To feel the wind : Lessons in trauma recovery

I just had one of those beautiful moments when I felt the wind gently caress my face and was touched by the grace of nature. Nature offers me a place of peace far from the storm of painful sensations, emotions and conflicts stirred up by my past trauma and by my own reactions to being hurt.

I am considering this issue at the moment since beginning to work over the past few months with a therapist to foster body awareness due to painful symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress. What happens in trauma is the over activation of the nervous system which goes on high alert and begins to pump out stimulating chemicals which can’t easily be soothed or arrested. I am learning there are things I can do to help myself and breathe through the feelings without freaking out as much.  I can also help myself by reaching for remedies which support my recovery at the cellular level.

One interesting fact that I have recently learned from my therapist is how the chemical content of our body cells is changed by ongoing trauma and stress, I am taking tissue salts to help redress this balance and as result I am starting to sleep unbroken for the first time in over 10 years. Not for very long, maybe max 5 hours, but that is fine for me to feel able to cope and that I have energy if I am refreshing my system with time spent in nature, good company, cuddling my dog and letting myself be present to the elements instead of closing myself off and shutting down to life.

So much is changing for me and I am seeing how my past trauma has affected me, how rough it was when I began to enter recovery and uncover deep and complex emotions that got split off and drowned in my addiction. Around 7 years into this process of recovery I began to look for a less stimulating lifestyle and one in which I could release what was trapped inside but I was not in a supportive environment. Instead I had others around me who were frightened by me and my emerging feelings and wanted me to change. I had to lose a marriage, (admittedly not by my own choice) and then have a very dark time alone where I had two other major traumas on the anniversary of that abandonment which triggered all my pain from other times of being left and told I wasn’t good enough and I flailed around for quite a few years looking for new support which would encourage me in the process of healing.

I was not aware until very recently (and now it is clear as I finally AM in a supportive environment with several people who encourage me to take my inner world seriously) how hypervigilant I was in trying to seek approval from the wrong places and how often I was made to believe by my catholic education and upbringing that there was something wrong with me for having very real strong human feelings and needs. This is a very powerful unconscious conditioning which I now understand and that understanding is making it easier for me to be alone and sustain myself from within and in healthier ways.

Nature is a profound source of soothing for me in this process. Trauma leads to dissociation from the body and from our inner nature, if we lack a sufficiently supportive holding environment to help us re-engage with that trauma in a context of self soothing we remain split off, and it seems to me that nature helps me to split off from myself less, a good walk along the windswept pathway puts me back in my body and that feels wonderful.

Movement helps my trauma to dissipate because so much of my trauma is associated with being still and overpowered by an accident of some kind in which something from outside entered my body and ruptured the continuum of my boundaries. This left me struggling to know my boundary and in having good boundaries.

Walking and moving or pushing out shows me where my boundary is. The wind on my face shows me where I meet the wind in life and helps me know how it feels to be soothed and caressed rather than penetrated painfully and jangled around, it gives me a context for soothing rather than painful experiences.

One of the powerful exercises in working with trauma developed by therapists such as Peter Levine is to pendulate or move between the parts of the body which are in pain and carry traumatic imprints and the parts of the body which feel sensations of peace and pleasure.   So much of being traumatised leads us to a focus on what hurts, that place of hurt is like a magnet that draws the iron filings of our attention towards it, but if we can find a focus of goodness in the body to counter balance that we can learn to draw our attention away from the pain. It is not that we deny it, we can notice or touch it with our awareness but we don’t need to let the painful, traumatic sensation engage our entire focus.

Feeling the wind on my face is such a blessing and I am not sure if you will understand if you haven’t suffered trauma why, but that caress of the wind shows me I am in the body that I took flight from due to trauma and that there is the hope of pleasure outside the dark valley of pain that for so many years has held me down under its weight of sadness, loss and longing.

I feel a new sense of purpose in this work with trauma.  I want to share about it as much as I can to help others who are trapped in trauma.  Sometimes I can hear a voice in the wind which is a portent from spirit with a message about what my purpose is.  Wind is associated to spirit.  Spirit enlivens and engages, it moves things about and lets a flow happen which trauma dams up.  In my heart when I listen to the voice of wind telling me there is freedom beyond pain I wish to let the message circulate, freely like the wind and to remind others of the precious gifts nature offers us in helping us to reconnect and heal.

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