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What is trauma?

What is trauma?

Trauma is a broad concept for things that went wrong badly in a human life.

If you break an arm or leg, we call it a trauma; something that is (severely) damaged in your body. A trauma in your psyche is not visible but can have strong effects on life. And can be experienced in various ways.

Some psychic blockages can be perceived through body sensations. In many cases, there is no physical cause to be found for what we then call psychosomatic symptoms, thus no medical procedure can be used to reduce the complaints and a psychological approach could be direct or what is causing the complaints.

What is of interest, is that an event can be traumatic for one person while the other person is not traumatized. This can have many causes. In general, the criteria for trauma are 'too fast', 'too much', 'too unexpected' so that the circumstances lead to a feeling of overwhelm and being flooded. If your system does not find it’s balance back, you have been traumatized.

Living with trauma

Living with trauma

Trauma is part of life. We will all live through experiences that can impact us. That doesn's make you ill or damaged for life.

When would you want to work on a trauma?

If you or your environment suffer from the fact that you have left trauma traces in your system, it worth considering to explore what it takes to bring past experiences behind you and let them rest in a quiet place. That you no longer react involuntarily in situations and can  choose from a place of connection with yourself and with others and be able to choose which response is more fitting to what is really happening in the moment you are in.

How do we work with trauma?

In a traumatic event, it is often also about what was not there. Someone who protected you that could prevent the situation to happen. Someone that could help where help was needed. Sometimes a witness would already make an important difference in how you felt in the situation. Sometimes the story wants to be told, sometimes it's about how to reconnect to your body and your feelings where that connection got lost.

There are several interventions (or: methods) that are described below. At sinteze, we never work with those interventions alone; they are always part of an integral approach, in a relational setting between you and your therapist or youth coach. Trauma arises in relation to others and can only heal in this way.

Working with trauma

Working with trauma

"One little piece at a time, because each piece adds to the others. It's like a teeny little island in this sea of trauma and overwhealm, and then you find another little island, and then another, and another, and then these islands come together to form a mass of stability, of presence in the here-and-now, even though there's this storming all around" (Peter Levine).

There are various ways to work with the parts of yourself that have been impacted.


There has now been done a lot of research on adverse early childhood experiences, abbreviated as ACE. Because these experiences happen very early in life, we have no conscious memories of them. There are memories in the body or in images. The studies that have been conducted show that we do see the effects of ACE in the present, especially in the relationship with yourself and the relationship with others. NARM, developed by Lauwrence Heller, is to (re)gain control over your life by trying to approach our experiences in the here in now as conciously as possible. We achieve this by using the expertise you have about yourself and letting the therapist guide you from the shared interest to understand your experiences in the here and now. We always use NARM; the extent to which depends on the extent to which you experience difficulties that are difficult to explain in the relationship with yourself or with others. Because as a young person or adult you have been using your survival strategies for some time, this process to review and potentially change them, can sometimes take a little more time.

Somatic Experiencing

Peter Levine developed a different approach that mainly uses the body as a source of information that memories are stored other parts of the brain than in the thinking and reflective parts of the brain. That is important because we sometimes have no memories yet the event has been very disruptive. In those cases, experience the 'side effects' from that what we don't remember. Somatic experiencing uses this intelligence of the body. With your therapist you inquire into the information that has been stored in the body or in feelings that don’t seem to make sense. Sometimes a movement has not been made or hasn’t been finished. Sometimes you feel stuck in a strong sense in the body or strong (unexpected and uncontained) emotions. Through the enquiry, we explore what the feeling tell us and what is  needed to be able relax again. For other people, the work is to reconnect to the body and to feelings where the connection got lost.

Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP) and Heart Rate Coherence

With the study of our nervous system, Stephen Porges has mapped out how a short circuit in our nervous system had led to a disconnect from ourselves. When it’s hard to relax, sleep, take a break and we are in a high state of activations most of the time. Others have shut down and lost the connection with their aliveness. It’s possible to develop self-regulation capacities and reconnect to yourself again. Breathing exercises and listening to filtered music are the tools. It is not the whole solution but makes the way free to get in relaxation states again and is the least invasive way to work on blockages. However, it is necessary that you produce the discipline to practice before and after the sessions. At heart coherence you can practice 3 times for 10 minutes daily and look at the session to the effects thereof. If you choose SSP, then we plan 5 sessions in one or two weeks and listen to music that is filtered specifically for this and we observe what you experience while listening. SSP is an auditory intervention designed to reduce stress and auditory sensitivity while enhancing social engagement and resilience.


Francine Shapiro developed EMDR and this is now more and more established method to reduce sensitivity from less pleasant events and feelings that keep haunting you. The of what happened remains and you can look at it with a certain distance and with less sensitivity. The method is based on so-called bilateral stimulation, which means that both brain halves are stimulated by moving back and forth with your eyes. Because research shows that the eye motion is more effective than sound, we use this way of working. EMDR generally raises discomfort in the body in people, because you stimulate the body quite intensively. These side effects often leave again with one or a few days. 3 to 5 sessions are needed to process trauma, depending on the content of it.