THE BODY AND TRAUMA
I feel it is important to talk about trauma energy because of its pervasiveness and because it is very possible that as you are taking this course or going through your healing process and practices you will encounter something that triggers a trauma memory in your body. I invite you to remember that every time a trauma memory gets triggered in the body, that is an opportunity for deep healing.
When trauma energy is triggered, the brain is picking up on some stimulus that it associates with a traumatic event from the past. To your brain, the stimulus equals something that endangers your body’s well-being or ability to survive, so it shifts gears and activates the sympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic state of arousal then responds with either a fight, flight, or freeze strategy to deal with the trauma trigger of feeling unsafe.
When your body goes into fight or flight survival mode, a couple things happen that are helpful to keep in mind. The brain control switches from the prefrontal cortex zone of rational thought and cognition to the amygdala zone of primal animal survival. That means you won’t be thinking clearly. You’ll be hyper alert and subconsciously aware of a million, tiny details of your surroundings, but your body will be responding to these stimuli without thinking.
The body may feel like it is on autopilot and you can’t control it. This is actually helpful in a true life or death situation in which you literally don’t have time to think. When you’re in a circumstance in which pausing to think could cost you your life, your body’s amazing subconscious powerhouse needs to take over and get things done fast. But when you’re just trying to live your life - like maybe making yourself a cup of tea at home - and unresolved trauma suddenly gets triggered, it can feel frustrating to say the least.
When the trigger hits, you may suddenly be filled with anger (the energy of fight), fear (the energy of flight), or shock (the energy of freeze.) Your breath becomes fast and shallow. Blood and energy rushes from your brain and organs to your major muscle groups for said fighting or fleeing, which means less for the brain and less for fine motor skills. You may feel like you’re fumbling both mentally and physically and that is absolutely the case.
Not incidentally, when your body is in the sympathetic mode of fight or flight, it is not only unable to think clearly, it is also unable to properly digest food, rest, relax, sleep, or heal. For those crucial functions to happen, it must switch out of survival mode and into the parasympathetic mode of rest and digest.
Both the sympathetic and parasympathetic modes are helpful. Once you understand them a bit more and how they work, you can be aware of what state you are in and consciously make a shift.
Yes, you can consciously make a shift, which is is essential for your healing, because much of our modern way of life increases the stress under which our bodies are operating under. The electronic devices that surround us, the numerous electromagnetic fields in our environment that disturb our bodies’ natural biofields, the tremendous amount of violence we are exposed to through our entertainment choices, and the constant bombardment of advertising designed to be jarringly loud and bright are but a few of the many things that place additional stress on our bodies by triggering sympathetic nervous system arousal and thereby keeping us in a low-grade state of survival energy almost all day long.
I say this not to induce feelings of overwhelm or despair, but to illustrate that there could be a very sane reason why you might feel crazy. When your body and brain don’t get enough quality parasympathetic time, it can lead to innumerable health issues, both mental and physical.
In my personal and professional practice, I have seen trauma energies at the root cause of almost every major challenge people are facing - stress, anxiety, depression, fear of intimacy, addiction, self-destructive behaviors, mistrust of self and others, blocks to giving and receiving love and support, even chronic physical pain and fatigue. And I’ve found that if we get curious and look deeply into the causes of what shows up on the surface level as these diverse symptoms, we tend to see that beneath it all is some unresolved trauma, usually compounded through a combination of inherited traits and social conditioning.
Can you see how many of the symptoms listed above could be ways to manage and cope with trauma? Can you see how those symptoms could be based on beliefs about what we must do to stay safe and avoid more trauma, pain, and suffering? And can you sense that there might be alternative ways to do this?