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Explained | What Does Trauma Do to Our Bodies & Relationships? 

Updated
Mind It
2 min read

Video Editor: Puneet Bhatia

Animation: Aroop Mishra

Producer: Saakhi Chadha

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Conventional psychology has, for long, focused on the impact of traumatic events on our minds and intellect. But in the last three decades, there has been a shift into studying how trauma affects all aspects of an individual’s life - including, but not limited to, the body.

In an interview with FIT, Neha Bhat, a clinical trauma therapist, describes this outcome using an analogy:

“Imagine that you have your room organized, and you have a lot of cupboards where all your shirts and pants are neatly organized. Then you go out for a little bit and when you come back, somebody has strewn your clothes all across the floor, the lampshades are a different color, or maybe they are broken, and there is a lot of damage done. That is typically what happens in the brain when a traumatic event happens. We feel out of control around the way that we have organized our own system. When trauma happens, we feel this sense of disorganization and chaos in our emotional body, mental body, spiritual body and in all different realms of our life.”

Trauma and Intimacy

The ripple effect of how trauma changes our bodies reflects in intimacy and relationships when another person enters and looks at our ‘disorganised room’: “For a lot of people, establishing intimacy can get very hard, because it’s like inviting another person to that disorganized room. There’s a lot of shame to show those clothes that are strewn across. You don’t know how you feel when you are touched at a certain point.”

“What do we use the body for? Sex and pleasure, which is the focus of my work. When there’s trauma, there’s already a disorganized way of making sense of the world, and then you have another person coming in and sort of touching your core points in sexuality. That can get very very upsetting and triggering,” she explains.

“In trauma therapy, we really work with the core depth of what the root cause is. What happened at 6, what happened at 12, and what is happening now at 32 when you are married and living with your partner, and you don’t know why you are crying each time you are having sex.”
Neha Bhat

When it comes to healing, there are many approaches that therapists can take. “There are spiritual aspects of it. Some people are religious and they use religion to meet that need. Some people are more intelligent and they use books, writing and journaling. Some people are more relational and they like to talk to people about it. So what trauma therapy and sex-focused trauma therapy does is that it brings these elements together in one sort of system in a safe therapeutic relationship between the therapist and the client.”

Watch our animated explainer for more!

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