For the last several years, the last page of the intake form at our clinic has written on it, “Have you experienced any major traumas?”  Interestingly enough the most common response to that question is no.  The next most common response is the notating of a motor vehicle collision.  Following that is a response detailing some other type of physical trauma (falls, accidents, etc.) or the death of a close family member.  Lastly and very rarely is the admission of some emotional or psychological trauma.  What I find most curious about this is how that response changes with a little digging during that initial intake leading me to conclude that very few people make it to adulthood without a number of physical, mental, and emotional traumas.

It doesn’t take a genius to see how physical trauma is a fundamental cause of suffering.  For this, I am most grateful for the advancements in emergency medicine and drug therapy that have saved and will continue to save thousands of lives each year.  What surgeons can do to repair damaged tissue is truly amazing.  Although prevention is the best medicine, avoiding physical trauma is easier said then done given the unpredictable nature of life.  Our best safeguard then is the elimination of unnecessary risks while being mindful of our surroundings at all times.

Mental and emotional trauma too can be hard to avoid.  Starting in early life with family dynamics and peer pressures during our schooling, the world is generally not supportive of individual thought and expression.  You don’t need to look far back in America’s history (indeed the present provides many examples) to see hatred a bigotry traumatizing entire groups of people.  Although a tragedy in its own right, seldom are connections made as to how these traumas affect our total wellbeing.  Can emotional traumas cause physical pain?  Anyone who has worked with this issue will answer with a resounding yes.

What makes emotional traumas so debilitating to the body is how they deplete it on a daily basis.  As an example, talk to anyone who has had a major car accident.  Have them describe the accident or ask them what happens when they drive through the intersection where it occurred.  Although they may not be aware of it, their heart rate will increase, their breathing becomes more shallow and they may starting lightly sweating.  Even if the accident was twenty years ago, the very thought of reliving that trauma sends the body into a stress response.  In short, that person is physiologically still connected to that event.

Such traumas draw upon our energy reserves like currency being paid out day in and day out so long as you have not come to peace with that event.  Even though you may not be consciously recalling that trauma, your subconscious mind which is reflected in your entire body, still carries that pattern right down to the cellular level.  As we say in holistic medicine, “you carry your issues in your tissues”.  Many cases of chronic pain and almost every single case of fibromyalgia has some degree of unresolved emotional trauma underlying the pain.  

There are ways of breaking that connection between a traumatic memory and a stress response which will be a topic for another post.   For now, it is enough to say that traumas are a part of living and so an open dialogue about healing from them is prerequisite for the remedying of any major chronic disease.  It is negligent to dismiss a medical case as psychosomatic when you realize that all disorders have a potential trauma at their root.  To embrace this will open doors of treatment to many patients who have felt ignored when trying to acknowledge the mind-body connection to a skeptical medical practitioner.  If you are one of these people, I implore you to not give up and seek the help of a compassionate practitioner knowledgable in this area.  Thanks for contemplating and thanks for reading.  

One Comment

  • excellent!  i’d like to add that one thing i know you’ve told me is how those emotional connections to pain/dis-ease come off in layers…and while it’s not always easy when you’re anxious to quickly feel better physically, it’s so worth the “peeling away.” this has been my own experience and i am very grateful for having a healthcare practitioner (you!) who understands and addresses this aspect of healing!

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