Trauma is part of life’s journey. The way we experience trauma depends on our personality, our childhood and the nature of the trauma. The meaning we give to the trauma is influenced by our strength, our vulnerability, spiritualty, etc.
Chronic emotional tension elicited by life situations can cause profound changes in the functioning of the human body. These changes in turn can trigger the development of various elements that we refer to as psychosomatic. The development of psychosomatic feelings appears to involve not only the nature of the stressful situation, but also the individual’s perception, explanatory style of the situation and stress tolerance for it (coping devices acquired through experience in early childhood), the current context in which the person resides (financial, mental, etc) and the concentration of organ system response, either the concentration of damaging effects on specific organs or more generalized change. Failure to deal with these emotions, cognitions and bodily awareness, may result in chronic sickness.
Anxiety is a warning of impending danger as well as a painful experience, a state of tension that motivates us to do something. Anxiety is prone to flare up at times of high stress and are frequently accompanied by physiological symptoms such as headache, sweating, muscle spasms, palpitations and hypertension, which in some cases lead to fatigue or even exhaustion.
Anxiety is often too painful to cope with in rational terms and we sometimes resorts to irrational protective methods such as rationalization or other defence mechanisms. This defence mechanism alleviates the painful anxiety, but does so by distorting reality instead of by dealing directly with the problem. This creates an undesirable situation between the actual reality and our perception of it.
There are three kinds of anxiety; reality anxiety (actual fear of danger from external world, war, crime, natural disasters, etcetera, it is an appropriate response to an event being faced and it does not have to be repressed, it can be used as a motivation to change); neurotic anxiety (evoked by threats to the “balance of power” within us – it is out of proportion to the situation, it is out of the awareness, and it tends to immobilize us); moral anxiety (people with a well-developed conscience tend to feel guilty when they do something contrary to their moral code).
Because we cannot survive without some anxiety, it is a part of living, and being psychologically healthy entails living with as little neurotic anxiety as possible, while accepting and struggling with the unavoidable normal anxiety’s that are part of living.
Triggers for anxiety are also exacerbated by our culture of individualism where our self is defined primarily in terms of autonomy, individual achievement and success. Anxiety arises when there is a threat to the values or meaning that we hold essential to our existence. When our cultural understandings of the self are defined primarily in terms of self-sufficiency, autonomy, independence and achievement, then what threatens our sense of self – such as feelings of vulnerability, helplessness, and warm relations – will need to be repressed. It is these behavior that we repress and that are denied value by a culture that give rise to symptoms. Individual competitive striving then becomes one of the prominent ways in which we seek a sense of security and recognition. Compulsive striving for power, prestige, possessions, mastery or success gives the self a sense of value and when a culture requires repression of vulnerability, then we also repress a fundamental human longing, the desire to be loved just as we are, imperfect, sinful, fallible, and finite. Parts taken from Corey: In search of the Human mind: 2005).