Trauma and Loss
Trauma leads to loss. What do we lose? Firstly, we lose our instinct. Intuition has its seed in ancestral instincts for survival and adaptation. Our ancestors’ responses had to be instantaneous; original instincts (now identified as intuition) were based on a rapid-access fast-track system separate from conscious thought and unencumbered by hesitation and doubt.
In cases of early traumatization, one may lose the ability to say “no” and experience difficulty defining personal boundary space. Recall my previous analogy to the wei chi . . . a leaking out of vital nature, a breaching; the person has lost the ability to protect him/herself. In addition to losing touch with instinct and the ability to say no, the traumatized person loses his/her sense of gut knowing – that settled feeling in the belly of personal safety – that everything will be okay and becomes chronically disoriented and confused while being caught between feelings of hyper- and hypoarousal.
Perhaps most importantly, a traumatized individual has lost his/her felt sense. The felt sense is the medium through which we experience the totality of sensation creating an integration of what has happened. It’s how we know that we are alive, a whole perception of where we are in our life at this moment. It’s a super-consciousness that’s non-cognitive. It arises out of the more primitive brain structures that are associated with a person’s early relationship with the mother or primary caregiver – the maternal attachment phase. A leading proponent of this relationship was Dr. Donald Winnicott, a pediatrician and psychoanalyst who described the mother’s ability to create a “holding environment” in which the infant was contained and supported in his/her experience of life. One of the elements Winnicott considered could be lost in childhood was what he called the “sense of being.” For Winnicott, the sense of being is primary, the “sense of doing” an outgrowth of it. The capacity to “be,” to feel alive . . . the baby’s lifeline, what Winnicott calls its “going on being”‘ is essential. This holding environment is ruptured with traumatic wounding.