Three types of trauma

Published on 4 February 2023 at 17:55


Energy psychology and other contemporary psychotherapeutic approaches tend to be oriented around the concept of trauma. Typically, the significant traumas that shape a person's development are targeted in order to release him or her from their gravitational pull and provide more energy and freedom to function optimally in the present. Trauma tends to be thought of as those experiences that overwhelm a person's capacity to process and adapt. It is helpful to think in terms of three types of trauma - one of which is often not conceptualised clearly. They are often combined.

Here are the three types:

  1. Injury, or threat of injury, to the physical body - particularly a threat to life
  2. Loss of a loved person - which we may also think of as attachment trauma
  3. Experiences that call into question our fundamental assumptions about the world and our place within it - that leave a person wondering 'who am I?' and 'where do I belong?' These may be thought of as existential traumas involving cognitive shock

On this third category, much conventional psychotherapy and psychoanalysis are, rather surprisingly, largely silent. Freud did write of this in his concept of delayed action, wherein childhood experiences of sexual abuse are not always traumatic at the time but may become so later when their meaning becomes apparent, causing a shock that cannot be put into words and processed. In his early case of Katerina, whose father sexually molested her, she did not develop hysterical symptoms until later she caught sight through a window of her father having sex with another young woman. Freud was able to provide the words for her: "now I see what my father was trying to do with me". Despite this important element of Freud's contribution, most subsequent psychoanalysis that has built on his foundation makes little reference to this kind of cognitive shock. It is to the notoriously obtuse Jacques Lacan, that we must turn for illumination.

There are many such experiences that cause us cognitive shock, disrupting our basic framework for making sense of the social world. These may not involve any threat or injury to our physical being but are traumatic for the mind. Lacan's writings draw attention to the way it is often transition points in a person's life, such as bereavement, loss of parents, promotion, marriage, birth of a child, or retirement, that trigger a major mental breakdown. At such points, the person is confronted again by questions such as 'who am I?' and 'what is my place in the world?' Prior to such challenges, the person's mental equilibrium may be held in place by supporting social and workplace structures that help to maintain a particular image of who that person is.

The first cognitive shock for most infants is the realisation that mother has desires and needs beyond the baby. The healthy response to this is to protest and try to seduce and elicit mother's attention - before gradually coming to terms with the reality that she has other interests and desires, and that there is a father (or fathering one). Some children never do come to terms with this reality of a third party - mother's life beyond the dyad with mother. This seemingly gratifying position is a catastrophe for the child, preventing him or her moving on to an identity as an autonomous being who can move, with certain degrees of freedom, within the societal matrix. The opportunity for the child to move beyond the mother and engage with the fathering one (who could be female) is a crucial developmental component, liberating the child from the mother's need or desire. The child is able to name 'father' as the rival for mother's love - and this becomes the linguistic ticket for the developmental ride. When this is missing, severe but subtle disturbances or deficits in the person's mind may be present.

Many such cognitive shocks involve the place of the father, in one way or another. Perhaps the father has been too strong and dominating, too present - or insufficiently present - or insufficiently responsive. Later, the child who has become an adult may experience difficulty when he becomes a father or is promoted to a position of authority - in the inarticulate depths of his mind, he encounters a hole where the father should be. Or the little girl may grow up uncertain how to relate to men - again encountering a hole where the concept of a man should be. Thus, the problem is originally either how to be a father or how to relate to a father. Further cognitive shocks occur when the father's role is called into question - something is revealed which undermines his place and image. When this occurs, the whole structural fabric of meaning, the inner map of the social world, may start to unravel.

Although many of these components of mental life and development can be complex, we can gradually lay them out and target them for energy psychological interventions. In my own work, I combine acupoint tapping, with Blue Diamond Healing - directing the silver-rainbow energies to all the areas in need of healing and bringing in new information, frequencies and coding, to reset the person's system to its true organic living template.