ETIOLOGICAL BROKERS: Tracking Traumatic Triggers and Responses

A significant event in a person’s life is a cause for celebration when it highlights a momentous occasion or milestone. On the contrary, a situation or experience that is both disturbing and distressing would inevitably cause harm and damage to one’s psyche–especially when it is triggered by occurrences in the outside world. As we now confront insurmountable challenges in our daily lives, we should begin to recognize how to fend for ourselves if we choose to survive. Today’s health crisis is not just physiological but it has become behavioral. Let us trace back the early beginnings of modern man’s battle with trauma and recognize both its etiology–its causation and our responses to it.

A recent feature article by Visual Capitalist shared a Visual Guide to Human Emotion. The graphic explored the 6 root emotions of a human being: fear, anger, sadness, surprise, joy, and love. Having evolved from Robert Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions which originally consisted of 8 with the list to also include trust, anticipation, and disgust (but not identifying love as part of it), we gain a better understanding of each set and its purpose in our lives.

Plutchik’s Wheel as sourced from 6seconds.org

Associated with our constant quest for understanding human emotions, we may identify significant events that have happened around the world over the past decades. Knowing past stories of catastrophes–both man-made and natural–would equip us with key lessons we should learn while recognizing the huge impact it bears upon societies and cultures. In a report released by the British Council entitled  80 Moments that Shaped the World, we could list some of them which have brought about severe trauma and stress:

  • The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the emergence of international terrorism
  • The invention of the Atomic Bomb and the explosion of atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki
  • The Holocaust in Nazi-occupied Europe
  • The invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, marked the beginning of the Second World War
  • The US Civil Rights Movement
  • The emergence of HIV/AIDS in the early 1980s
  • The Cold War from the 1940s to the 1990s
  • The 2004 Tsunami in the Indian Ocean
  • The Gulf War from 1990-1991

When faced with extreme circumstances, can we then handle and manage our emotions? How much do we know about trauma and stress? What is PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? Officially added to the list of human conditions by the American Psychiatric Association in 1980, the study of PTSD has become mainstream over the decades. We have become more aware of its various types and factors that trigger these traumatic events. Emphasis should be made on the external nature of the traumatic stressors rather than attributing it as something that may be caused by the internal weakness of an individual.  

Over the past decades, we have witnessed an increased awareness of stress and its correlated conditions. We also have seen and studied more exhaustively how we may deal with it. With Faith Popcorn’s idea of Cocooning as one of the more notable responses, we are being reminded of ‘the need to protect oneself from the harsh, unpredictable realities of the outside world’. Synonymous to the term ‘nesting’, this idea coined in 1981 hinged on the need to secure and protect oneself from external harm. This reaction to stressors continues to serve as a regenerating source of useful and practical ideas geared towards the achievement of safe and comfortable environments.

What used to be a highly trivial treatment for notorious diseases and disorders, the science of Psychedelics has received growing acceptance over the decades, as comprehensively presented by Visual Capitalist. Its huge potential to cure and serve as an effective therapy succeeds in the long history of its prohibition. Previously controlled and strictly regulated, hallmark research has undertaken over time propelled its popularity and legitimacy allowing its industry to regain momentum. Just within the last five years, the world has seen its renaissance and the use of psychedelics has solidly forged its mark as a credible therapeutic practice.

If we truly desire to take care of ourselves (and others too), we may perform basic and doable activities as responses to traumatic events to manage stress:

  • SLEEP- often undermined, the power of getting enough rest is instrumental in the rejuvenation of both mind and body
  • RELAX- commune with nature, listen to your favorite music, do light activities that would allow you to slow down while calmly enjoying the moment
  • CONNECT- reach out, interact with, and seek support from people within your social units
  • EXERCISE- regular physical activities would help boost your energy
  • LIMIT- though not totally, reduce consumption of news and social media to allow yourself to ‘breathe some fresh air
  • ACT- participate in volunteer work that may redefine your purpose and essence

While it may seem simple to discuss and address issues on stress and trauma, we should now view this once-stigmatized topic as a realistic term to become part of our vocabulary as social beings. Through conversations and argumentations, we turn cognizant of it as having become universally accepted, proactively addressed, and to a larger extent, openly embraced.

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