“The essence of psychological trauma is the loss of faith that there is order and continuity in life. Trauma occurs when one loses the sense of having a safe place to retreat within or outside of oneself to deal with frightening emotions or experiences.”
Bessel A. van der Kolk, MD
I recently came across a blog written by ACEs Connection member Elizabeth Prewitt titled, “For the first time, SAMHSA's annual children’s mental health event focuses on trauma.” In the article, Ms. Prewitt writes, “It is both remarkable and natural that the theme of the 2018 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) May 10th Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day event was “Partnering for Health and Hope Following Trauma”. It was remarkable to hear “ACEs” and “trauma-informed” roll off the tongues of all the federal officials (some seasoned, some new appointees in the Trump Administration). And natural as the awareness of ACEs science grows at lightning speed…at least it feels that way.”
Our capacity for empathy and closeness is formed and strengthened through the quality of our childhood relationships.From conception onwards, we resonate in tune or out of tune with those who bring us into this world. Our nervous systems are fashioned by nature to resonate with the nervous systems of others to achieve a sense of balance and connection (Schore, 1999) and these early interactions become the neurological templates upon which later interactions are built. Did we feel safe and held in our parents arms? How did we experience their touch? Were they interested and able to read our little signals and our attempts to communicate with them and did they respond in an attuned and caring manner? Or did we feel dismissed or even as if we were a burden or somehow a disappointment? A combination of both? Could we put a smile on their faces just by being part of their lives? These early expereinces knit themselves into the very fabric of our mind/body system and pattern our capacity for intimacy.
Addiction encourages trauma and trauma can encourage addiction. This process becomes a vicious circle or negative feedback loop, with trauma contributing to addiction, which in turn fuels more trauma, which encourages still more addiction, and so on and so on. The Claudia Black Young Adult Center treats substance and process addictions, recognizing them to be primary disorders which reinforce each other and are often fueled by traumatic experiences. Here are some examples of how this process plays out:
My therapist prescribed me to drink more alcohol. I had described symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), yet once again, the diagnosis was completely missed. Even worse, this uniformed therapist suggested that I drink wine “medicinally,” beginning in the morning, to help cope with what he said was high anxiety. What makes this horrible advice even more dangerous is the fact that upward of fifty percent of those with PTSD also battle substance use disorder.