The Trauma Spectrum by Robert Scaer (2005, W.W. Norton). According to Scaer:
A. Trauma is a continuum.
B. What you have to endure during moments of helplessness and hopelessness creates a freeze response. It’s the frozen, uncompleted actions that make for PTSD.
C. These moments can start prenatally (fetuses feel). The medical process of birth can create traumatic stress, as can many other medical processes.
D. There are many, many ways, including family-caused, medically-caused, and culturally-accepted stresses that can harm the body/mind.
E. Many medical and pain issues are caused by traumatic stress.
F. Body/Somatic-based therapies such as Peter Levine’s Somatic Experiencing, EMDR, EFT, TFT, and others allow people to complete the uncompleted movement and clear out the held/dissociated freeze response and release pain, PTSD, frozenness, and illness.
That’s the gist according to the book group. We liked the way he talked about that body/mind are one entity. No Cartesian dualism for us. Some of us liked the stories about how the body reactions create different illnesses, including fibromyalgia, reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD), IBS,GERD,Whiplash syndrome, Phantom Limb Pain/Chronic Pain, Multiple Chemical Sensitivities- and other body phenomena, such as stigmata. (I’ve used EMDR and Brainspotting on Phantom Limb Pain and Multiple Chemical Sensitivities with great results.) The book was readable. One person said that much of it was taken from Peter Levine’s Waking the Tiger which was even more readable and clear.
As EMDR clinicians, we wished for more solutions. Trauma Spectrum is not a how-to book and we always want to know how to. As readers we wanted Scaer to stop ranting about the culture, the medical profession, and gender discrimination. We never disagreed with his opinions, but if we want to experience a rant, we’ll do our own, thank you.
We wanted more talk about character and resiliency. Some people, who have experienced many of the traumas listed in the book, do not seem as harmed, frozen, or dissociated as Scaer would have them be. One reader thought that in Scaer’s model, the entire U.S. population would be dissociated wrecks. Scaer didn’t say that, but I could see the reader’s point.
I asked, "What EMDR or Brainspotting targets would you go after, using the book as a guide?" Here is our list: prenatal and birth trauma. Any medical trauma, from birth to present. Surgeries. Any harassment for gender, work issues, or difference. (The question: "When did you feel like you didn’t fit in?") Any time a person felt helpless or hopeless. Experiences of uncontrollable pain or an unidentified or scary disease. Injuries. Car accidents. Attachment injuries. Work stresses. Cultural stresses. Any injuries or illness that keep flaring up.
If you are interested in the physiology of trauma, this book is good (despite the ranting.) If you want to know what to do about it, learn EMDR, Somatic Experiencing, Brainspotting, Sensorimotor Psychotherapy or other body/mind therapies.
Next up, The Haunted Self: Structural Dissociation and the Treatment of Chronic Traumatization by van der Hart et al.