Have you ever wondered if there is some causal thread that weaves its way through various illnesses and neuroses, a thread that if pulled could unravel a great swatch of unnecessary pain and suffering? Judith L. Herman’s book Trauma and Recovery clearly exposes the thread that entwines addiction, neurosis, anxiety, depression, hyper-vigilance, and relationship problems. It is trauma.
After working for years with NLP, hypnosis, and shamanic techniques, I found that most people suffer from more traumas and traumatic conflicts than they’re aware of. In fact, trauma was a factor most of my clients shared in common. (In shamanism, many of the indigenous healing methods deal with trauma, albeit couching it in more poetic terms–soul retrieval, curse unraveling, depossessions.) Traumas can be dramatic or subtle, cultural or universal.
We are traumatized whenever our sense of well-being is stomped on, our relationship in a group threatened, or our bodies and emotions attacked. Traumas live on repressed in our bodies long after the events have passed–in our psyche, in our central nervous system, in our muscles. They either re-enact themselves or restrict our lives through visceral fear. Their effect on our entire organism is one of the major causes of disease and the annihilation of relationships.
In Waking The Tiger: Healing Trauma, Peter Levine says, “Trauma is like a straightjacket that binds the mind and body in frozen fear. Pardoxically, it is also a portal that can lead us to awakening and freedom.” Transforming trauma requires the fusing of the energy frozen in the body with its opposite energy. This is done by focusing our attention on feelings, thoughts, and behaviors that plague us now, and then shifting our attention to other areas of the body or mind that are calm, feel good, and provide support. This cannot be understood intellectually–trauma transformation must be experienced to be understood. When extraordinary things have happened to us, we must do extraordinary things to heal ourselves–like learning how to hear our bodies talk to us and guide us into the healing, or what Levine calls “goodness.”
Somatic Experiencing (SE) is the therapy and training program that Levine developed from his decades of research. SE provides an innovative and efficient method for transforming trauma’s frozen energies through the felt senses of the body. This experience impacts the entire organism in a wonderful way and pulls out the thread of so many illnesses and complaints.
Here are a few sentences from Levine’s book: “If you are experiencing strange symptoms that no one seems able to explain, they could be arising from a traumatic reaction to a past event that you may not even remember. You are not alone. You are not crazy. There is a rational explanation for what is happening to you. You have not been irreversibly damaged, and it is possible to diminish or even eliminate your symptoms.”
Levine goes on to propose that many conditions for which we seek therapy or medical help are all about trauma and the transformation of energy. This is big news for most people who are accustomed to talk therapy and allopathic medicine–a shift we need to make.
Five Types of Trauma
There are five basic types of trauma:
- Physical Trauma ~ accidents, surgery, anesthesia, assaults, torture, war, animal attacks, near drowning.
- Emotional Trauma ~ abandonment, neglect, ridicule, encroachment.
- Sexual Trauma ~ rape, molestation, sexual abuse.
- Developmental Trauma ~ a prolonged sense of feeling unsafe in one’s world during childhood.
- Generational Trauma ~ sharing in the pain of traumas passed down through the family.
With traumas we may experience alarming flashbacks, sudden panic, or continuing feelings of sadness and anxiety. In many cases, we may feel shame. We may look to drugs or alcohol to ease our pain. The good news is that many members of the healing community are learning more effective ways of healing all forms of trauma.
Moving Forward with Trauma Healing
If you want to explore the area of trauma healing for yourself or a loved one, look over the recommended reading and links in this site. One thing we do know about trauma–it does not heal itself. It may quiet down for awhile, but then it will leap forward and take over your life again. Getting help is necessary if you want to live a life worth living.
Family Constellations, developed by Bert Hellinger, is an excellent method for dealing with Generational Traumas. This technique works at a very deep level with traumas that have been passed down through the family from parents, grandparents, and ancestors.
In Somatic Experiencing, slow is fast. Trust yourself to do what makes sense to you without overwhelming yourself. The first rule of trauma healing is to move only as fast as your entire organism is prepared to move without being overwhelmed. The experience of being overwhelmed circumvents any effort to transform traumatic energies in your system. This therapy is gentle, soft, and avoids the dangers of retraumatization that can happen in so many other trauma therapies.