Alexithymia is a Greek word, which means not having words for feelings. This is something that often children and adults who have been traumatized face. They find it difficult to describe what they are feeling.
It is because they are unable to understand what physical emotions mean. Intense emotional reactions form a part of the traumatic events. When the emotions are felt intensely, it causes interference in memory schemes. Often one finds these events actively present in their consciousness. There are times when these traumatic events are wiped from our memory. They are stored in various ways in our bodies. It could be in the form of visceral sensations, meaning panic attacks and anxiety or stored in visual images like flashbacks and nightmares.
People who have had traumatic experiences often chronically feel unsafe inside their bodies. It happens because the past still seems to live within them. The body is constantly bombarded with warning signs. Due to this, one is always on their toes and feels scared about the uncomfortable emotions returning. This fear keeps the body frozen and the mind shut. It causes the emotional brain to make one feel scared and helpless. As the body is re-experiencing the terror, rage and helplessness are also re-experienced. The body gets stuck in flight or fight mode.
As the body gets immobilized, it becomes difficult to take action and the feelings are almost impossible to articulate. Trauma pushes one to the edge of comprehension. It unables us from using language to comprehend it. As long as these events are being recalled, the body loses a conscious connection between what happened in the past and the present. The memory of trauma is stored in gut-wrenching emotions, heartbreak, autoimmune disorders, muscular problems, dissociation, despair, addiction and a chronic sense of panic. People who have been traumatized feel a sense of alienation and disconnection. It takes a tremendous amount of energy to keep functioning while carrying the memory of the event.
What can be done?
People who are unable to notice what goes on inside of them become susceptible to responding to any sensory shift by shutting down or panicking. One begins by working on their agency. This means working on one’s awareness of sensory and body-based feelings. It brings about a greater sense of awareness. Naming the emotions is the first step to understanding why that feeling has arisen in the first place. To make constant changes in our inner and outer environment, we should understand and manage it.
How can therapy help?
Trauma leaves a mark on our bodies. It needs to be resolved. Otherwise, the body continues to secrete hormones as it continues to sense danger. The longer the body is in this flight/fight mode, the more toll it takes. It can cause severe health problems. Therapy can help to deal with inner reality and allow us to move forward. It teaches us to manage the terror and tolerate the reactions. A trauma-informed approach can help to stop one from being constantly traumatized in their past and enable one to be more connected to their inner and outer reality.
Importance of Professional Counseling: A friend or family member may listen to you, but they aren’t professionally, technically qualified or experienced to offer you professional advice. If you wish you can contact us at MindTribe to receive help from our team of expert psychologists.
MindTribe Founder Dr. Prerna Kohli, India’s eminent psychologist, established the company to leverage the strength of the online to make counseling affordable and accessible to everyone. MindTribe provides counseling, workshops, support groups, forums, and eLearning.
About the Author.
Gunjan Kaur Kukreja is a psychologist at MindTribe.in. You can learn more about her by clicking here
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of MindTribe.in, the Founders, or management team.
Acknowledgement: All images used are open source and from Unsplash.