Trauma, the Nervous System and Healing | Melinajbw Counselling
Jun 5, 2023
Trauma, the Nervous System and Healing

Trauma can be many different things to many different people, its subjective, relative and seemingly random. Trauma is both something we experience in a moment and something we continue to experience through the complexity of our nervous system.

When an individual experiences a traumatic event the nervous system automatically moves into fight, flight, freeze or fawn mode. Our systems function on "high alert" moving our bodies into our sympathetic nervous system (SNS) The SNS is a part of the automatic nervous system which controls the functions in our bodies that we don't need to think about such as heart rate, blood pressure and digestion. When we experience a traumatic event our SNS activates to increase heart rate, delivers more blood and oxygen to our bodies and enlarges our pupils to improve vision and let more light in. The SNS also activates our immune system and body's repair process to cope with the traumatic event. This is exactly what our bodies need to do when we are experiencing a traumatic event. 

After the traumatic event our automatic nervous system then moves into the Parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS) which does the opposite of the SNS, its function is to bring our bodies back into a state of rest by relaxing the bodies activities such as lowering the heart rate, blood pressure and increases the rate of digestion including telling our pancreas to release insulin.

PTSD sufferers are in a constant cycle of fight, flight, freeze and fawn this means that their nervous systems do not automatically move from the SNS (which was needed in the traumatic experience) to the calming PSNS which is needed to regulate the nervous system and therefore regulate the bodies functions. This has a massive impact on the brain’s ability to function at a normal level, everyday decisions become difficult and identifying safe people and safe contexts becomes almost impossible. 

MANY people are suffering from Trauma and are not even aware of it, we are all unique and therefore react differently to situations within our own unique contexts and worldviews, what may seem "insignificant" to one person can be a major traumatic event to another. The most important thing to remember is that your trauma is valid and real even if others have tried to tell you otherwise. The more we push trauma down the more we stay stuck in our SNS. We need to allow ourselves to get the help we need to move through the trauma and find the joy and peace that freedom from trauma can bring. 

Good news is with the right type of therapy we can teach the central nervous system to move from the SNS to the PSNS and bring some relief from the debilitating effects of ongoing trauma symptoms. There are many different types of therapy that can help to navigate our nervous system and find a way through the debilitating effects of trauma that teach our brains and nervous system to think differently about what is safe and what is not. There is hope and healing to be found as we work through trauma together. 



Nall, R. (2020, April 23). The parasympathetic nervous system explained. Healthline.

Donato, A. (2018, October 15). Autonomic nervous system. Queensland Brain Institute - University of Queensland.

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