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Gudrun Zomerland, MFT, CCPS
Licensed Marriage
and Family Therapist
MFC #27617
405 Chinn Street
Santa Rosa, CA 95404
Email Gudrun

Client Resources:

addiction self-tests Addiction Self Tests
sonoma county area addiction support groups 12-Step Fellowship Links
fair fighting rules and tips Handouts and Forms

Articles by
Gudrun Zomerland:

Addiction and

shame as a defense mechanism Shame as Self-Care
internet pornography addiction The Dangers of
Internet Porn
teen drug alcohol addiction Non-Violent Communication and its Relevance for Codependents
teen drug alcohol additction Teen Addiction:
An Open Letter
prescription drug abuse Prescription Drug Abuse
windsor alcohol and chemical dependency treatment The Core of Co-Dependency
santa rosa counselor for depression and anxiety Co-Dependent Characteristics
childhood trauma and post traumatic stress support H.A.L.T.: A Self-Care Tool
family and couples counseling in sonoma county The Family Member in Denial


treatment for trauma from domestic violence and spousal abuse Non-Violent Communication and its Relevance for Codependents
attachment disorders in adult relationships Attachment in Adult Relationships
healthy communication skills in adult relationships and marriage Getting to Know Your Emotions
sonoma county marriage counselor Communication Skills for Couples - 101
treatment options for alcoholism and drug addiction in marin county Differentiation, or What Makes Relationships Work
santa rosa psychotherapist treating depression and anxiety John Gottman's Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

General Topics:

narcissism Rapunzel, Daughter of a
Closet Narcissist
psychotherapy for trauma Trauma: The Shaking Of A Soul
shame as a defense mechanism Shame as Self-Care
narcissistic parents and conarcissistic children Narcissism and Co-Narcissism
counseling for sexual abuse trauma in northern california Sexual Abuse Guidelines
rohnert park PTSD post traumatic stress disorder therapy Book Review:
"Stop Gaining Weight"
The Body Never Lies by Alice Miller and Hidden in Plain Sight by Barry Grosskopf Is Forgiving Our Parents Necessary for Mental Health?
overcoming fear and phobia through psychotherapy Fear of Fear
counseling for gay and lesbian couples in sonoma and marin county Living with the Light and Dark Sides of Life




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Trauma: The Shaking Of A Soul

Gudrun Zomerland, MFT

Trauma is shattering. However, sometimes I think the term "trauma" is rather clinical and does not truly reflect what happens to a person going through it. This can create difficulties in either under-reporting or over-reporting of traumatic experiences. I have the fortune of being bilingual, using a practical language with one part of my mind -- namely English -- and using a romantic or poetic language with another part of my mind -- German.

Traumatic Impact

For some time now I have been mulling over the strength and power of the German word for trauma: Seelenerschütterung. The first part "Seele" means soul; "ershütterung" comes from the verb "schütteln" and means to shake. "Erschütterung" is something that shakes us out of the ordinary flow of life and out of our usual sense of time into an extraordinary state. Often we don't even remember the moment of impact; at other times we see everything unfolding in slow motion, and in yet other momentous situations we watch everything from a place above, unattached and usually -- as people have reported -- with quite a sense of equanimity. Pain or despair set in later, when our survival is secured and when we know we are still on this planet, still having to deal with the effect of the trauma on our soul.

Is the Word Trauma Overused?

Seelenerschütterung or true trauma shakes the very foundation of our being. It affects the way we walk in this world; nothing is the same as before the traumatic event, not our various relationships (including our relationship with food), not our work, and most of all not our sense of self. For me, the English word trauma does not do justice to what really happens to a person who fears for his or her existence or physical survival or the survival of someone close by. Hence, I believe the word is much overused these days. Everybody seems to be experiencing trauma all the time.

Trauma versus Challenges

It is my opinion that many things that people describe these days as traumatic are really challenges. These challenges may even lead to heart ache, but an aching heart is not the same as a shaking soul. When one day I will lose my cat because she is sick or old (I am assuming that she will go before me), I will be in deep pain because I love her very much. If my husband should die before me from some kind of illness, I will be in even deeper pain and for longer because the bond with him is like no other bond I have had in my life. But neither of these two hypothetical experiences are traumatic. They are part of an ordinary life.

Why some people withstand trauma better than others

Even events that for many of us would be soul-shattering are not so for everybody. Many years ago a friend of mine expressed impatience with the Vietnam war veterans who could not find their way back into society but seemed to be consumed by their combat experiences. He was looking to those who apparently had overcome what they lived through and wondered why not all of them could do so. I pointed out that it depends on who the person was before he went to war. If his soul had been shaken before he went to war, his inner being would not be able to tolerate more atrocious experiences. The fears of survival and the horrors of watching human-made slaughter would sink through the cracks of the already shattered soul to an even deeper sense that life cannot be lived, that it is intolerable.

Childhood Trauma

The earlier in life we experience trauma, the more difficult it is for us later to adapt to life in a meaningful way. Childhood trauma could present itself as some sudden unforeseen accident affecting the family or even hunger, poverty or war but more often it is an ongoing chipping away at the soundness of the soul through emotional and/or physical neglect, and the myriad forms of abuse. A child's soul that has to fend for itself remains shaken, cracked or unstable. The resulting symptomatology can be varied but most likely includes complex PTSD.

Therapy as an Act of Confidence

My experience is that trauma can shake up a soul to such an extent that the person feels he or she needs to hide permanently. Sometimes souls simply do not unfold, not unlike flower buds which, due to environmental conditions, do not blossom. I think, most people who find their way into therapy want to blossom. The very act of coming to a therapist or healer is an act of confidence in that direction.

Trauma and Empathy

Most of all such a person needs safety and attention. In this cocoon a person with a shaken soul can tell his or her story and experience the power of finally having a witness to their terrible experiences, especially one with a sound soul. Neuroscience research has found a particular kind of neuron called mirror neuron. In simplistic terms it means that the emotional states and actions of one person can influence the emotional and learning states of another. A calm soul has healing power; empathy has healing power.

Trauma, Emotions and the Hero's Journey

It takes enormous courage to embark on a therapeutic journey that attempts to uncover the shaking soul. Human beings are resourceful and most people who have been traumatized adapt and manage life quite well. I, like many of my colleagues, prepare my clients to the possibility that first they might feel worse rather than better. A book that I found enormously helpful for this part of the journey, as well as for any time we are struggling with uncomfortable emotions, is James Hollis' "Swamplands of the Soul" (published 1996). Hollis stresses the need for us to embrace the most difficult emotional states as pathfinders to the soul.

Other Therapeutic Models to Address Trauma

We have come a long way in treating trauma, from hypnotherapy, EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), and other somatic therapies to long-term therapy. However, it is my experience both as therapist and client, that unless the therapist or healer can look from deep within his or her own vulnerability to the vulnerability of another soul, no true healing can occur.

Healing Trauma Takes Its Own Time

The soul is unmeasurable and the healing of a soul cannot be dictated by certain goals that need to get accomplished. The healing is accomplished through direct listening to the deep, deep voice within. Given a safe environment, the shaking soul knows all too well what needs to happen at any given time. With the right nourishment the flower will unfold in its own season.
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