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The Trauma Experience: What are Trauma Wounds and How Do they Affect us?

Updated: Jan 20, 2023

Psychologist DR. ESSLIN TERRIGHENA discusses the impact of trauma wounds on our mental health.

When we think of childhood trauma, we most commonly think of physical danger. A lack of safety and a threat to survival can take the form of natural disasters, accidents and injuries, conflict and warzones, poverty, famine, neglect, and physical and sexual abuse and assault.

Physical danger and an unsafe environment in childhood can result in persistent trauma wounds for the child. These wounds are associated with the activation of the sympathetic nervous system and the fight-flight response gearing the body up to make the best attempt at survival. They are linked to negative beliefs and feelings of the world being a dangerous place.

When trauma occurs, the communication between our emotion centres and cognitive centres in the brain is interrupted. The body goes into an alarm state and redirects all resources toward immediate survival. As a consequence, the traumatic incident is not integrated into our cognitive structures at the time. In other words, we can think of traumatic experiences and resulting trauma wounds as little trauma capsules that are floating around without being anchored in context, time and space.

When triggered in adulthood, we may experience a similar flood of emotions and thoughts that we experienced when we first went through the traumatic event – even decades later. We then often engage in coping modes that we tried to use at the time of the traumatic event to try to make ourselves feel safe – but they are likely to no longer be helpful or adaptive in our current environment.

Trauma therapy can help to process traumatic events related to physical safety and allow the brain to put them into context, time, and space. The effect of this is that when triggers or perceived threats to our safety occur in our here-and-now, the brain no longer responds like we were back in the dangerous situations of our childhood. With time, this process can heal corresponding trauma wounds, reduce anxiety, and enhance our sense of safety and confidence.

To find out more about how trauma therapy can help you recover from past trauma, book a consultation with psychologist Dr. Esslin Terrighena, please contact (852) 2521 4668 or

The definition of trauma wounds is based on the Developmental Needs Meeting Strategy therapy as developed by Shirley Jean Schmidt.

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