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We are becoming increasingly aware of how widespread trauma is, and of the huge costs it imposes not only on individuals and their immediate communities, but also on society more generally.

But what exactly do we mean by the word 'trauma'?

There is a great deal of misunderstanding about trauma, and we need to develop far greater clarity if we are to work with it more effectively. Trauma is defined by the impact that painful and frightening experiences have on us and by the long term effect those experiences have on our lives, rather than by the relative content of those experiences.

When experiences leave us with a deeply held conviction that our survival is at risk, our bodies and brains construct an unconscious system whose ‘aim’ is to protect us, but which paradoxically creates new cycles of trauma in ourselves and those with whom we interact. Understanding this system is crucial to transforming it.

Writer and researcher Dr Daniela F. Sieff visits the RSA to explore the dynamics of trauma from an interdisciplinary perspective.

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