Lately I’ve been doing a lot of trauma work with clients who didn’t realize they even had any trauma. Most people come to me struggling with anxiety, a relationship, or questioning their career, but pretty soon, we start talking about deeper things. The old pains and past hurts that were never fully healed. Those wounds which seem to elude words are blocked, trapped in the subconscious.
“I don’t know why I feel so upset,” while you cry over something seemingly trivial.
“This isn’t really a big deal, I know that, but I don’t know why I can’t get over it…”
“I have no idea why I get so angry and upset every time he says that to me, it shouldn’t matter,” but it clearly does, a lot. And there’s no logic to it other than… it’s reminding you of a past trauma.
Trauma lives in the body
Trauma gets stored in the body like a DVD stuck on pause, ready to be “played” again whenever something in the present moment, our current life, reminds us in some way of the pain of the past. Why? Because trauma is not stored in the brain like other memory. It doesn’t get filed away into our filing cabinet of autobiographical facts of our life. Instead, it is stored in the body, as emotion, tension, or pain because of our “emotional brain,” or Autonomic Nervous System.
At the height of my C-PTSD symptoms, my dog Buck would send me an external signal that I was having a “body flashback.” Walking around the house, doing my normal things, suddenly Buck would approach me with concern. Whimpering and whining in my face, wondering what’s wrong with his mom. Not realizing at first what my dog already knew, Buck’s behavior actually frightened ME. Then, I would stop and realize: he is responding to fear hormones leaking off me. I’m having a body flashback.
hidden, but still visible
Animals pick up on slight shifts in subconscious and emotional energy. Buck perceived a shift in my psychological state from calm/relaxed (aka “normal”) to afraid/worried (“triggered”). His protective instinct kicked in, whining and circling, to let me know what I couldn’t discern for myself. My sweet dog gave me a perfect feedback loop with which to begin to self-soothe at the early signs of triggering, a crucial intervention for my C-PTSD symptom management.
The first time this happened, my tears were big. Two things hit home, hard:
- This dog really loves me, and
- I’m far more wounded than I realized.
Many of us are stuck in self-destructive patterns in relationships, at work, and we want to move on from them. But, we can’t quite find the “determination,” “willpower,” or “commitment” to do so. What if it’s not a problem of willpower or commitment? What if these chronic problems are a symptom of something deeper, something stuck just out of your reach?
A block can be anything from the past that keeps us from fully living and thriving in the present.
ways to get unblocked from trauma
Clients can safely “reprocess” traumatic memories using a variety of therapy techniques. Many of them access the “emotional brain” of stored memory through body (somatic) & neuroscience strategies. Linking the “emotional brain” to the “thinking brain,” integrates memory and unblocks stored trauma. These theoretical frameworks include:
- Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR)
- Developmental Needs Meeting Strategy (DNMS)
- Somatic Experiencing (SE)
- Trauma Sensitive Yoga (TSY)
- and more
In my experience as both a client and a therapist, I found that a combination of techniques works best. Like all of my therapy practice, I utilize an individualized approach to working with each client. There is no “one size fits all” method to healing trauma. However, my method involves DNMS and somatic techniques on top of a foundation of regular self care, mindfulness meditation, and yoga practice. All within a pre-existing, trusting therapeutic relationship. I don’t jump right into trauma recovery, and I advise clients to be wary of therapists who do that.
unblocked trauma recovery
My unblocking technique typically involves having the client get in touch with a sensation or feeling in the body. After being gently brought into a state of relaxation, using breath work, I invite the client to speak words into the sensation. Describing what it feels like, many clients identify a certain “age” that this sensation feels like. Essentially, they safely revisit that prior point in their life, in a very physical and emotional way.
This “speaking to the wounded part” is an essential piece of trauma recovery therapy. The wounded part of self (ego state theory) delivers a message to the adult recipient. Each client must feel safe and supported in the therapy relationship in order to receive this message and safely process it. The therapist must effectively join with the client emotionally and empathically.
Thus, the client’s hurt is seen, heard, and validated, and finally, released. The trauma no longer lives in the body but has been spoken out loud. It’s in the “real world,” no longer on “pause,” ready to be replayed and wrecking chaos.
Unblocking hidden pain takes time
Healing from trauma, especially complex trauma, is a time-consuming, deliberate process. Often there are many body memories needing to be uncovered and released through multiple DNMS sessions. Unblocking hidden pain and past trauma is hard work. But, it is essential and worthwhile work. Perhaps the most important work of your life.
Unblocking past trauma takes courage, patience, and a significant amount of time, but it is well worth the effort to come out on the other side free of long-held painful core beliefs and frightening emotional memories.Tweet
Personally, my trauma recovery took years. I was unable to commit to a full-dive at the time, due to work and family commitments. I took it in chunks, letting my body lead the way. That is ok. The timeline is different for each person, but it is worth every step of the journey to find that freedom.
is now a good time for unblocking the past?
Many of us work from home, drive less, and no longer travel. As a result, the pandemic time might just be the perfect time to embark on a healing journey. You can even have therapy from the comfort of your own home.
Furthermore, the pandemic also re-traumatizes many people, especially those of us who have past or prior trauma. This is why some people appear to be doing basically fine, while others are struggling tremendously. All of the uncertainty surrounding our current world situation understandably resembles all sorts of past trauma, especially that of childhood. Feeling helpless is a primary trigger for many people today.
Doing therapy during times of heightened emotional triggers actually makes good sense. In these times, our emotions and past pain lurk close to the surface, ready to access. Unblocking work is thus much easier. It takes less time and, since the past pain is already contributing to current problems, it alleviates current difficulties as well.
help is here
If you feel you might be struggling with trauma, unresolved pain from the past, or ongoing depression, anxiety, or hopelessness, reach out for help. There are many highly skilled therapists and coaches available to help guide you through this tough time. You can search for a therapist in your area by visiting PsychologyToday.com and using their “Therapist Directory,” where you can search by specialty, insurance, and other qualities you desire in a therapist. It’s so important that you feel safe and comfortable with the professional you choose as a guide for this highly personal journey.
While unblocking work is an individual process which takes an indeterminate amount of time, for some clients, the relief is instant and lasting. Even just one session of trauma recovery therapy can unlock your truth, and potential you didn’t even realize you were hiding away in the name of self-protection.
Trauma exists because of an incredibly resilient trait of humanity. The ability to utilize the Autonomic Nervous System in times of overwhelming perceived danger is truly remarkable. We all cope how we need to, at the time we were exposed to something terrible. And, it’s amazing and beautiful that we survived in whatever creative way we did. But the danger is past. It is over.
Let’s get unblocked. Release the trauma. Move on from that “stuck” DVD of painful memories, and live the life you were meant to live. You don’t have to keep repeating these same debilitating patterns, unaware of why you do what you do. We all deserve to live our best life.
Don’t let the pain of the past keep you from fulfilling your potential.