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Important Concepts

There are many ideas and concepts that are central to our understanding of how ketamine works, how our past and our environment shapes our minds and how we understand what it means to be human.  See below to learn more

What is Trauma?

Trauma is a complex and multidimensional psychological phenomenon that encompasses a range of emotional, cognitive, and physiological responses to a distressing or overwhelming event or series of events. Trauma can result from various experiences, including physical or sexual abuse, accidents, natural disasters, combat, or emotional neglect. It is important to recognize that trauma is not solely defined by the event itself but also by the individual's perception and response to it.

Here is a detailed breakdown of trauma, its connection to lack of attunement and attachment, and how unmet needs, shame, and disconnection can contribute to feelings of danger:

  1. Definition of Trauma: Trauma can be defined as the emotional, psychological, and physiological response to an event or series of events that overwhelm an individual's ability to cope effectively. This can lead to profound distress and a range of symptoms that impact daily functioning.

  2. Lack of Attunement and Attachment: In the context of trauma, a lack of attunement and attachment in early relationships can be especially influential. Attachment theory suggests that strong emotional bonds formed in infancy and childhood play a critical role in an individual's sense of security and safety. When caregivers fail to provide consistent emotional attunement, care, and responsiveness, it can lead to an insecure attachment style. This lack of a secure emotional base can make individuals more vulnerable to experiencing traumatic events and can contribute to feelings of danger when traumatic events occur.

  3. Sense of Danger: Traumatic events are often perceived as life-threatening or overwhelming, and the individual's emotional and physiological responses are geared towards survival. When there is a history of insecure attachment or lack of attunement, the internal sense of danger can be heightened. The individual may lack a secure emotional foundation to help them process and cope with the traumatic experience, making them feel even more vulnerable and unsafe.

  4. Unmet Needs: Unmet emotional, psychological, or physical needs during childhood or throughout life can leave individuals with a sense of emptiness and vulnerability. Traumatic events can exacerbate these unmet needs, intensifying feelings of danger and distress. The unmet need for safety and security is particularly relevant in trauma, as the event itself can shatter an individual's sense of safety.

  5. Shame: Trauma often carries a profound sense of shame, especially when the trauma is related to experiences like abuse or assault. Shame can lead to self-blame and self-loathing, further contributing to feelings of danger. It can also prevent individuals from seeking help or support due to fear of judgment or rejection.

  6. Disconnection: Trauma can result in a profound sense of disconnection from oneself and from others. This disconnection can stem from dissociation, a common response to trauma where individuals disconnect from their thoughts, feelings, or memories to cope with the overwhelming experience. This sense of disconnection can intensify feelings of isolation, helplessness, and danger.

In summary, trauma is a complex response to distressing events, and its impact is shaped by an individual's early attachment experiences, perceived sense of danger, unmet needs, shame, and disconnection. When there is a history of insecure attachment or a lack of attunement in early relationships, traumatic events can be experienced with heightened vulnerability and difficulty in processing, which can contribute to the development and persistence of trauma-related symptoms. Treatment and support often focus on addressing these underlying factors to help individuals heal and regain a sense of safety and well-being.


Neuroception is the subconscious neural process by which the nervous system evaluates safety and potential threat in the environment, influencing emotional and physiological responses.

Somatic Therapy

Somatic therapy is a holistic therapeutic approach that recognizes the interconnectedness of the mind and body, using physical sensations and bodily experiences to address emotional and psychological issues.

Ventral Vagal State

The ventral vagal state is a state of physiological and emotional safety, associated with social engagement and relaxation, regulated by the ventral branch of the vagus nerve.


Attachment refers to the emotional bond and connection formed between individuals, typically in early relationships, which can significantly influence emotional development, behavior, and interpersonal relationships throughout life.


Consciousness is the state of awareness and subjective experience, encompassing thoughts, perceptions, feelings, and self-awareness.

Bottom-Up Processing

Bottom-up processing is a cognitive information processing approach in which perception and understanding start with the analysis of individual sensory inputs or features and build up to create a complete mental representation.

The Polyvagal Theory

The Polyvagal Theory is a framework developed by Dr. Stephen Porges that explains how the vagus nerve and autonomic nervous system regulate social engagement, emotional states, and physiological responses.


In the context of Internal Family Systems therapy, "parts" refer to distinct facets of an individual's personality or inner world, each with its own unique qualities, beliefs, and emotions.

Sympathetic State

The sympathetic state is the "fight or flight" response of the autonomic nervous system, activated in response to stress or danger, leading to increased alertness and physiological changes.


Attunement is the process of tuning in to and synchronizing with another person's emotional and psychological state, fostering understanding, empathy, and effective communication in relationships.

Non-ordinary States of Consciousness

Non-ordinary states of consciousness refer to altered or unusual mental states that deviate from ordinary waking consciousness, such as those induced by meditation, psychedelic substances, or certain mental health conditions.

Top-Down Processing

Top-down processing is a cognitive information processing approach in which prior knowledge, expectations, or context influence the interpretation and understanding of sensory information, guiding perception and cognition.

Internal Family Systems

Internal Family Systems is a psychotherapeutic approach that views the mind as composed of different "parts," each with its own characteristics and functions, and seeks to facilitate self-awareness and healing by addressing and integrating these parts.


Mindfulness is a mental practice that involves paying non-judgmental attention to the present moment, promoting self-awareness, stress reduction, and overall well-being.

Dorsal Vagal State

The dorsal vagal state is a state of immobilization and disconnection, associated with feelings of shutdown, numbness, and decreased physiological activity, regulated by the dorsal branch of the vagus nerve.


Psychoneuroimmunology is a multidisciplinary field that explores the interactions between psychological factors, the nervous system, and the immune system, examining how emotions, stress, and mental states can impact physical health.


Phenomenology is a philosophical and psychological approach that focuses on the description and exploration of subjective human experiences, emphasizing the study of consciousness, perception, and lived experiences.

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