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What is a Trauma?

Trauma is a natural, in the course of life, often inevitable archetypal experience of existence. Traumatic experiences such as wars, violence, disasters and their consequences, have always been described in mythology, in religious, literary and philosophical writings.

Psychological Trauma, simple or complex, personal or collective, is the focus of clinical research and treatment, of the relatively new psychotherapeutic field of psychotraumatology and trauma therapy. (1)

Trauma is any fact which injures our protective shield, leaving us with a sense of collapse and helpless. Causes of trauma can be dramatic events like war, physical and psycho-emotional violence, neglect and abuse, serious injuries and diseases, surgical interventions, loss of a close person, natural disasters. But also, seemingly ordinary, everyday, often unexpected events – falls and minor injuries, accidents, medical and dental procedures, passive participation in intense conflict situations -, under certain conditions, especially for children, may be traumatic. The intensity of a traumatic reaction depends on the resilience, internal and external resources, physical condition, family dynamics, living conditions and age. Trauma – traumatic shock – can result from a single event (simple trauma) or be a consequence of a complex prolonged traumatic situation in the course of development (complex developmental trauma or attachment trauma).






The scientific concern with trauma began around the mid 19th century, first as an isolated field of research of distinguished “experts”. In modern literature references are made to J.-M. Charcot and his research on hysteria. P. Janet’s research and clinical work on memory disorders and disossciative disorder (dissociation), in patients with traumatic experiences, has also been viewed as innovative. Lecturer S. Freud’s lecture, in April 1896, about the etiology of hysteria, is considered as the origins of modern psychotraumatology. In this lecture, Dr. S. Freud describes the relationship between the clinical picture of hysteria and child sexual abuse. (Later this approach is withdrawn from the pioneer thinker’s further theoretical and clinical research, probably to avoid conflict with the dominant bourgeoisie of Vienna of the 19th century, offspring of which are most of his patients and clients. N.B.: Educational material: notes/Seminar on Psychotraumatology.) The scientific discussion on the issue of the consequences of traumatic experiences, is then subjected to an alternating rhythm between discovery and repression. The theme of trauma during the time period of the two World Wars becomes increasingly widespread. War neuroses are explored in the Tavistock Clinic, where group analysis is developed by Bion. In the 1970s, a new upturn appears in the research field of psychotraumatology and later of trauma therapy on the occasion of the Vietnam War Veterans. The impetus for the continued development and deepening of scientific research and clinical practice stems, on the way, from dealing with the traumatic intergenerational consequences of the Holocaust, as well as from the women’s movement and the growing concern for sexual abuse, rape and domestic violence. (DSM: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, 1980). A stimulus for further research and therapeutic work is also offered by the psychosocial centers for refugees, which raise the question of the traumatic effects of torture, political persecution, civil wars and forced prostitution. Since the mid-1990s a rapid growth has been observed in the field of psychotraumatology and trauma therapy and it the psychotherapists training. (Psychotraumatologie Wikiped/ Tr. Z.S.)

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