Trauma & PTSD
I understand the debilitating effects that traumatic experiences and PTSD can have in a person’s life. Highly stressful experiences can leave an imprint on the mind and body that can show up in everyday life with an array of symptoms - these may include insomnia, persistent anxiety and hypervigilance, intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, pain, muscle tension, and social withdrawal.
Research has shown that Hypnotherapy can be a highly effective way to process traumatic memories in a safe and supportive way. As a clinical hypnotherapist I use a gentle approach that works to change the way the brain processes traumatic memories, without you having to re-live or even talk in any detail about your experiences. Sessions are tailored to your unique needs, and can include tools to improve overall wellbeing and for bringing the nervous system back into balance, so that you can move forward and begin to thrive without the patterns of the past keeping you stuck in survival mode.
What is Trauma?
When someone experiences or witnesses an overwhelming, highly stressful or distressing event that the brain perceives as a threat to their safety or wellbeing, a traumatic memory is formed.
Trauma is a complex and individual experience - it is often caused by a single event, but it can also be a result of smaller distressing events that reach a threshold, or through witnessing or hearing about a traumatic event. The trauma response can also be formed through a perception of danger (e.g. a child may be terrified witnessing a loved one playfighting with a ‘scary’-looking dog, if they think the fight is real).
During a traumatic experience our emotions are heightened and the stress response system is activated, flooding the body with hormones like adrenaline and cortisol that prepare it to fight, flee or freeze. The amygdala, part of our brain’s limbic system, plays a significant role in how memories are stored, and is influenced by these stress hormones - it encodes memories and plays a part in determining where the memories are stored based on the intensity of our emotional response.
Strong or highly charged emotions (positive or negative) can trigger the release of neurotransmitters and hormones which strengthen memory – when something very good or very bad happens our brain pays attention – and the amygdala encodes a memory at a deeper level when the event has high emotional intensity. This phenomenon is known as flashbulb memory, and explains how people can recall things about what they were doing or where they were when they heard about world events (e.g. like 9/11), or moments from significant personal events (e.g. like their wedding day), much more easily than they can recall what they were doing in the week or month before or after the event.
However, when negative events leave vivid and
enduring memories of the trauma imprinted in the mind and body, this can have
an ongoing impact in the present, years after the traumatic experience(s). These traumatic memories can result in an
omnipresent feeling of anxiety, unsafety, and hypervigilance, or they may sit
below the surface with trauma responses being automatically triggered by
certain cues or stimuli that remind our unconscious mind of the past events,
leading to emotional and/or physical reactions
Hypnotherapy is an Effective Treatment for Trauma
Experts in trauma say whilst talk therapy and cognitively understanding the past may help, from a healing perspective it is not what happened, but it’s how what happened that is showing up in your present life. Because the imprints of traumatic experiences are held in the limbic system, an effective solution needs to work at that level. Hypnotherapy helps by processing traumatic memories, whilst in a relaxed state, through the part of the mind responsible for the memory encoding of traumatic events.
Hypnotherapy won’t make you “forget” what happened - instead it allows the mind and body to file those memories away, detaching the hook they have on you in the present, taking their proper place in the past as a distant or faded memory. You can recall them if you want, but they will feel less vivid and without the emotional sting. For some clients a traumatic memory can be part of what should be a happy memory - for example, a childbirth that has a traumatic medical event – for these clients the traumatic parts of the experience fade away and the happier parts of the memory, like getting to meet their newborn, are no longer overshadowed. For other clients, if they do choose to recall them they can do so without the emotional “sting” or in a detached way (e.g. “I can talk about my accident now without crying”),
Once the memory encoding has
changed at the subconscious level the likelihood of experiencing a strong
reaction when triggered by a reminder of an old traumatic event is greatly
decreased, allowing you to move forward without the old imprint of the trauma
effecting you, giving us the opportunity to strengthen the neural pathways of how
you would prefer to think and feel moving forward.