Our body functions as a template, using things like muscle memory to respond to certain events, triggers, or circumstances. But what happens when some of that coding in the template is offline or stuck? Consider the offline or stuck as trauma. The coding has a glitch and doesn’t systematically continue as it once did. Now with the glitch (trauma) it repeats itself and retraumatises itself when the trigger or stimuli isn’t dangerous or life threatening. This coding creates emotional pain that as humans we try to avoid. We will use anything to not experience pain from numbing agents and medicators to behaviors. The danger with this coping response is over time it turns off my body signals to myself. My body helps me navigate the world through feelings and emotions, we don’t do that just through thoughts. If I turn off that highway, I will struggle with my emotional being and that looks like relationships. Not just relationships with others, but more importantly, my relationship with me! The relationship I have with myself is my roadmap to my relationships with others. Read below as Amber talks more about her relationship with self:
As a young adult I had a lot of pride in my ability to pretty much do anything that I wanted to do, but that doesn’t mean if I was doing it that it was healthy. A super power that I formed as an adult child was being able to endure and being able to push myself beyond my potential. To some that may sound really strong, and, for me it’s dangerous because the only speed I know is “GO” and there’s no limit. I don’t listen to the responses, the reactions, or the messages that my body sends. It was such a necessity to do or to be.
This mindset is dangerous for me because there’s no limit to the damage that can be done to my body and my psyche as an adult in recovery. Now once I try to create a limit I then have to intentionally limit the amount of self judgment. I can easily self-sabotage and fall back into my cycles. As a rule of thumb if I have 10 things on my “to do” list I cut it in half because, as an adult child, I really struggle with frame of reference. If I “GO” there’s no speed limit…. it’s just go and endure and go.
Today I have to recognize all the signals my body sends me and so often it feels like sensory overload because for decades I was deaf to any messages that my body sent. It became clear to me early on that my external locus of control would be my survival. Now, as an adult child trying to live with an internal locus of control, it feels deafening because my body has definitely kept the score. It hurts on a daily basis and the hard part is our body can’t differentiate emotional pain from physical pain. What we also know is years of toxicity is stored in our body, our joints, and in our fascia.
Our muscular system in our body has memory just like our brain has memory. Living with an internal locus of control, trying to be self-aware, and intentional, I can sometimes feel deafened by all the messages my body sends me. This isn’t because it’s too much. My body is worth it. It’s because I’m not used to hearing all of those messages. I’m learning limits. I’m learning to not judge those limits. I’m learning to ask for what I need and I’m learning how to listen to my body.
So how do we heal through somatic work? Bodywork or somatic healing is just as it sounds, it uses the body to guide the healing rather than the thoughts. For so many of us though, because that “highway” has been shut down, it can take some time for the pathways to open back up and we will need to do so through learning and practicing mindfulness.
Trauma is complex because it doesn’t just affect one part of the body. Trauma causes biological effects of the brain by shrinking the grey matter, but yet it’s technically coded or stored in the physical body. Thus, one form of treatment for trauma won’t heal the whole body. Research has proven, mindfulness can reverse the biological effects of trauma on the brain by growing grey matter. Where once one’s brain had limited access, now increases access to a full self. Mindfulness opens the pathway from the body to the brain to start to understand the signals and messages necessary to fulfill needs. For example, walking into a store and one’s heart starts beating faster and breath becomes more shallow is likely a sign something is wrong. Unfortunately, whether there is an actual danger or a trauma trigger must be further evaluated. Because the body can be hijacked by unresolved trauma and it makes it difficult for one to evaluate while in hypervigilance what the threat is. The more bodywork we do to metabolize the trauma in the body, the less hypervigilance one experiences. Likewise, pairing that with psychotherapy from a cognitive perspective, and learning about anxiety, traumas, and triggers, the more one can cope with these experiences to identify a current trigger or historical one.
Read more here about trauma treatment at The Healing Collective:
Perhaps you’ve been interested in seeing a counselor for some time, but you have concerns. Your trauma may have occurred well in the past, for instance, and you don’t see any point in discussing it. Or you’re worried that digging deep into your past pain may result in you never being able to find your way out of it.
We hear you, but we also encourage you to try therapy. While your trauma may have happened in the past, you’re still suffering the consequences of it. A therapist can help you see how your trauma is impacting your day-to-day life so you can find lasting and meaningful relief. Similarly, while avoidance is a strong and effective coping tool (and likely has allowed you to survive up to this point), holding back your emotions is not providing you a safe place to address your trauma and heal. Therapy can offer that.
Ultimately, you do not have to do this work alone. Therapy can help you address and understand your trauma now so that you can live life to its full potential.
At The HC, you’ll start by completing a brief intake survey with our coordinator. From there, you will be matched with The HC clinician that is best suited to meet your needs. Your therapist will collaborate with you on establishing a treatment plan that targets your trauma and provides you with effective skills for coping.
One approach we offer is psychoeducation that can help you to understand and name your trauma while providing you with insight into the ways that trauma is stored in the body. Both the brain and body store trauma on a deep level. By understanding this early in the process, you will be able to approach therapy with a realistic understanding of how much healing is required for someone who has been carrying around trauma for a matter of months, years, or decades.
Your therapist will also utilize experiential healing—which uses expressive tools for the purposes of re-enactment—to help you access past experiences and rewrite the narrative of your trauma. By reparenting yourself through old wounds, you’ll be able to create new associations and bolster self-compassion. If you are struggling with substance use and/or medicating, we can also offer you guidance on overcoming those barriers.
Though the road to healing can be bumpy and long at times, therapy is a journey worth taking if it means living a life free of trauma’s harmful and lingering effects. Get in touch with us today. Let’s start your journey of recovery together.