BEYOND TRAUMA & CHRONIC STRESS
EFFECTS OF TRAUMA
“When you shut down emotion, you’re also affecting your immune system. So the repression of the emotion, which is a survival strategy, then becomes a source of physiological illness later on.“
The physiological, psychological and neurobiological effects arising from trauma are evidenced in varying forms of addiction, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, phobias, and autoimmune diseases. It has now become increasingly apparent that autoimmune syndromes such as chronic fatigue, ross river virus, balmer forest virus and fibro-myalgia, even parkinson's disease and some forms of migraine - conditions that can leave the sufferers wracked with pain, are connected with chronically dysregulated nervous systems.
"If you cannot accept what is outside, then accept what is inside. If you cannot accept the external condition, accept the internal condition. This means: Do not resist the pain. Allow it to be there. Surrender to the grief, despair, fear, loneliness, or whatever form this suffering takes. Witness it without labelling it mentally. Embrace it. Then see how the miracle of surrender transmutes deep suffering into deep peace. This is your crucifixion. Let it become your resurrection and ascension."
Dr Peter Levine, the founder of Somatic Experiencing®, speaks about running toward the roar of the lion rather than away from it. In the African savannah the lions position themselves so that their bellowing roar will drive the prey toward the strategically positioned and fierce lionesses. Dr Levine is metaphorically addressing the healing of vehement emotions and psychological distress by experiencing with awareness the psycho/physical pain. Avoidance of emotional pain leads to the continuance of disembodied states, which in turn lead to defence mechanisms/survival strategies persisting in ever-day life, unabated. Experiencing the force of a painful memory can tip the sufferer back into dissociation or heightened anxiety. However, with professional support and in the modulating presence of another regulated nervous system, healing becomes possible.
PTSD & TRAUMA
"Traumatic symptoms are not caused by the event itself.
They arise when residual energy from the experience is not discharged from the body"
I worked with numerous war veterans suffering from PTSD at a Veteran's Private Hospital, 25 years ago. I remember on this one occasion I observed an elderly man sitting on his bed which he had just made. He was fully dressed, his right foot impatiently tapped the ground - alerted to his impatience I fell silent. At 97 years old and living independently, he was keen to be discharged and return home. Sitting there on the bed with me he started to share his experience of fighting in Gallipoli. His words described the horror of fellow soldiers lying wounded and dying - his eyes flickered far from the present. He grew more emotional as he re-lived his ordeal, being the only surviving soldier of the battle. It was because of his horse, his life had been spared - an intensely emotional moment as he shared this memory. This experience was still present as if the events he described from 80 years ago had occurred yesterday. With the impact of this understanding, I resolved to understand better how to bring healing to those affected by such deeply distressing experiences. I have since learned that this is an important factor to understand when resolving chronic trauma. That while the actual event occurred a long time ago the impact remains in the body and psyche as fresh as the day of the incident.
"Trauma is the failure to be in the here and now"
Bessel Van Der Kolk
Over the years I have observed that repetitive speaking about disturbing/overwhelming experiences, may serve to consolidate the neurobiological structures that sustain inner distress and fortify the emergence of chronic syndromes.
Advancements in science are bringing forth evidence that mindful and somatic based therapies deliver a potent shift and realignment to well-being and mental equilibrium.
Where there is disconnection from the body, there is often a history of trauma, abandonment or rejection. Trauma occurs when there has been the experience of something overwhelming, perhaps the situation provoked helplessness, or maybe boundaries were transgressed. The disembodied state that ensues from the impact of trauma leads to a disconnection not only from what is painful or debilitating, but also from the good; that pertaining to beauty, wonder and joy.
After an experience of a traumatic event or events, and where the effect remains stuck in the body, those suffering manage their inner disturbance by avoiding ‘the felt sense’. That is, there is ‘zoning out’ or constant mental activity - a working out of ways to manage or avoid situations that are possible triggers for vehement emotions and virulent thoughts.
Neuroscience has demonstrated through fMRI ‘s, the brain can be changed - neuroplasticity. Scientific based studies demonstrate clearly that trauma responses which remain stuck in the body after a terrifying event or on-going abuse, can be released in a supported way. The trauma is renegotiated and parts of the brain that have been shutdown will come on-line with the activation of new neural pathways.
This transformation enables the possibility of new perspectives, vitality, spontaneity - where creativity and innovation can thrive and a deepening of authentic connection to self, others and the whole can unfold.