The Fourth “F” of Trauma
By Ron Huxley, LMFT
When I work with traumatized people, I always keep in mind that they have one of three reactions: Fight, Flight and Freeze. These are primal brain mechanisms that manage threats to the self. Each type of reaction has its intervention but at the core of these interventions is the fourth “F”: Fusion.
Trauma disrupts relationships and self/other organization. At extreme levels it can cause dissociative disorders (what we used to call Multiple Personality Disorders) splitting off internal parts of the self in an effort to survive and function. At milder levels it can cause us to build defenses or social masks that allow us to get through our days despite feelings of pain or loss. Either we are not acting out of our true self. We also have difficulties with others manifesting by poor intimacy, commitment fears, unmanageable anger, feelings of anxiety and depression.
What we want to achieve is fusion. A fusion of self and personality and a fusion of relationships (self with other). This is easy said than done but it is possible. It is not hopeless as we once thought. The real challenge is trying to help others who are in a state of fight, flight or freeze without ourselves going into a similar state. Staying “fused” in our emotions, in the face trauma, is hard!
There is a common problem in social work and mental health today in trying to label people who have experience trauma. The reason for this is that trauma can impact the brain and the body in a way that produces a wide-range of symptoms that can be confusing to understand.
Most professionals are not “trauma-informed” meaning they haven’t received training on how trauma affects every area of human functioning or how to treat the whole person. Trauma, particularly the adverse experiences endured in early childhood, that can result in coping mechanisms that mimic criteria of various clinical diagnoses.
What are some of the labels you have heard placed on traumatized children or adults?
- Trouble makers
- No conscience
- Stressed Out
- and many more…
In addition to a lack of trauma awareness, we are all “meaning-seeking creatures” that want to label everything so that we can feel better about ourselves and our world. Unfortunately, it can do a lot of damage to the people we are labeling. If we label incorrectly, we will treat them incorrectly. This is might also be why so many survivors appear to “sabotage” their success. It isn’t a real desire to ruin their life. They need sensitive professionals and parents who understand how to deal with the root, trauma issues.
Fortunately, there is a national movement to train parents and professionals, who work with traumatized children, to become more “Trauma-Informed.” This movement is reaching out to homes, school, and organizations and explaining “What is trauma?”, “Impact of Trauma on the Brain, Behavior and Health”, “Adverse Childhood Experiences”, “Power of Resilience”, “Regulation Skills”, “Dissociation”, “Mindfulness and Compassion”, “Recognizing Signs and Symptoms of Trauma in Children”, “Attachment Disorders”, “Post-traumatic stress and Post-trauma Growth”, “Trauma in the Community”, “Avoiding Re-traumatization in Survivors”, “Trauma-Sensitive Schools”, “Faith-Based Approaches to Trauma” and more.
The focus of these training efforts is shifting the primary question inherent in treatment plans, screenings, programs and polices from asking “what is wrong with you” to “what has happened to you”.
This paradigm shift starts the dialogue with survivors, humanizes our practices and helps traumatized children and adults on how to find true healing.
If you would like Ron to train your organization on Trauma-Informed Care, contact him today at 805-709-2023 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.