I picked up a very good book written by an Australian trauma specialist Dr Jeannine Higgins at the book fair in September called Evolve With Trauma : Become Your Own Safe, Compassionate and Wise Friend. It contains a lot of facts and useful information on being kind to yourself in trauma. The tendency for trauma survivors is to beat ourselves up and this is despite the fact we have gone through abuse or pain or losses that often were not our fault. We also meet misunderstanding from those who wonder why we can not just ‘get over’ such deeply painful experiences. Jeannie explains that we cannot rationalise away trauma or traumatic memories because trauma by its very nature destroys links in the brain between our emotional/memory self and the rational self.
In a brilliant chapter entitled I can’t stop crying. Am I going mad? she writes.
You are probably not going mad if you ask that question.
Crying is nature’s way of releasing your pain, and if you have been traumatised this pain is enormous. It is important to allow yourself safe time and safe people (including yourself) with whom you can cry and be lovingly contained.
You are grieving for what you have lost or for what you never had. Becoming a wise, loving, accepting and active intervener to the vulnerable and most traumatised parts of yourself enables healthy self soothing. It is with healthy deep soothing that you can find the courage to create ‘you’ in a way that fully acknowledges what has happened and yet is not dominated by traumatising events. Crying is important and healthy, but remaining stuck in the tears and the pain is a journey to nowhere!
Consider making special time to really grieve from way down deep in the pit of your stomach once or twice a week, or even every day: you will know exactly the things that get you going. Sob from deep in your soul, but place a time limit around it – no more than an hour maximum. Then get up and do something really loving for yourself. Paint your toenails pink and purple,… go sit under a tree by some water, got for a walk, run or swim or lay on your back and watch the clouds float. Whatever works for you. This is not about what someone else thinks! The important thing is that you do something you personally experience as loving and soothing and that it is not destructive to anyone, inlcuidng you.
Your wise self can gently and firmly guide you towards things that will develop your sense of capability This is a way of beginning to regain some control over the impact of traumatic events. It could be as simple as getting out of bed and having a shower. It doesn’t matter if you are still crying, warm showers are great places to cry! Allow yourself to plant some flower, and pay a bill or any other task that achieves something.
Do at least one thing each day that gives you some pleasure. Watch a funny TV show. Listen to your favourite music. Cuddle an animal. It doesn’t matter what it is as long as there is a chance of a little pleasure and the behaviour doesn’t hurt you or other people.
Most of all honour your emotional pain. To have it means you are human. Beating yourself up because you are vulnerable is perpetrator behaviour and not okay under any circumstances.
The expression of the depth of your pain and your subsequent caring for yourself allows you to acknowledge the gravity of your traumatic experiences. Looking after yourself wounds with presence, care and focus enables deep comforting and healing from the inside out. This loving compassion is available to you twenty four hours a day.
Your deepest sadness is telling you that you profoundly valued whatever it is that you have lost or which has changed (or that you were denied). The deep recognition can be profoundly honouring of you and deceased loved ones. Abandoning, abusing, neglecting, becoming impatient with, or ridiculing the most hurt part of you is not helpful for you in learning to live fully and even to frolic with your life. Your evolved life includes your traumatic reality, and is not governed by these experiences.
We really need to be kind to ourselves and honour our soul when we are attempting to heal from and release old traumatic imprints.