The Trauma Factor

Healing: When Trauma is a Factor

Much of the information I put out is generalized so it can be applied to almost anyone’s life circumstances. The vital steps to health and wellness are pretty much the same for most people, and I try to keep it simple whenever I can. While that makes it easier to grasp, the generalized information does not account for the full spectrum of challenges that are faced when there is a presence or history of trauma.

When there is a presence of trauma, such as childhood abuse or neglect, violent attacks or accidents, or any long term exposure to being violated, there are additional locks and layers of perceptual distortion. There are additional steps in the healing process and these are to be handled with foreknowledge and preparation. It’s not that health is more elusive for traumatized people, it’s that the perception goggles through which they experience life have well-camouflaged distortions that are often deeply woven into their sense of security and survival; the emotional residue of trauma will undermine all therapy until it’s recognized as distortion and cleared from the perception. Clearing it is easy, but first being ready and willing to see it, that can be quite a challenge.

In some cases, the experience of trauma can render subconscious, self-protecting changes in the brain so that it permanently inhibits activity in the areas responsible for registering all forms of pain. This affects the person’s awareness of all emotional sensations and disconnects them from visceral sensation as well. Additionally, self-awareness is lowered and it becomes almost impossible to perceive life experience, or even one’s self, with reliable accuracy. This makes it quite difficult to recover using the typical holistic cues and guidelines, because in a sense they are experiencing life through a haze that diminishes their capacity to register the true resonance of people and events. Often they are disconnected from themselves; disconnected from their feelings, hopes, dreams and imagination. This disconnection can be restored when a person is ready to honestly investigate their inner life.

How does this affect the healing journey? It’s important to remember that every single individual takes a unique path to health and wellness, because the path is truly within, and it is the inner life of the individual which manifests the external choices and the path itself. When the inner life is polluted with unacknowledged distortions like self-loathing, denial, shame, victimization scripts, or fear that the truth about something simply cannot be faced – it’s as if the soul must continually fight off a self-replicating virus that seeks to undo any efforts to reconnect the mind-body-spirit interfacing. The virus must be eradicated, through a conscious process of acknowledging and releasing, so that natural healing has a supportive mental and emotional environment in which to work its magic.

Trauma experiences can also be ‘trapped’ in the physical body in the form of unexpressed emotional energy. There are great successes with therapies that involve movement, from yoga to dancing, to more personalized movements that allow someone to return to their fearful memories with physical empowerment and liberation, clearing out the emotional energy through free physical expression. There is something miraculous in staying fluid at all levels, fluidity of the mind, the emotions, and the body.

In any case of healing from trauma, the greatest recovery is observed when there is conscious, active participation in uncovering and re-discovering the Self, and in the breaking of one’s own chains. The journey out of trauma may have its own special pains and potholes, but the reward of the transcendence is that much greater. Some of our wisest and most emotionally-literate spiritual teachers and life coaches became who they are because of transcending their personal experience with trauma, abuse and neglect. The message is clear – it can be done, and it is worth it.

 

Suggested reading for recovering from trauma and/or an abusive/neglectful childhood:

-Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving, by Pete Walker

-The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma, by Bessel Van Der Kolk

Complex PTSD Link to Anxiety Attacks

What is Complex PTSD and how does it relate to anxiety and panic attacks? Buckle up, because this one may change your life.

The most common features of Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder are emotional flashbacks, toxic shame, self-abandonment, a vicious inner critic and social anxiety. Other characteristics include emotional disregulation, interpersonal turbulence, a tendency to misinterpret reality, catastrophic thinking, black & white thinking, self-destructive or impulsive behavior patterns, addiction and poor impulse control.

Cptsd develops usually from adverse childhood conditions, including physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional neglect and abandonment, and even from the often-overlooked circumstance of simply blatant, ongoing contempt and/or disinterest from caregivers. As the child is deprived of sufficient nurturing, whether he is spoiled or beaten, he is objectified, and not valued as a developing human being. And by this experience of being objectified and devalued, the child’s emotional development is stunted, and his personal boundaries are never allowed to form through healthy trials and safe conflicts. Many children in abusive and adverse settings learn to develop a shell and a false persona, one that is extra careful to avoid triggering the rage and/or rejection of the caretaker. Over time they tend to become hypervigilant, always on alert, and thus drained of energy. The child may become an ingratiating people-pleaser, denying his own needs in a desperate attempt to curry the interest and attention of the people around him. The child may become hypercritical of himself, as a naive child always assumes that love is being withheld because he is not worthy, because he is not loved. This experience ingrains an incredibly toxic inner critic into the mind of the abused/neglected child, who often grows up to become a very anxious, emotionally disregulated adult with porous boundaries, diminished self-esteem, and  – AND – emotional flashbacks that feel and look a lot like what the psychiatric community has been calling “panic attacks”.

In Pete Walker’s outstanding book “Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving” he describes emotional flashbacks:

“Emotional flashbacks are perhaps the most noticeable and characteristic feature of Cptsd. Survivors of traumatizing abandonment are extremely susceptible to painful emotional flashbacks, which unlike ptsd do not typically have a visual component. Emotional flashbacks are sudden and often prolonged regressions to the overwhelming feeling-states of being an abused/abandoned child. These feeling states can include overwhelming fear, shame, alienation, rage, grief and depression. They also include the unnecessary triggering of our fight/flight instincts.”

If this sounds like what you’ve been experiencing, read Pete Walker’s book as it is a wealth of guidance toward full recovery and a solid understanding of the hidden damages that abusive/neglectful parenting can render.

On a personal note, this book helped me tremendously. After years of trying it all I can confidently say that I don’t think there is any amount of meditating or praying or imagining forgiveness that one could do and even come close to resolving childhood trauma issues and the lingering effects. Facing the root of a problem is the only way to transcend it. Facing the root cause of my “panic attacks” was the only way to truly begin to overcome them. Now I know that they are emotional flashbacks driven by a toxic inner voice. Why don’t more psychiatrists know about this? (Oh right, because they want to keep calling it a chemical problem so they can justify prescribing a chemical solution…)

Thankfully we have a few psychologists like Pete Walker who go a bit rogue and start writing a new, better map of the reality of mental health. I vividly saw my childhood in Pete Walker’s book, and saw my parents, and step-parents. Finally, someone had put into words the invisible wounds and scars and saw the unmet needs that went unseen by my own parents, someone finally showed me that I had developed a lot of my self-defeating personality traits in response to my quietly adverse childhood conditions. It made sense why I felt stuck behind a mask and why it was so incredibly hard to take off the mask for good. There was still a relentless toxic critic in my head, setting me up for failure with its brutal script of rejection and humiliation and worthlessness – and just knowing that and seeing it for what IT was – as in, not the real ME – this was the key to breaking the panic attack pattern. Grabbing the reins of that inside voice and making it my most adoring, supportive champion. It’s so simple and yet so life-changing. Read the book and it goes deeply into the dynamics of family relationships and provides a lot of examples to help reveal the dysfunctions that often get normalized or swept under the rug and left to fester like a road block on our path to emotional development. It’s time to clean house and tell our inner child that we are here now, we are in charge now, and we are going to take excellent care of ourselves, starting with the ending the self-abandonment.

Another fantastic resource for Cptsd support is Richard Grannon Spartan Life Coach, he has a website and a youtube channel with lots of free videos discussing Cptsd and recovering from narcissistic abuse, something which Cptsd folks often encounter as they are similarly co-dependent and tend to attract relationships that repeat the dynamic they experienced with a caregiver in childhood.

The best news is that it can be healed, it can be changed, it isn’t a permanent “disorder” in fact it’s more of a response than a disorder, as I’ve heard some comment. We can re-write the scripts and programs that drive this response. We can fully recover. And once we’re there, we can then consider exploring the emotion of forgiveness. Forgiveness toward an abuser is not necessary, and in some cases it is not advisable or healthy. First things first – rescue your inner child. Start there and the rest will unfold for you. Hugs to you all.

-CC

 

 

 

How to Stop A Panic Attack and Release Anxiety

Remember what you already know: All is Mind. All is Mental.

To address a condition like panic attacks or chronic anxiety, we must mentally reign in the runaway mind that has bought into fear and/or false belief systems. First, let’s get centered by taking in some big breaths – inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth. Relax the jaw. Relax the hands.

Remember that all is mind, as you breathe in deeply, slow and steady. Your experience in this moment depends on how you look at the world around you, how you choose to perceive it. Are you driving your thoughts, or is your anxiety?

Be present in this moment, and be with your breath. Take the mental wheel, and say to yourself, “I am safe. I am calm. There is no danger. I am at peace now.”

As you inhale, feel the new, calm energy entering your lungs, and infusing the cells of your body with a gentle, soft lightness. Exhale out all the tension, blowing all the way out, and then inhale again deeply, and slowly. Know that you are breathing in the natural life-force energy that soothes the body and allows you to reset, emotionally and mentally. As you breathe deeply, you are slowing down your heart rate and supplying fresh oxygen to your brain. You are providing a balanced environment for your mind, body and soul to harmonically support one another. Imagine only pure divine loving energy in your body space.

As you continue to slowly inhale and exhale, release all lingering tension in your body.

Allow your mind to get quiet, and still. Turn off any music or tv, if you can. If your mind keeps telling a story about how terrible this day is going, or anything negative, take charge and start re-writing that internal script. It is your life after all! Do you want to feel calm and steady, with clarity and emotional balance? If yes, choose to actively seek that experience. Choose in this moment to think a positive thought – this is your chance to start transforming a panic attack into an empowering lesson, and start re-training the brain to wire itself according to thoughts of hope, serenity, compassion and confidence. You can do it, but you must choose to do so.

Positive thoughts can be as simple as noticing the beauty of a bird in flight, being grateful for a kind person in your life, or mentally going through a wonderfully intricate visualization. Use your imagination to make this your own happy place. There is no right way. The goal of it all is to calm the mind and uplift the spirit, and the absolute quickest way is to tap into our natural resources, which are always with us and always free. When you proceed with the breathing exercise and steer the mind to a quiet place, the panic has no place to exist, and the anxiety evaporates. Both are products of the mind, same as the peace that you feel as you meditate. Steer the mind and you steer the perception of your experience. Choose your experience!

 

WHEN PANIC ATTACKS ARE CHRONIC/SEVERE/DEBILITATING

Speaking from experience, panic attacks can be a mild, temporary condition that disappears for years at a time, or it can just as easily become a (seemingly) permanent figure in life that worsens rapidly and ultimately causes an otherwise healthy person to feel trapped at home and become unable to go out in public without triggering a panic attack. When panic attacks are part of a pattern of repeated triggers and the solution has not yet been found, the internal talk that occurs before, during and after the panic attack is all collectively contributing to a false belief about one’s self. Chronic panic and anxiety, agoraphobia and other similar conditions that disrupt everyday life are best approached with honesty and a search for the root cause of the distress. It is vital that we determine the cause of the discordance, not just learn to avoid a bunch of triggers. Triggers are actually TEACHERS. Are you ready for your lesson? Of course you are, love.

For many people, myself included, being forced to operate outside the authentic self can be a trigger. It is possible to live from behind a mask that gets slowly built over time, and before we realize what we’ve done, our ego has been driving the whole show with little concern for our true wellness, and we start to get sick. We sense a discordance in our body, a feeling that something is off. We are nervous, or more irritable. We are scared, usually, of something that may be illogical, and we simply don’t know how to not feel the fear. It is as though it has been programmed into our mind. There is a correlation worth mentioning here, since I have observed it both in my own healing as well as later reading many accounts of others awakening to this empowering truth – Authenticity is a key to sovereignty, meaning control, over one’s mind, body and emotions. When we are authentic, we are liberated from the mask that the ego-driven life often materializes. When we live authentically we can speak our truth, we can know ourselves, we can trust ourselves. When we understand that All is Mental, we can appreciate what a tremendous gift it is that we are in charge of the mind, and that we can clean things up any moment we are ready and willing to make space for better things.

Triggers are teachers in that they reveal to you quite clearly that something is wrong. Unfortunately many people are too busy and distracted to be in touch with their personal voice of intuition, and they are culturally accustomed to externalizing their power in order to determine the value of things, including themselves. Humans aren’t meant to live every day in a mode of stress, we aren’t meant to feel like we’re in constant competition, we are made to embody relaxation and beauty and confidence, to connect with nature, to show compassion and forgiveness, to be kind and to teach others by our example, not by our judgment or condemnation. Can some slow, deep breaths snap you out of your moment of panic and reset things enough to get you through the day? Sure, and for a time, this is fine. Do face and learn from your experience, because many times a trigger is revealing a deeper imbalance that wants our attention.

We transcend what we face, and that is a beautiful thing.

Peace and blessings to you, sweet soul.  -CC

5 Keys to Starting a Harmonious Day

Thoughts have power!

#1 Waking Thoughts – Have you ever observed what your first thoughts are in the morning? You may find that those initial waking thoughts sound a lot like a to-do list, or maybe they contain a daily rundown of some of the moments you’re dreading that day. Becoming a more conscious driver of your thoughts is the first key to starting a truly harmonious day. Thoughts have power! Each thought is its own little energetic entity, with it’s own vibrational frequency, and every thought affects you, especially those you dwell on. Put your conscious mind on the right track by shifting your waking focus to a positive observation, something you are grateful for; it can be as simple as the sunlight or the softness of your pillow. Try it the next time you wake up – in the first few seconds (or minutes) while you are still in the bed, take your mental focus to something positive and uplifting, perhaps something you are grateful for, and acknowledge it with a mental statement, such as “This is a beautiful day,” or, “I am grateful for my soft pillow.”

#2 Mind-Body Connection – Yoga is an easy way to connect with the breath, soften up any stiffness in the body, and feel balanced and energized. Begin by standing in mountain pose with the hands at the heart. Inhale deeply through the nose, counting up to 8 to 10, holding it for a count of 3, then exhaling everything out for a count of 8 to 10. Do this 3 times. Next, take in a deep, deep inhale and on the exhale vocalize the Ohm sound, letting it resonate throughout the body as the exhale completes. If you are already familiar with yoga, proceed with a sun salutation series, choosing pose variations according to what feels best to you, staying in tune with your breath. If you are new to yoga or prefer a less physical exercise, after the three breath cycles, come to a seated position on the floor with your legs crossed and proceed to number 3…

#3 Intentions and Affirmations – If you haven’t already established for yourself what you most want to get out of this human existence, now is the perfect time to look within and ask. What do I want to be, do or have? What challenges am I facing? Create a list of 5-10 intentions that are direct from the heart and aligned with your authentic self. Statements like “I embody the energy of compassion and acceptance” and “I am balance” send the message to your mind, your body, and your environment that you are driving this experience, and not the ego. Have your written list of intentions within reach of your morning yoga area. Read each one aloud, giving them the calm energy of that conscious, connected state of being. Complete your exhale after saying each intention, and take a new breath before saying the next one.

#4 Water & Lemon – Fill a tall glass with filtered water and two slices of fresh, organic lemon. Switch it up by using sliced lime instead, or by adding a thumb-sized piece of peeled ginger. Drinking water infused with lemon aids in maintaining a healthy alkaline level in the digestive system. Try to get in several glasses of water every day for overall healthy functionality. Avoid unfiltered tap water, and do minimize bottled water consumption. If you don’t already have one, a counter-top tap water filter might be your next favorite thing.

#5 Attitude of Self-Care – Why do we fill our cup first? So that we may overflow onto others. Embrace an attitude of self-care that includes shifting any negative self focus into a perspective of acceptance. Be present with yourself every day, right from the moment you wake up. This is your chance to set the tone and the direction for your experience. Work with what is available to you, and be a witness to your good choices. Put down the electronic device and put on some music that soothes the soul, like the healing sounds of Steven Halpern or Ben Leinbach. Listen to your heart and your body, and show it that you accept it and appreciate how amazing it is. Nourish your body with smart, compassionate eating. Reach for the raw, organic produce and the cold-pressed juices. Shun the sodas, processed foods, and artificial sweeteners. Let go of what isn’t serving you and make the conscious choice to live in harmony with your Higher Self. It’s talking… are you listening?

Have a beautiful, harmonious day!

-CC