Many of the clients that are served by our herd and our psychotherapy practice are seeking support for a traumatic experience or a history of trauma. It can be helpful to understand what trauma is and how it can impact the way we are in relationship with the world around us.
Trauma can be a single experience, or like chronic stress, it can be enduring repeated or multiple experiences. The event or events often overwhelm an individual’s ability to cope or to effectively process the meaning they’ve attached to these experiences. A traumatic experience often has three common elements:
- It was unexpected
- The person was unprepared
- There was nothing the person could do to stop it from happening. It’s beyond a person’s control.
The impact of trauma can disrupt how we live and experience the world and can disrupt the way our brain and our nervous system (which is designed to keep us safe) responds to the world around us. We all have a nervous system and we are wired for survival. When we are stuck in a traumatic experience – one that threatens our very survival at any age — our nervous system can become dysregulated – with either too much energy or not enough energy — to get us back to place of rest and relaxation. Our ability to tolerate what life presents to us is reduced and our perception of safety is distorted.
This often leads to chronic and undiagnosed health symptoms. These include the following:
- A sensitive gut that can result in irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, bloating, heartburn, or other food intolerances.
- Neurological symptoms including dizziness, brain fog, attention deficit, hyperactivity, poor memory, poor concentration, headaches and migraines
- Psychological symptoms including depression, anxiety, panic attacks, postpartum depression, post-trauma stress, anger and rage and other psychological injuries
- Poor body regulation including increased sweating or inability to sweat, hormone imbalances or immunity issues
- Other symptoms including numbness or morning nausea, chronic fatigue, chronic pain or insomnia
Trauma responses can also look like:
- Craving control
- Agreeing to things just to keep the peace
- Seeking constant escapism
- Seeking constant reassurance
- Feeling responsible for other’s happiness
- Saying “yes” because you are afraid of losing security
- Chronic feelings of emptiness
- Giving in to chronic impulses and not caring for your personal safety
- Feeling on guard all the time.
One of the ways we work with the horses is by inviting clients to experience nervous system regulation simply by being present with the herd. We invite clients to connect with their bodies by understanding the impact of their experiences on the brain and nervous system. Clients are also invited to learn coping skills that are intended to enhance your emotion self-regulation, experience a greater sense of mastery and a sense of relatedness working in partnership with the horses. We are here to help.
About the Author
Jennifer Garland is the founder of The Mane Intent Inc. offering individual and group equine-assisted psychotherapy, psychotherapy, and equine-assisted learning programs including Health and Wellness Workshops, Individual and Team Effectiveness Coaching and Leadership Development. Jennifer provides coaching, counsel and support to individuals and groups from all walks of life to create opportunities to build productive relationships, facilitate learning and to embrace change. Learn more about Jennifer’s professional experience, lectures, awards and publications here.
For more information or to book a private virtual session with Jennifer, please call 705-295-6618 or email email@example.com