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