Traumatic experiences can overwhelm our normal strategies for emotional regulation and self-soothing. If you know how to calm yourself, have a sense that you will manage and can survive then your capacity to manage adversity is greatly improved.
Some life experiences are simply so horrific and terrifying that they completely overwhelm any capacity for self-soothing. Under such circumstances, a traumatised person might turn to drugs or alcohol to manage their feelings and thoughts.
Detatching from the painful memories and feelings is another strategy that individuals might use to protect themselves from the impact of what has taken place. However, this can lead to emotional numbness and a sense of disconnection from the world, oneself and other people.
The ability to self-soothe can also be compromised early in life, if a child is raised in an environment that has failed to provide adequate care and support. Insecure children become adults who have little trust in the world and who do not know to manage their impulses and feelings of anxiety, distress and anger.
One important aspect of working with clients is helping them to develop and enhance strategies for self-soothing and emotional regulation in order to have a better capacity to manage their difficult or disturbing feelings.