Trauma In The Body
Did you know that trauma physically changes the way your brain and body function?
I haven been reading the book "The Body Keeps Score" by Bessel Van Der Kolk and it has been incredibly eye opening.
Trauma is really any experience where your body goes into fight or flight mode, and you aren't able to release or act upon the situation, and your brain and body kind of get stuck.
Parts of your brain start firing as if it is constantly in survival mode, and release hormones that influence your body to also be in fight or flight mode.
PTSD and CPTSD are diseases that come from a single traumatic event, or repeated traumatic events, and usually the people who suffer from these disorders have a very hard time regulating their bodies.
In my case, I have CPTSD. I grew up in an alcoholic household with a narcissistic, codependent parental system. I spent most of my childhood having to guess if my father was in a pleasant mood or not, and flee or fight if he was not. Every day was a fight to survive.
We were taken care of physically, we had a nice home and food in the pantry always, and for that im grateful. But It wasnt until these last couple of generations that people started to realize that while we were being taken care of physically, that is only half the battle. The emotional security that a lot of us didnt get as children has us as adults fighting for our lives, unable to regulate our emotions and our bodies as a result.
I know that emotional literacy was absent in my household. It wasn't until I was out of my family home for nearly two years that I saw the right therapist that helped to teach me how to identify my emotions. I still, 5 years later have to sit down and be very conscious about what emotion I am feeling in the moment.
When it comes to trauma in the body, often times we have to learn how to speak the language of our body. We might have spent decades in a survival response, numb to what our emotions and body are telling us. This is a foundational issue, and spiritually can be helped by addressing your root chakra, the lowest chakra in your spinal system. It is responsible for feelings of safety and security.
Often times when we are traumatized people, and faced with something that triggers us, known or unknown, we disassociate. I call this my daydream land. When I am faced with conflict, my mind immediately disassociates, I start playing a random song, and all thoughts and feelings are gone. This was my bodies way of keeping my mind safe when I was a youngster and being verbally abused by my father for leaving XYZ around the house.
I have been out of my home for 7 years and have done a lot of work to learn about what happened to me. It takes a lot of work to figure this stuff out, and is definitely part of the process, but until you start to physically move this trauma out of your body, it will continue to follow you around. It's trapped in your spine and joints, literally.
The first step to getting it out of your body is to be mindful of your body and emotions. When something triggering happens, just start to notice how your body feels. Do you tense up in one specific area? Do you have areas in your body where no matter how hard you stretch or strengthen, theres a tension you cant quite shake? How about an internal issue such as IBS, or anxiety that doctors cant quite figure out the source of? Any intrusive thoughts or feelings that are disproportionate to the situation at hand? All of these are indicators that you have trauma stored in your body.
Okay now you know you have trauma stored in your body, what do you do now? The first step is awareness, and you should be proud of yourself for noticing. The next step is to change your patterns. Learn how to self soothe. Engage the 5 senses to bring your body out of a fight or flight response. A soft blanket, a fidget toy, placing something cold on your chest. Your Vagus nerve is a major nerve system that runs from your neck down the front of your body, and if you put an icepack on your neck and chest, it stimulates the Vagus nerve and causes your entire body to relax. When you notice that you are disassociating, or going into a trauma response, try one of these methods listed above, or even google a list of other things you can do. There are a lot of people researching and sharing their findings on this topic at the moment.
Above are things you can do in the moment, but the issue will not go away unless you are doing work to get the trauma out of your body when you are not triggered. Doing bilateral movements such as yoga, swimming, and running actually help your brain process trauma and store it in the correct places. When you are moving both sides of your body with intention you are making both sides of your brain work together, which allows your brain to process information with much greater ease.
Yoga is a great place to start if you have no movement practice at the moment. It is welcoming to all body types, and will improve joint function, bone density, and muscle building. All poses can be modified for your skill and body. The key with doing this type of work is to be gentile. You are working on your root, your foundation. You can do a guided root chakra yoga flow, or even a guided root chakra meditation. Grounding meditations work wonders, they help you become more aware of your body, relax your entire body, and you are using the earth to clean your energy, strengthening not only yourself, but the entire energy grid.
Notice where there is tension in your body and spend time stretching and moving in those areas. While you are stretching and moving repeat mantras such as "I am safe, I am secure." Even if it doesn't feel true, you are starting to chisel away at the trauma that is stored in your body. You are safe, you are secure, but there is something blocking you from believing it.
If you spent decades in survival mode, it's going to be a long journey. I know for myself, I have a tendency to be hard on my experience. Like its not going fast enough, but truly the work you are putting into yourself will have astounding ripple effects from the moment you start. Maybe you start doing grounding meditations every day, you might still feel like you arent secure after a week of doing them, but you might feel more calm over all, you might start tapping into your energetic body differently, you might just have a greater sense of awareness of yourself, and those beginning steps are so important and foundational to getting to the version of yourself that you know you can be.
I highly recommend reading the book "The Body Keeps Score" like I mentioned above. The author breaks trauma down on a scientific level and gives real examples of what you can do to get started on your journey beyond what I have shared with you here.
If you are currently on this journey, Im so fucking proud of you and the work you are doing. You're doing an incredible job, and your descendants will be blessed because of the work you are doing now. You're not alone in this, I promise you that.