I woke up today feeling so sick of trauma. Sorry to my blog followers but today I just wanted to bust trauma’s butt! I relive all the shit that went down in my life finally ending in breast cancer last year and my body hasn’t been quiet the same since radiation. Also the multiple body impacts of serious traumas I have gone through often make me focus intensely on what is going on in my body. This is necessary when it comes to feeling my feelings and trying to focus on my intuitive sense but it gets downright annoying with one going trauma residues I carry and the way at times I literally feel my cells either on fire or dissolving or feel this deep pull inside me which is like vortex that wont let me more forward and then I have all the societal introjections from others, running round and round in my head. I argue with myself inside my head as to whether I should be focusing on my trauma all of the time for at times I feel trauma robs me and others of just SO MUCH LIFE, LOVE AND HAPPINESS.
The trauma vortex is really real though as are the cellular impacts I carry of having myself totally smashed up in two accidents. My nightly 5-7 pm attacks replay both the choking and drowning feelings I went through when fluid entered my lungs from a rupture caused by a broken rib. At the time I have them I feel like I cannot breathe at all and I have to work hard to keep focusing on letting my breath go inside of holding the breath in. I do this so unconsciously. I hold myself in too. I get pinned then and cant start my day and engage in the present moment when I feel better with the focus OFF the symptoms.
Today after about 2 hours of struggling with it and to get going and get my focus in ‘NOW’ I just thought I AM SO FUCKING OVER THIS. I am sick of the endless self introspection at times that I go through. I keep thinking of the Al Anon idea that we get sicker when we don’t get out and engage with others. I think my life is so deeply internal at times and then I beat myself up for it even more. The truth is I would like to be doing more locally where I live to engage with others going through the same. I had a falling out with the Al Anon group a while back and I didn’t go back. That really was hard. I tried to go back again and a similar invalidation scenario happened and so stopped going all together.
I am also very wary of other groups where people are not aware how real trauma is. I would love to think that one day I have ‘moved on’ from my trauma, but I guess the most I can hope for is that I can learn to live with my trauma more peacefully and that I don’t allow the dark night trauma vortex that sucks me in at times to rob me. I want to get that centrifugal energy spiral to spin the other way and let me dance the dance of life and love in a new kind non trauma world!
A lot of the work trauma specialist Peter Levine does and is outlined in his book In An Unspoken Voice concentrates on trying to get the trauma survivors focus off the paralysing hold of the trauma and onto positive sensations that bring feelings of peace life and joy. This is important as in trauma we are totally overwhelmed, our power is stolen from us, our energy is held captive and becomes glued or fixed to the dark place. I think the most powerful mythological representations of this are the tales of Persephone blithely strolling through a field, reaching down to pick a narcissus flower and having the ground break open and the hand of the Underworld God, Hades or Pluto pull her down.
The second which is a powerful myth about the forced descent and ‘sticking’ or pinning into place is the myth of Erishkegal and Innana told by Jungian therapist Sylvia Bretton Perrera in her book Descent to the Goddess. In that myth Innana choses to visit her traumatised sister Erishkegal and becomes captured in the underworld having had to surrender all of her garments one by one and then being pinned to a hook. Across the way her sister moans and cries out in grief. Innana before travelling to the Underworld knows it will be a dangerous passage so she asks some tiny finger Gods called the Enkies to come for her if she is not back in 3 days. The Enkies come down to be with Erishkegal and Innana and how they free both is sisters is simply through bearing witness to the deep soul suffering of Erishkegal. When Erishkegal cries. “Woe to me and woe to my insides”, the Enkies just repeat “Woe is you and woe to your insides”, after this Erishkegal is appeased and Innana is freed from the sticking place.
What this myth is really about is what I was speaking for and about in my last post on trauma. Validation is essential, but we also need those who will help us to look for the good energy that is both in us and in the world still, outside of the trauma. Loss of trust and a feeling of safety are two of the most painful consequences of trauma most especially those traumas that were the result of someone’s active neglect or betrayal of us and our being, self, body, boundaries or sense of value. In trauma we feel that these have literally been stolen from us. There is a natural sense of outrage that must be felt, worked through and expressed as part of the healing journey. Where this validation doesn’t come and where we are left alone with the deep injury with no one to help us make sense of it and turn in rage to out rage that is what we do. Trauma has no way out and so it gets stuck inside of us.
My own experience was of struggling for at least 10 years to have my real trauma acknowledged and validated. Sadly for some time I kept going back to places where this could not happen. I also started to beat myself up for not being further along when really I carried so much trauma. It was turning point when I read the book I mentioned above but it took me some to find therapists who could work in that way.
Trauma needs to be acknowledged but we also need techniques to keep us out of the ‘sticking place’ where we are endlessly stuck through with the pain of our unresolved trauma. This is where Peter Levine’s work comes in. He speaks a lot of a form of pendulation which involves slowly developing our capacity to tolerate the intense sensations which are such a strong part of body trauma, keeping our focus there for a time but then swinging our focus to something life affirming and good around us that helps with the terrible flooding and overwhelm which is often such a huge part of trauma survivor’s lives.
Another vital skill is getting our body moving. This is SO IMPORTANT due to the paralysing and intense pinning aspect of trauma. Freedom of the body to move and escape or run away is lost in trauma and one of the most important insights Peter Levine has given is how animals who can shake off or run from trauma suffer less ingrained PTSD than those who are captured and learn to become helpless.
Just like a wild animal we who have been traumatised may need to bare our teeth at predators! We may need to run, run, run. Indeed one technique PL uses is to get his clients to make running movements with their legs when he takes them back to the original trauma. Or he helps them to imaginatively enter the situation once again but this time to make an escape or fight and defeat the enemy that laid claim to their energy! This need to run or fight back to free our captured life energy is so important. For a traumatised body is often paralysed and helpless, all locked up or doubled over in pain. The need to fight back is often disabled or shamed or blocked in some way and we may be looked on askance for it, but we need to fight.
This is why I firmly believe that endlessly focusing on our powerlessness can be counter productive for trauma survivors. At the time of trauma we were powerless. As active addicts who had not yet been able to face our trauma we were powerless, but once we choose recovery we are no longer fully powerless, there is always something we can do to put our focus in a better place and NOT AS AN AVOIDANCE as there are times we need to sit with and feel into our symptoms and pain in order to unpack them but we do need to beware of the endless internal feedback loop of negative focus on trauma that can at times keep our energy stuck.
I am writing this post today (and it started out as a bit of a rebel yell of annoyance at my own trauma symptoms) because I really felt the need today to put my focus in a more positive place. I was having a day of feeling ‘sick’ of the early morning trauma shit I go through. But look, I just blogged about it an this came out and now I feel better and soon Jasper and I will go to the park and make something special of our day. What I wanted to speak for here was the idea that there can be life and light outside the dark place of trauma. My own experience is that on some days trauma totally captures me but those days are less and less as I have found good support and become more aware of invalidating and triggering places. On the days I am captured then I am back in Hell truly and I blog on those days even though I am at times scared to be truthful. At least in writing I am trying to externalise my trauma in some way and in the deepest hope that doing so will help others to know they are also not alone.