What is Trauma?

22 November 2017

Trauma is when an incident or series of events overwhelms someone’s normal ability to cope.

The psychiatrist Mardi Horowitz explains that trauma shatters a person’s “inner schemata” which is their understanding of their inner self as it relates to their place in the world. Trauma can devastate what someone once believed to be fundamental truths.

Post traumatic symptoms can be experienced by anyone, if the trauma does one specific thing: shake your innate understanding of safety and your place in the world.

The psychiatrist Mardi Horowitz explains that trauma shatters a person’s “inner schemata” which is their understanding of their inner self as it relates to their place in the world. Trauma can devastate what someone once believed to be fundamental truths. This was the case for me, my sense of self was destroyed. I am still working on regaining my autonomy and reworking through wounds that were reopened by the trauma.

The loss of my father was a traumatic experience, but was compounded by the domestic violence I experienced at the hands of my ex-boyfriend. I was already in an abusive relationship when my father passed away. Looking back on the situation, I see that I had been able to maintain a semblance of normalcy because my sense of self and safety was tied to having a loving and supportive father who cared for our entire family. When he was no longer there, the hostility in my relationship continued to grow and my autonomy shrunk and my self-doubt grew. I did eventually escape that abusive relationship, and moved back home to begin my life anew in a safe environment. Quickly that feeling of safety was shattered when the house I was living in burnt down and I almost did not escape with my life. If there is a recipe for PTSD, that is it.

As Judith Herman writes in her book Trauma and Recovery, I felt “utterly abandoned, utterly alone, cast out of the human and divine systems of care and protection that sustain life.”

I didn’t know any of these things when I was going through them. I had no idea that PTSD can be directly correlated with the magnitude of traumatic events. I did not know that I was already vulnerable to developing it because I have been prone to depression most of my life. I didn’t know that autonomy is what I was trying to regain. These lessons are helping me now, and they can help other people who have also experienced PTSD.

Get a copy of The Aftermath of Trauma for yourself.

Kristance Harlow

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1 Comment

  1. Alice Lynn on November 22, 2017 at 1:40 pm

    A cogent explanation of PTSD and Trauma; having definitions and examples can help you see more clearly through the fog of depression or outright panic of PTSD. You might still experience those feelings, but with a difference. You know what’s hiding in the closet; it’s no longer that unknown, unseen bogey man. You can make sense of your life. Good job, Ms. Harlow!

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