I was doing some work with my google machine this morning, in order to find a fresh way to help a client understand some of their “junk.” I came across the article referenced below. I think that the volume metaphor is a really good one.
UNDERSTANDING THE IMPACT OF SEXUAL ASSAULT: THE NATURE OF TRAUMATIC EXPERIENCE
SANDRA L. BLOOM, M.D. retrieved from WWW.SANCTUARYWEB.COM 4/23/14
The experience of overwhelming terror destabilizes our internal system of arousal – the internal “volume control” dial that we normally have over all our emotions, especially fear. Usually, we respond to a stimulus based on the level of threat that the stimulus represents. People who have been traumatized lose this capacity to “modulate arousal” and “manage affect”. They tend to stay irritable, jumpy, and on-edge. Instead of being able to adjust their “volume control”, the person is reduced to only an “on-or-off” switch, losing all control over the amount of arousal they experience to any stimulus… In cases of overwhelming stress, some people do not return to normal. It is as if their central nervous system “resets” itself to a higher level of arousal. This is far more likely to occur when people are exposed to repetitive traumatic insults, particularly when these insults originate in childhood.
I see what is described here all the time. People that have a history of trauma, experience the same feelings, emotions and arousal that the rest of us do, but due to a sensitizing event or events, they feel them to an exaggerated level. Imagine how difficult that must be.