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The Difference between Shock and Trauma

This lesson is a part of an audio course Finding Freedom from Shock and Trauma by Stephen Paul King

Gabriel Garcia Marquez stated that, "Everyone wants to live on the peak of a mountain, without knowing that the real happiness is in how it is scaled."

Shock has the ability to obstruct our access to some of the deepest aspects of the Self - resulting in difficulties with intimacy, self-esteem, connection to one`s sense of purpose and meaning, and spirituality. Shock is stored in the body and reactivated by events in daily life until it is resolved. It is mediated by unconscious rather than conscious aspects of the personality.

Unlike trauma, it is activated not only by stimuli resembling the original trauma, but also by many apparently unrelated triggers. Where trauma maximizes and hones physiological functioning, shock minimizes, and impairs physiological functioning. Trauma still allows intimacy, while shock blocks intimacy. Emersons work in explicating the differences between shock and trauma has made it clear that, along with appropriate psychotherapy protocols for treating shock, the physiological shock response requires treatment or it keeps the individual in a constant state ofred alert` that eventually leads to adrenal fatigue and finally, adrenal exhaustion.

Traumatized individuals have had some sense of control and efficacy while their traumatization is in process - fight or flight are successful to some degree in defending against or ameliorating the effects of the traumatizing agents. In shock, neither fight nor flight is successful. Overwhelm is what separates shock from trauma. (Insights Magazine - B.C. Ass. Of Clinical Counsellors - Pre- and Peri-natal Shock: Considerations for Psychotherapy` by Claire Winstone, pps. 8-24)

The shock will have a major impact on both the psychological and physiological levels, including hormonal production such as adrenals and thyroid. Being in the aforementioned state of "red alert," or hypervigilance, over an extended period of time can have a devastating effect on the adrenals and lead to a state which is now commonly referred to as chronic fatigue.

Dr. Emerson has also broken down shock into classifications of commission (event) or omission (need). There can be single incident events such as an abortion attempt, an epidural, c-section, physical or sexual abuse, sudden loss, etc., or multiple incidents of not having basic needs met, i.e., neglect, indifference, a lack of touch or comfort. Damage of this sort will often make it difficult for a person to take in love and compassion when it is healthily available to them. A distrusting belief system can govern a lifetime of unhealthy relationships and can potentially create and sustain self-sabotaging actions.

In order for full emotional recovery to happen, it is important to be open to the understanding that the genesis of any form of self-sabotage or stinking thinking is multi-faceted – hence the current addictions model is a bio/psycho/social/spiritual one. This should be borne in mind as we move through these chapters - compassion, understanding, love, and action can lead to total transformation.

Carl Jung is quoted as saying that, "Neurosis is the avoidance of legitimate suffering."

Lesson 7 is on the issues of Surviving vs. Thriving.

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Written by

Stephen Paul King