Trauma fractures our normal waking reality. When we undergo a major trauma there is a tear in the normal timeline or continuity of experience. Consciousness may shut down as what is occurring is too much for our mind and nervous system to handle. In addition our endocrine system is highly activated by neurotransmitters of the central nervous system’s two branches, sympathetic and parasympathetic which flood our body with stimulating chemicals. We remain permanently activated in this way even when the threat or trauma has passed. This puts an end to the idea that we should just “get over” traumatic experiences.
Once consciousness is torn what we experienced in trauma falls to the somatic (body) level in the unconscious and we enter a kind of twilight zone too, where there are fractures we experience in our waking reality which can be impinged upon by traumas at the unconcious level. The permanent activation of our fear/flight/fight systems leads to fear and projection of old pain onto new experience. We can be easily triggered, Or, as in my case, we can go into freeze in the face of an overwhelming threat.
There is a powerful belief that the body is the unconscious. As babies born we were just a mass of sensate being, in the womb as a foetus we were connected to the vibrational currents around us, what the mother experiences we experience. When we are born we have the shock of the birth trauma which can have all kinds of impacts. We may have had an easier birth, but birth is still a trauma.
In my own case my mother held me back, she put off going to the hospital to give birth to me because she wanted to finish bottling plum jam. The pattern I am now aware of in my own life is that I hold myself back. This is part of my PTSD experience as well and a way of being. I may sense something I want to go towards but I hold myself back with thoughts or fears, conscious or unconscious.
The current body work I am doing is encouraging me to write down when I hear any of these voices. A lot of the inner voices I hear question me and my experience, put on a censor or a stop from moving forward. Add to this that I live with the buried experienced of at least six major traumas and its no wonder that on awakening now I am so conscious of the fact I am strung between two worlds. The world of trauma can hold me captive for some hours in the day if I don’t find the courage to move forward.
One of the symptoms of PTSD is trouble falling asleep. In my case it takes me about two hours to fall asleep with lots of twisting and turning along the way. I am trying to learn to breath deeply instead of holding my breath. With the current help of tissue salts I am now managing to sleep through and if I do wake up to go to the toilet I no longer hold it all inside for an hour or so as I used to do. My natural response is to check my body, to feel parts of my body are frozen, to hold the breath and then to twist. I fear that if I do get up I am so twisted I will fall down. The closest thing I have seen to what I go through is old footage of survivors from the First World War who lie their bodies twisted around with convulsions and spasms from an overloaded nervous system.
On awaking I am also aware that I am strung between two worlds, that of the conscious day and the unconscious trauma and body symptoms. Last night I dreamt of a huge tall narrow bridge suspended over a major road. I was conscious that I needed to cross this bridge but I was terrified of it. I think from what I remember that in the dream I did manage to cross the bridge.
It seems to me that in trauma two bridges are broken, the one with normal conscious waking reality and the other in our interpersonal relationships. We loose a sense of safety and trust in the benevolence of the world. It takes courage to open ourselves up, especially when some of our intense reactions and symptoms are misjudged or misunderstood by others.
One of my purposes in blogging about this is to speak from within the experience of trauma and its effects in order to bring more understanding of the impact of trauma on survivors. Empathetic understanding helps us to feel less isolated and feared. Its taken me some time to realise the anger I get from others about the way my trauma affects me and them is about fear and a sense of powerlessness. That I can do nothing about that but that I must not judge myself but show myself, love, mercy, tenderness and compassion while continuing to reach for the courage to move forward each day.