Healing trauma through the wisdom of the body
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Marie-Louise Rolfe Msc, Bsc (Hons) Dip C, MBACP BPS
19th June, 20180 Comments
Healing Complex Trauma through the Wisdom of the Body
When we think of healing, the general picture which arises tends to be that we are healing to become whole or moving towards health or wholeness. There is another understanding which is that we are healing to understand our wholeness; our health, which is present at the beginning of our lives; when it comes to trauma and chronic stress, in particular. The neuroscience which explains these concepts shows we are born with an innate sense of wholeness and then our family, care givers and culture may not support this, which leads to illness in mind and body. The good news is, we can do something about this and with more education and knowledge, better support systems can be put in place.
Let us go straight into learning with our senses right now, to catch a glimpse of how the body is responding. As you turn your attention to your breath, your senses are open to the environment around you, to the warmth or coolness on your skin, to the sounds around you, inside or outside. Listening not just with your ears but with your entire body. Your eyes if they are open, allow them to become soft, so you are welcoming the visuals which are present. Let your attention wander through your body, welcoming the sensations that are present. There may be thoughts left over from your day so far. Settle back into the ease of simply being. As you are being, notice what is happening to the thinking mind. There is a way that the thinking mind slows down and even present a full stop in that moment of being. Notice as your mind slows down, what happens to time. How thinking and time has a relationship. We are not thinking about the past or future, we are now being. An opportunity to experience a quality of timelessness. Notice how you are feeling in your body as you are simply being. People feel this in different parts of the body; some in the heart, some in the gut area, head or shoulders. Wherever you are feeling something, take a moment to feel how spaciousness feels, above and below you. It may have a centre or location in the body. Ask yourself do I lack or need or want anything? Sometimes people think there is a sense of lack outside 'being. Is 'being' unfamiliar or is it something you have known all your life? Children are more 'being' than 'doing'. Give yourself a moment. Notice if you feel like rushing. Pause then and return your attention to your breathing. Does being need anything? Does it need special circumstances or can you walk and be, or talk and be? Can you be at your computer? 'Being' does not need a special circumstance. The more you 'be' and fall into 'being', the more the feelings this engenders. This sense of wellbeing and of peace, as we continue noticing, of meeting ourselves and nourishing what we meet, we can begin to acknowledge a sense of it always having been here. From here we can then feel in the body what healing is needed. It can be acute or chronic. Take a moment now to continue with this exercise or take a deep breath and let yourself know gently, that you may return to attend to yourself, in a while.
We may feel stress at work but this may not lead to post traumatic stress or a disorder. This stress may bring up unresolved past trauma. We may receive news of illness or war or loss of relationship and feel immense trauma. Trauma can bring unhealthy feelings into our lives. We do have resiliency though. When we are in optimum health we can stay in a certain quality of resilience. When we nourish this feeling of wellbeing, research has shown we turn on feel good hormones, natural anti-depressants, which are produced by the hippocampus. This way we can set up antidotes to our stress. At times of disaster some people drop to the ground, others run and some help others. When we come under stress or trauma, chemicals in the brain are produced. We can become hijacked by these chemical signals and our system is turned on to become hyper vigilant. Long term stress leads us to losing the ability to understand and think clearly; showed by signs of irritation, memory loss and confusion. This whole cycle is where the amygdala gets activated and the vicious cycle of feeling stress, trauma, depression, anxiety is produced.
When we come back to this sense of wellbeing, research shows the amygdala deactivate and the hippocampus reactivate. The amygdala is the part of the brain which alerts us to danger and the hippocampus sends calming an 'feel good' chemicals around the body. So, this means we have the power to stop this vicious cycle. The nervous system is complex. There are many strategies to overcome stress and trauma. It can break into cycles of guilt or emotion which feel upsetting or destructive. We need to feel indestructible in our lives.
So how do we do this? As we nourish this sense of being, this gives you a sense of spaciousness, of contraction which you feel when stressed. The thinking can then be relaxed with daily practice, we are able to be in this place to nourish the ability to bounce back, to become more resilient. Social and family values may diminish our ability to be resilient. Then we feel stuck. The good news is that this resilience is wired into our systems; we need to know how to access it.
Neuroscience is producing more and more evidence to suggest that when trauma or reliving the trauma is being experienced, the body and mind feels a sense of separateness or negative thinking. This feeling is so powerful and overwhelming that it is possible for an individual to stay in this negative way of being then believing that this is the only option. The body is then continuously in the negative bias, the survival mode, where you are now only hearing the negative words and experiencing the danger in a situation and not the positive. This is the point at which the default network of our brain which is built for survival is in constant operation and where we become caught in it, feeling as though there is no way out.
The 'present centred network', which is when we rest into being with a soft gaze, where we are welcoming sounds and sensations in the body, we are turning off the default 'survival network'. People who practice mindfulness and deep relaxation techniques of their choice then report feeling more connected and have moments of insight. This part of the brain is then producing high levels of Gama; the part of us which opens to infinite possibilities. If you then continue to work on yourself and aid your system into remembering to feel in balance and receptive, you then begin to record the positive experiences and not just the negatives, making the 'present centred network' your default position.
Technologies which nourish our sense of capacity, are paramount to our mental and physical health. This underlying sense of wellbeing outside of want lack or need which doesn’t need healing – brings forward a sense of feeling whole once more. Daily practice of meditation, in whichever form you connect with, and there are many, will enable you to retrain the synapses in the brain and to bring this into your everyday life, allowing a sense of freedom, joy and fulfilment. Once the part of the brain is open to your creative self, you are able to become more focussed, more energised and therefore more resilient. With the support of other around you, you can become your best self.
Make a positive change, one small step at a time. Remember, each step that you take leads you to where you wish to be. Nothing is wasted and you can begin again at any time. The key thing is to be your own friend, to encourage yourself as you would a child, to acknowledge when you have started making space for you to feel good about yourself and to forgive yourself when you fall down. This is all part of the process.
About the author
I walk with others on their journey to enable them to live a grounded and uplifted life, in whichever form this may be for the individual. From grief to joy, from low self-esteem to self-confidence, from anxiety to excitement, from challenging to wholesome relationship with self and others.
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