PTSD is not simply a type of experience. A traumatic event may deeply traumatize one person but not another. Post-traumatic stress disorder is the effect of a threatening experience on a person’s physiology and nervous system when they were overwhelmed. It depends on how severe the threat was, whether they were able to make any effective defense, and whether they had support afterward to move through the powerful sensations and emotions.
For example, we treated a woman who experienced a home invasion and attempted rape. She effectively drove the attacker out of her house by screaming and ferociously striking. Although she was, of course, extremely upset at the time, this event did not cause her long-term trauma because she had the experience of successfully defending herself.
Obviously, this has not been everyone’s experience. You might have been simply overpowered by the force, speed, or repetition of what happened to you.
Also, we are social animals and we need people to rely on. PTSD may afflict someone who experienced a traumatic event when they had no friends or other support systems to help them unwind from the trauma afterwards.
Before I came to Paul for therapy, my life seemed to be controlled by my emotional reaction to every situation that triggered uncomfortable past memories. Now when a situation brings that emotion to the forefront, I am able to feel it and quickly dismiss it.
— S.A., 48 year old saleswoman
The good news is, it is never too late to get “unstuck”, or to heal trauma or PTSD. The stuck energy of these emotional and physical wounds can be released.