I am sure many of my followers listened to what Bessel van der Kolk spoke about in talk on The Body Keeps the Score sharing his understanding of trauma, abuse and its impact that I posted yesterday.
One of the things that really interested me (and its been on my mind a lot recently) is how trauma often keeps us stuck or frozen in traumatic world view. In an attempt to keep ourselves safe we can freeze up on a bodily or emotional level and replay our traumatised reality over and over. Most certainly trauma needs to be spoken about and understood to be released and some of us may need to do this many times. However I do feel as trauma survivor healing means that we reach for positive things in our lives which give us a feeling of affirmation, power, happiness and release.
Healing from trauma becomes problematic if we stay trapped forever in a victimised mindset. This is perhaps why validation of trauma is so necessary for the traumatised person. One impact of suffering abuse, trauma or emotional neglect is that we often end up with a harsh inner or outer critic, and we often attract criticism because the nature of living with traumatic injury is that we act out many of our painful feelings on those who do not understand completely how trauma has affected us. When our feelings and reality are understood and validated by others it is easier to let go. Being invalidated leaves us with a double injury and drives the wound deeper within.
However I also feel as trauma survivors we need to be realistic about human beings and understand the part fear and ignorance play in the way we can be treated by others who are ignorant, unaware of unconscious of the effects of trauma, PTSD and Complex PTSD. They may not necessarily be bad people, just unaware. We can learn to speak up once we understand how, why and when invalidation occurs and most especially if we have been mindfucked as children and our inner reality denied we need to learn how to validate our true self and feelings in such a way that we can use them as tools for wellness and allow ourselves the necessary time, space, resources, self care and compassion to soothe those deep, old, past wounds.
Going over and over the trauma may also not necessarily mean that we deal with the deeper feelings and learn ways to relax and let go of the pain that has become a friend on some level. One of the points that Bessel makes in his talk is that once trauma is known and its impact understood it is actually not a good idea to keep revisiting the trauma and the traumatised place. In truth we are no longer living there, but the sad nature of trauma is that it sets up a magnetic field which we, as trauma survivors, can navigate towards and be drawn back to. We can then get stuck in what medical intuitive Carolyn Myss calls woundology.
I would explain this as getting stuck in a place where we replay our own trauma over and over. We may gravitate towards other traumatised individuals (and this is helpful as we seek and need a place of understanding and soothing when we have been badly affected by trauma or abuse) but it isn’t helpful if we are not moving towards a happier place together, a place where the pain can be felt, expressed and released rather than gone over again and again and again while we stay trapped in a victim reality, blaming others for not ‘getting us’.
One of the impacts of suffering trauma or abuse is that our nervous systems become hire wired. We don’t have as high levels of the soothing chemicals we need such as oxytocin and dopamine. Often our parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems become dysregulated, thus we have symptoms such as startled awakening on the point of relaxing or falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep or relaxing, problems getting back to sleep and problems waking up. When our current world is bleak and littered with loneliness or trauma residues the prospect of another day on earth is not that inviting, hence our reluctance to get out of bed.
That is why it is so important than rather staying stuck in a frozen place, on each day we make some attempt to reach out for soothing of some kind and a place beyond the hell of the endless repetitive feedback loop of trauma.
Some things that have really helped me with my own trauma have been the following:
- Having a pet, especially in my case a dog. This has meant that I have a being around who pulls me into the present moment. Dogs and animals know how to relax and just be, so they are a good antidote for our endlessly wound up state in trauma. My dog also provides a social engagement for me on a daily basis. I can take him to the dog park and meet other owners in a relaxed setting away from trauma.
- Having at least one person you can talk to on a daily basis who can help you to feel good about yourself. It is important as trauma survivors that we have someone who understands our inner reality and is willing to listen to us non judgementally and unconditionally.
- Self soothing activities such as bathing, walking, yoga, meditation and relaxation.
- Contact with nature or natural settings.
- Listening to music.
- Developing a good relationship with my inner child, both the wounded, lonely inner child from the past who so often needs my attention, soothing, protection, listening and care, as well as my wonder child who keeps me open to all the joy, love, hope, spiritual connection and possibility I feel in the essence of me, that part of me that was wounded but always understood that it was wounded and not at fault.
This is only a small list. I am sure that there are others of you out there who have more recommendations about what works for you. If so I would love to share then and integrate them into this blog.
As I look back of the past 14 years of my life I have began to see how for all of those years my body and brain was caught up in a traumatised reality that had played out over the previous 40 years of my life. At age 40 the urge for understanding and liberation was felt but to start on that journey I was drawn into complete retreat which was actually a very powerful collective ancestral imprint from my family.
This kind of retreat is what occurs for trauma victims who are struggling to be heard and understood. Bessel van der Kolk makes this point in the video I posted yesterday when he explains how traumatised people tend to become more alienated. Their trauma brings a sense of mistrust, a feeling of something being wrong with us, an increased sense of alienation and in the end often an exile from all warmth and human connection, most especially once we begin to become more aware of our trauma and see how invested others are in getting us to move on from it. The fact is that traumatised people make others uncomfortable as our society as not been that comfortable with talking about trauma, but this what we need to do in order to educate people and stop the negative feedback loop of repetitive trauma which keeps victims trapped in a sense of victimisation and isolation.
My own isolated reality consisted of all the unfelt wounds and traumas of my past that I had not yet fully felt my way through and integrated. Therapy has provided a healing antidote, in that it has given me a place to express the truth and be understood. Journaling and blogging too have been tools which have helped me get things out that when trapped inside were making me ill.
What I am beginning to understand now is that when these tools work they actually begin to free trapped energy from the magnetised gravitational field of trauma which tends to suck our vital energy inwards and downwards. I can still feel this kind of energy when I go to some support groups full of other traumatised individuals all at different stages of awareness about their trauma. In this kind of space I need to work hard to hold onto a reality of hope and love that for me was found through being able to navigate the dark stuck places over long years and bring healing light to them.
For me love was and is birthed out of pain, by my willingness to witness it and not remain stuck there, by my willingness to stay open, even in places of very powerful rage towards those who misunderstood and hurt me more, by my willingness in time to forgive and rise above my own, as yet incomplete view, by my willingness to reach out beyond that place of deep agonising personal, ancestral and collective pain to a place of peace where love, wisdom and joy live even in the midst of great darkness.