Building Resilience: Trauma & Overwhelm
Girls and women experience objectification from a young age. Sexualized trauma happens overtly and on subtle levels. Between the age of 7 and 11 girls begin to hold their bodies differently. In clinic, my female patients share stories of sexual assault. Our culture still minimizes abuse of all kinds. This compounds the trauma and can make it difficult to find the right support. Trauma changes us but does not have to rule us. Compassion is central to healing. Trauma gets stored in the body so body-centered or somatic therapies help to build resilience.
“You Can’t Rush Your Healing. Darkness has it’s teaching. Love is never leaving. ” Trevor Hall
When the time is right, try thanking your body for how hard it works. Protection is wired into our physiology. The hippocampus calms the alarm system that is triggered after trauma. Our parasympathetic system seeks ways to calm, connect and digest the experience. The hormonal system finds way to adapt to the added load of stressors as we orient to a new reality.
Chaos, Fatigue & Withdrawal
As humans we tend to replay events in an attempt to make sense of them. This often happens in a disordered way. Abstract expression through expressive arts provides a safe place. There is an internal chaos that is physiological. We feel less comfortable being close to people. The flight or fight response is continually activated. It is difficult to rest. Sleep can be disrupted. Fatigue becomes common. Making good decisions is not easy. Understanding the cycle of trauma can be the ground of generating compassion for both yourself and others.
Comforting the Brain
There are many ways people self-soothe. We seek ways to self-regulate. Eating is a way to bring the body down from the sympathetic response of fight, flight and freeze. Dopamine & serotonin are in higher demand after psychological trauma. Cravings for very sweet, salty and higher fat can’t go on long without contributing to further dysregulation. This is how addiction and trauma become closely linked.
Resolution through Movement & Muscle
Activating the parasympathetic nervous system through movement has a powerful regulatory effect. This type of expression calms the amygdala which is the center for fear and anger. Physiology can change psychology. Building strength calms the brain. We feel more prepared to deal with what life brings. It helps us access our resiliency. Deep rest becomes more possible after movement and expression. This is where more repair can happen.
The Age of Overwhelm
Anxiety and overwhelm are becoming part of most peoples everyday life. When a major traumatic event occurs under these circumstances it is much harder to recover. How can we reclaim ourselves after a major trauma? If our allostatic load is high enough then a minor aggression can be the straw that tips the scale. Hopeless or helpless feelings do not need to become the norm. Trust in life can be reestablished.
New experiences of being seen, understood and accepted can happen in a therapeutic relationship. The tools that are gained by embarking on the path to wholeness can bring a fullness to life that wasn’t there before. We get to know ourselves in a deeper way. It isn’t an easy journey but it is absolutely worth it.
The Body Brings Us Home
Somatic means body. Somatic meditation describes inhabiting our bodies in a way that allows whatever is there to be held. Stillness creates the foundation for stability. This foundation gives rise to whatever wants to emerge. The stability allows us to feel what could not be felt during the actual traumatic event. We don’t need to dig for this or even have a story around it. The body simply knows when it’s time and we may find ourselves shaking, crying or sighing. This is resolution. There are often many layers to it. Noticing the numbness or disconnection is part of it.
Be Kind, Be Flexible
Occasionally sitting practice is not possible. A long time meditator came to me yesterday as a patient. He has been in chronic pain that is worsening. For him, a break from meditation was necessary. People find their way into meditation through gardening, walking, and movement practices. However, seated meditation offers something unique. The stillness connects you to a loving presence that is intrinsic. This has a quality of coming home. Home is a place where you are welcome no matter what has happened.