Big Trauma versus Small Trauma
First off, big trauma events are life threatening. For instance, this refers to anyone experiencing physical or sexual abuse, military combat, or major accidents. In addition the intense physicality, the emotional tidal wave completely shuts down the person’s feeling and processing capacity. In contrast, small trauma events consist of common things everyone experiences. For example, losing a job, breaking up with a partner, moving, or minor accidents are small trauma events.
Simply put, big trauma events create fight or flight responses. In addition, there is often repression and stuffing of emotions in order to stay alive. To be sure, this survival skill carries a heavy price tag. For example there may be chronic body pain, emotional numbness and disassociation. In addition there may be patterns of hyper-vigilance and self-medicating through addictions.
For these reasons, dealing with the primary emotions of big trauma events are critical for healing. Check out this great Youtube video talking about the fight or flight response.
Primary Emotions and Secondary Emotions
Next, consider that there are four primary emotions of sadness, anger, happiness and fear. In fact, these four emotions are always the first ones triggered during traumatic events. Afterward they may remain as secondary emotions or be replaced by other emotions. For example, a threatening feeling triggers fear as the primary emotion. Subsequently anger wells up as the defensive secondary emotion. As a matter of fact, secondary emotions are often a mixture of emotions, thus making discernment of what’s really happening much more difficult.
Healthy Anger and Unhealthy Anger
In summary, healthy expressions of anger are negative feelings washing up and through immediately in any situation. In fact, healthy anger expressions are appropriate, eliciting minimal fight or flight responses within yourself or others. For instance, healthy expressions of anger include feelings of frustration, irritation, annoyance or aggravation.
In contrast, unhealthy expressions of anger are uncontrollable explosions every situation. In fact, unhealthy anger expressions arise from repressing negative feelings over time which distill down into volatile mixtures. As such, unhealthy anger feelings are highly destructive, eliciting moderate to high fight or flight responses within yourself or others. To be specific, unhealthy expressions of anger include feelings of resentment, hostility, vindictiveness, spitefulness, malice, vengeance, bitterness, sarcasm and rage. Moreover these feelings usually create illusions of power or control over someone or something.
In short, healing requires awareness of your primary emotions as well as your secondary responses in any given situation. To be sure this requires practice. For example, when experiencing any of the feelings listed above, ask yourself the following questions:
- What am I afraid of?
- What was I afraid of?
- Who or what am I trying to control?
- Who or what was I trying to control?
To repeat, practicing awareness with the feelings listed above eventually clarifies your response patterns. In fact, understanding these patterns allows you to stay present and express healthy anger appropriately. Moreover this creates space to be at peace with yourself and others. Combining awareness with other healing modalities such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) or the Body Code magnifies the healing potential.