In last month’s article, it was identified that trauma may be the reason for some strange, elusive, or unexplainable symptoms such as anxiety, panic, weakness, concentration problems, hyper-arousal, aches and pains, intestinal issues, headaches/migraines, exhaustion, sleep disturbances, and inability to account for time or events. At times, these symptoms may have made you feel as if you were going crazy because no medical or mental health provider could really explain the reasons behind the symptoms. Trauma can be difficult to recognize as there is no accurate way to define it. However, trauma is a life event that has created a negative response in our mind, body, and spirit. Trauma wears many different faces. It may be physical, emotional, or sexual abuse; serving in the military; being in a relationship with an addict; the death of a loved one; divorce; the absence of a close, bonded relationship with a primary caregiver; a natural disaster; surgery; mental or chronic physical illness; frequent moves as a child, to name a few. For each individual, trauma looks different.
When trauma happens we know that the mind becomes profoundly altered. Our brain instinctually protects us from a clear memory or emotional reaction to what really happened to us.
This incredible coping mechanism takes the form of denial or dissociation (detaching from the reality and going to another place psychically). Unfortunately, this incredible coping mechanism comes with a high price. Although the mind is protected from the memory, the body does not forget. The residual energy from the trauma becomes trapped in our bodies, is stored in our nervous system and causes long-term distressing, or at times debilitating, consequences. This energy is stored as a body memory that has emotion and memory intertwined with it. Historically, trauma has been treated as to what effects it has had on the mind. Because of this belief, traditional talk therapy has failed. Much research has shown that talk therapy is an old idea and if the mind and the body are not integrated together into the therapeutic process, healing trauma becomes extremely difficult.
We’ve established that the mind forgets the trauma. The experience is a core imprint on the brain that is not processed. Individuals do not have the language to tell the story of what happened to them. As they go into their trauma, their capacity to talk disappears. The brain cannot go there and it gets overwhelmed. The therapist needs to develop treatment that will bypass the tyranny of language. In order to treat trauma, the individual has to feel it. Effective trauma therapy will go deep into the sensory part of the experience. This type of therapy is called experiential therapy, incorporating the body into the healing process.
As a trauma therapist, I use a therapeutic program, which treats both the mind and body. It is a multisensory program that allows the body to move, feel, and act while engaging the mind and emotions.
Traumatized people are terrified of their bodies because when triggered, their body becomes the body that they occupied at the time of their trauma. Because they do not feel safe, they shut down.
Individuals cannot “live” in their bodies until every part of their body feels safe. Therapy allows the trauma to naturally and gradually unfold through a relational process (group dynamics), experiential assignments, yoga, psychodrama, meditation, guided imagery, spirituality and breath work, to name a few. Experiential therapy stimulates memories and allows the individual to feel what is going on within their body, to listen to their body, and to learn to live in their body.
An incredible transformation takes place when trauma is healed and you have tools to help you move through your trauma and improve your quality of life.
Originally published in Healthy Cells Magazine
By Tonya L. Bassett, LCSW, CADC, CTT