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COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL He was sent to the school counselor, who was asked to intervene. The coun- selor knelt down in front of him and gently stroked his hand as they talked. She commented on his pattern of getting out of his seat and asked, “What do you need to have happen so you can stay in your seat?” He responded, “I want to sit in the first row, far away from the windows.” Upon consulting with the boy’s mother, the counselor learned that the pre- vious summer, a driver lost control of his car and crashed into their living room window! Psychologists Peter Levine and Maggie Kline say that trauma “hap- pens when any experience stuns us like a bolt out of the blue; it over- whelms us, leaving us altered and disconnected from our bodies. Any coping mechanisms we may have had are undermined, and we feel utterly helpless and hopeless. . . . Trauma is the antithesis of empowerment” (2007, 4). Some common examples of traumatic events are the death of a friend, a physically or emotionally abusive relationship, or a car accident. It is significant, however, that it is not the event itself that traumatizes but a person’s experience of that event. If a child feels his life to be in danger, perhaps on a carnival ride or in a swimming pool, such an experience can be traumatizing, regardless of the actual threat present. Traumatic experi- ences for anyone at any age are fearful and scary. For children, they are especially so because their childlike thinking surmises their life is at risk, even when it is not. Both one-time traumatic events, such as a car acci- dent or loss of a family member, and repeated traumatic events, such as an abusive caregiver, can have a lasting impact on children. The Body’s Stress Reactions Babette Rothschild says, “Trauma is a psychophysical experience, even when the traumatic event causes no direct bodily harm” (2000, 5). Essen- tially, in a highly stressful experience, the body begins to prepare either to escape or to fight back. The heart rate increases, pupils dilate, and blood pressure goes up as the body prepares for an emergency. This is often called the “fight-or-flight” response. The body can also have a “freeze” response if it perceives there is not enough time to either flee or fight its way out: the heart rate slows, sensory input decreases, and a person feels 18 Chapter Two COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL