Understanding Trauma and Resilience: Why Some Veterans and Civilians Get PTS and Others Don’t

Most people know what it’s like to be traumatized. Anyone who was in a car accident for example, knows that shocked feeling and the kaleidoscope of sensory overload that ricochets through the body and mind. For most people who had stable emotional histories before the car accident, the shock of the accident bounces off that strong emotional core and after a while it just becomes an old memory.

Any perceived brush with death is traumatic to some degree. The younger we are, the more vulnerable we are to the overwhelm of shock and physical or emotional trauma. Witnessing trauma can also be extremely damaging for some people and certainly for children. That is one reason that witnessing or hearing domestic violence is so damaging for children and is one of the 10 Adverse Childhood Experiences in the ACE Study, which correlates exposure to childhood trauma with the development of life-threatening illness in adulthood. (See www.acestoohigh.org)

People who grew up in a war zone in their home and who then go to war have much higher risk factors for coming home with PTS, Post-Traumatic Stress, also known as PTSD. Where you fall on the trauma intensity scale is largely a matter of how emotionally sturdy  or resilient you are. What is merely upsetting for some people with strong resilience can be a life-wrecking disaster for others.

So what determines the sturdiness factor? Genes? Maybe, but in my experience with thousands of clients, emotional resilience is rooted in several factors. The most important ones create a strong foundation for emotional resilience the way a level, properly poured reinforced concrete foundation can hold up a skyscraper. They are a secure, safe and loving attachment to parents or a loving caregiver. That normally creates a resilient, emotionally stable adult in the absence of personality disorders or mental illness.

When I do an intuitive reading on a new client and the first issue I see is some version of “I’ve never felt safe, I could never relax” I know that childhood trauma, a fractured attachment to parents and difficult relationships are probably coming next.