What defines a traumatic event?

Have you ever asked yourself what is trauma?

What defines trauma?

Because the answer might surprise you.

What we consider "trauma" is normally the event itself.

So, for example, if you are in a car crash you'll surely be traumatised, because a car crash is a traumatic event.

Actually, though, what is traumatic is our reaction to the event.

Or, better, traumatic is every event that takes away our sense of safety, any event that takes away our sense of agency.

When we have no power to change the course of the events, that's when we get traumatised.

The very same situation can have very different outcomes.

Let's go back to the car accident scene: when the cars crash, one of the two people gets trapped inside the car.

Her whole system fires up for her to try and escape, but there’s no way to get out, she has no power to change her situation.

So her system goes into a panic, and this person is very likely to be traumatized later on.

In the other car, there’s another woman who gets the very same body activation that pumps blood to her muscles, makes all her senses extremely reactive and, on the contrary to the other woman, she manages to get out of the car, tries to help the other woman get out and meanwhile she’s calling for help.

Well this woman has full agency on what’s going on, she had the resources and the opportunities to change the situation and save herself, so this woman in the very same car accident, very likely will not be traumatized.

Anxiety attacks are a very common result of trauma, and they’re residual energy of this activation that couldn’t be brought to completion.

If you do suffer from anxiety attacks, I have a resource for you on what to do when you’re having an anxiety attack, and you can find the link in the page "Anxiety resources".

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