Most but not all theories of how to manage traumatised people take a psychological view, that emotions and feelings are one and the same. The research paradigm for emotion has been that they arise in a linear stimulus-response process, but with no clear psychological purpose. Traumatisation, in this view, seems to be the overwhelming of cognitive rational processes by emotion-laden memories. If this view is taken, then therapies aim to encourage the person to gently restore their sense of inner emotional self-regulation as they progressively face their memories of trauma.
But there is another view. The New Science of adaptive dynamic systems is now able to model complex relational interactions in a way that was inconceivable in the 1990s, when experimental psychology was framing its liner process models. Systemic family therapy was at that time developing the principles of cybernetics and feedback communication patterns, which can trap systems in maladaptive habits. The latest iteration of this model adds a medical view that emotions are primarily physiological processes. They are the repatterning of the body’s internal energetics and its social messaging. E-motion is energy in motion out into the wider ecologies of life. Feelings of emotion are the cognitive connection of these changes internally as they re-activate memories.
Emotions in this systemic view, as contrasted with a cognitive individualist view, are facial expressions, body language that can be read by others in terms of challenged personal values, tone of voice that communicates intention and priming for action or withdrawal, and the release of pheromone chemicals in perspiration which subtly alert others to new potentials for change and adaptation. The chemistry of every cell of the body can change within seconds, from maintenance mode to survival mode, when danger brings the sudden release of adrenaline and corticosteroid hormones. This is a complex repatterning process, both internally and in relatedness with the physical and social environments. It is not a simple, linear process, although a dualist might persist in describing the psychological experience alone as linear. This is instead an ecological view of the human person, as the integrated mindful embodiment of a choice-making living being who is emerging in and developing his/her environmental contexts relationally. That means in both workplace and home, continuously.
The New Science has moved us professionally on from a psychological view of the person to this new ecological view. With that transition, the concept of traumatisation also needs to move on. Trauma-responsive conversational skills that bring healthy adaptability to present situations are taught under the label Emotional Logic (elcentre.org). This solution-focused approach breaks up the learned emotional habits that present as PTSD, and opens the door to post-traumatic growth. 30-70% of people who have been through traumatising experiences come through stronger.1 Learning to activate one’s inbuilt Emotional Logic for healthy adaptability accelerates and re-energises that exploratory process when facing new situations.
Behind the practical life skills of Emotional Logic is the rational New Science background of Emotional Chaos Theory (relatedness.net). Butterfly Effect improvements of personal identity, effectiveness, productivity, and social wellbeing can follow from understanding how the unpleasant emotions of loss reactions work together as a single adaptable process for survival in changing environments. New insights bring with them renewed life. The traumatised identity is left behind. The evidence is there on the Emotional Logic Centre website elcentre.org.
- Joseph, S. What doesn’t kill us: The new psychology of post-traumatic growth. Basic books, New York. 2011.