certain things cannot be ignored, because the brain/body system perceives them as a life-or-death situation, so they are often completely distraught by things that would not bother the average person. Pavlov, of the dog experiment, said that traumatized people lost a distinct sense of purpose in life, which is the most important instinct in the animal kingdom.

Healing is about reinstating that sense of purpose and sense of self.

It will help people feel fully alive in the present rather than demand they relive their past. 


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