It’s very tempting, when you have been through an awful experience, to want to just push it as far away from you as possible and try to get on with your life. This can also be a survival mechanism for a fair while until you are ready to face and process what you have been through…but it can end up being a way of life. Most of this article will be talking about the affect of trauma, but it feels important to me to point out that traumas don’t have to be the ‘big’ ovbious things, like abuse or rape or violent attacks. Operations, illnesses and accidents can have a traumatising affect on us. As a child, having an alcoholic parent is traumatising. Having a care-giver who neglects us, or tells us we are useless or too thin/fat/ugly/dumb etc. is also traumatic. Just having someone we love shout at us in anger can be very traumatic to a child…after all…if our parents don’t appear to love us it could literally be a survival issue if we risk being left to fend for ourselves. So even if you don’t feel you have experienced trauma please read on.
When something ‘too big’ has happened to us in life, whatever that thing is, we tend to numb for a while. We go into a shock state that gives us time to carry on functioning in life while we try to catch our balance again. It gives us space until we are ready to go back into our body and be with what we experienced at a physical, mental, emotional and spiritual level. Ideally that will happen fairly soon after the disturbing event.
At times though, this numb space can end up staying active in us for a very very long time. In my own journey I went into a very dissociated place for about 17 years! I appeared to be OK and functioning to people on the outside but I wasn’t in a good way at all on the inside….though in honesty I was so detached from my body and my feelings that I wasn’t even aware of that fact.
The thing that strongly strikes me in the time that I have been doing trauma work and healing is how deeply our mind can protect us from the reality of a traumatic experience. For example, after I was raped I had taken to carrying a knife with me…but I couldn’t let myself realise that I was doing that because I’d been raped and I was terrified. I also couldn’t kneel down for years due to the damage that had been done to my knees and legs during the attack…but again I couldn’t let myself realise that at a conscious level, it was as if I just accepted I couldn’t kneel but didn’t even question why properly. We can keep the true horror of our experiences far away from us…usually by fragmenting our mind/soul. Of course I am not meaning to imply that this is a choice we consciously make. We don’t. It is a survival mechanism that is wired into our mind/body system and it operates to keep us sane and safe.
At some point though, the trauma starts to try and surface. It is wanting acknowledgement and healing. The memories stored in our bodys and minds are wanting to come to light to be seen, felt, understood, released and the experience filed away in a different part of the brain that understands that the experience is now over and in the past.
If we are very lucky we will have a good and wise therapist or friend who is experienced in trauma work there to help us go through that process…but for a lot of us that person isn’t there. In fact we can be in positions where we don’t have anyone at all that we can talk to. This makes it easier for us to want to numb out and suppress what we are feeling all the more. We might find our drug use or alcohol use or food use increasing as we try to use these things to push our experience and anxiety feelings back down. It is very hard to feel out of control or as though our nervous system and feelings have a life of their own that we can’t control.
So, what then? I feel at those times when the trauma is coming up for healing it is very important to be gentle and kind with ourselves and to seek out someone we can trust to talk with. Again, ideally, if you have the money or the health services in your country, finding someone with personal experience in the trauma healing journey and therapeutic experience in helping others through that journey would be very very helpful.
Dealing with trauma can be terrifying. Having a strong person with you who can hold the space for you and support you in going through your own healing process is so needed! Someone who can help you keep one foot in the trauma and one foot out of it in your own strength so that you can face and feel things without becoming overwhelmed or retraumatising yourself.
When we feel how hard this can be it can be so very tempting to just take drugs (prescription or otherwise) to numb things and keep running from the experiences inside us.
So, why heal? Why not just numb and try to feel ok? Why go through that pain of revisiting an awful experience? When trauma isn’t dealt with the charge of it, and all the feeling and memories from it are still deeply held within us. When it is still stored in the subconscious it can be shaping our daily reality without us even being aware of it. In the worst cases it can be putting us into dangerous situations where we might reexperience something similar. The vibration of the attack energy in us can bring similar energy to it. Also it takes up SO much energy to hold trauma back. It is tiring. When we are not fully aware of our experiences and the effect it has upon us and our behaviour it is very easy to misread situations and overreact to experiences, sometimes harming other people who don’t deserve it.
When unresolved trauma is still active in our systems it stops us from being able to live a truly fulfilling life as it is affecting our behaviour and holds us back.
Starting to gently and compassionately face and process what we have experienced can free us up, free our energy and give us the chance to truly live again and live to our highest potentials.
Though the urge to numb can be very strong (and at times does need to be done to protect our systems from too much extreme overwhelm) taking the decision to heal can give us the chance to take our power back and to start living life on our own terms again with a stronger sense of who we are and the gifts we have to bring here.
Not an easy journey….but the rewards are so deeply valuable and will help in your connection and compassion to all other beings.