Is THIS a Trauma Response?
I teach about trauma responses in my work---what they are, how to recognize them, how to navigate them, etc.
One of the questions that comes up in classes is, "Is (xyz) a trauma response?" So, I want to make something clear...
Anything can be a trauma response if it is a response to trauma.
In other words, trauma responses are as individual as you are. If you feel that you are doing something as a trauma response, that's a valid observation and that can direct you towards the needed care.
We get hung up on what behaviors are healthy vs unhealthy rather than looking at the behaviors/responses in context. For example, I saw an interesting post from a health writer with OCD. In it, she spoke about how she used a breathing exercise as a regulation tool to manage obsessive thoughts. But, eventually, she began to note that the breathing exercise itself was becoming compulsive for her. She recognized it because of her pattern of use and how rigid she was being with the exercise. This is a perfect example how even a so called healthy behavior can be problematic, based on context.
Cleaning your home could be a trauma response.
Not cleaning your home could be a trauma response.
So, perhaps more importantly than trying to figure out IF a certain behavior is a trauma response is recognizing when you are using ANY behavior as a trauma response. And which of the trauma responses you are currently in (fight/flight/freeze/fawn/flop).
For example, someone asked me in our last workshop if rumination is a trauma response. It can be (but not always). Rumination as a trauma response can be a flight response if you are ruminating about something to get your mind off of something even more troubling (escapism is a flight response).
Or it can be a freeze response if the rumination is preventing forward movement (immobility is a freeze response). And the care you need is different in each of these situations which is why it is less about the rumination itself than it is about what kind of trauma response it is triggering.
In session work, as a flight response, I would aim for a conscious, gentle redirect back to the core issue with exercises that bring presence.
As a freeze response, I would aim for somatic movement that moves you from your mind into your body to nudge the immobility.
Eventually clients would have the awareness to self facilitate these regulation tools.
So, as you can see, understanding your own trauma responses can be an integral tool to ongoing wellness.