What is it?

A trauma is an extremely stressful experience, which cannot be coped with by the soul and body with the “normal” mechanism. It leaves behind a profound psychological injury.

Traumata can be caused by incidents of force majeure, such as accidents, natural disasters or life-threatening diseases. Much more frequently though, traumata are the result of violence perpetrated by people against other people, for example in case of war, torture, forced displacement, violence in the family or sexualised violence.

A traumatic incident is often experienced as being (life)-threatening and involves feelings of overwhelming fear, despair, helplessness and feeling at the mercy of others. In a traumatic situation, humans need to revert to special survival strategies because they cannot cope with the situation by flight or attack. In this respect, a crucial emergency reaction is dissociation, i.e. playing dead – the person concerned shuts down emotionally and goes numb and becomes detached or disconnected. At the same time, the person dissociates from the overwhelming experience. 

Accordingly, the soul develops automatic protective mechanisms in a trauma situation. These mechanisms can be difficult to understand for external persons or even those that are actually affected. Some people experience the situation as unreal or observe themselves as though from outside; important sequences of events can sometimes not be remembered at all. Many people experience a state of great confusion and doubts regarding their own perception. In this respect, it is usually particularly stressful if the perpetrator is a person known to the victim.

For women, (sexualised) violence is among the most serious attacks they can experience. The incident is experienced as highly humiliating, degrading and damaging to their own integrity. The confidence in others, themselves and their own bodies can be thoroughly shaken. This is why it can be very difficult to cope with these experiences and recover from them.