Healing childhood trauma is a process of acknowledging and addressing the emotional wounds that were formed in childhood. These wounds may be a result of sexual and physical abuse, emotional neglect, or other adverse childhood experiences that may be more subtle. When left unaddressed, childhood trauma can manifest in various ways in adulthood, including physical and mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and addiction. Healing childhood trauma involves recognizing the impact that the past has on the present, developing self-awareness, and building resilience to move forward with a healthier perspective. This is a journey that starts in our nervous system. It is a journey that requires courage, patience, and support from trusted individuals and professionals.
How Childhood Trauma Can Haunt Us: The Impact on Mental, Physical, and Relational Well-being
Here's a detailed list of how childhood trauma can impact us as adults:
Mental Health Problems: Experiencing childhood trauma increases the risk of developing mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, and substance abuse. These conditions can be debilitating and can affect every aspect of a person's life.
Physical Health Problems: Childhood trauma has been linked to a variety of physical health issues, including chronic pain, autoimmune disorders, cardiovascular disease, and obesity. The stress of trauma can also lead to changes in brain chemistry and an overactive stress response, which can further contribute to physical health problems.
Relationship Difficulties: Childhood trauma can make it challenging to form and maintain healthy relationships as an adult. It can lead to attachment issues, social isolation, and difficulties with intimacy. Trauma survivors may struggle with trust, communication, and emotional regulation in relationships.
Behavioral Problems: Childhood trauma can lead to a range of behavioral problems, including aggression, impulsivity, and self-destructive behavior. These behaviors may be coping mechanisms for dealing with trauma and can interfere with daily life and relationships.
Cognitive Problems: Childhood trauma can also affect cognitive development, leading to problems with attention, memory, and learning. Trauma can cause changes in brain structure and function, which can impact cognitive abilities and academic or professional success.
The Spectrum of Sensitivity: Understanding Trauma as an Intelligent Survival Response
The complexities of trauma run deep, beyond just the events that occurred. It is not something that simply happens to us, but rather a deeply intertwined response that involves our physical, physiological, emotional, and spiritual aspects. Trauma is as much a part of our inner being as our very existence. It is a dynamic survival response that operates on a spectrum of sensitivity and is inherently individual, intelligent, and internal. Integrating trauma is key, as we cannot make it disappear. Its unique and personal nature is also influenced by a variety of external factors, including our cultural background, ancestry, and social environment. Understanding the complexity of trauma is the first step towards healing and growth.
Our trauma response is a deeply ingrained survival mechanism that is designed to keep us alive. However, when our trauma response becomes involuntary, rigid and inflexible, it can pose a problem. As we age and mature, our responses to life events need to be as fluid as we are. When we find ourselves responding to situations as we would have at a much younger age, it may be a sign that our trauma response is no longer serving us. Understanding our trauma responses and learning to integrate them can help us to navigate life's challenges with greater ease and resilience.
Healing Our Body: Unlocking the Key to Overcoming Trauma
Understanding ourselves based on what is happening inside us rather than what has happened to us is crucial. We can have similar life experiences, but how we respond to them varies widely based on our individual perspective and internalized beliefs. For instance, being raised by a grandparent may be perceived as rejection by one person, while it may be seen as a bond to ancestors by another person from a different cultural background. Therefore, assumptions and judgments should be avoided, and we must focus on feeling the truth of our own experiences
Consider a person with a unique trauma response that involves emotional avoidance and a tendency to retreat from the body, the world, leading them to feel deeply alone and isolated. This response may have kept them safe when they were younger, such as growing up in a violent family or being scolded for expressing emotions. However, as an adult, this response can lead to a sense of disconnection and loneliness. Despite this, the response remains automatic and unconscious. What steps can be taken next to address this response and heal from the trauma?
Embracing Our Unique Trauma Responses: A Path to Integration and Acceptance
First, we need to build awareness of our dissociation response, our triggers, accept and allow it to be the focus of our healing. We can then begin to develop a new relationship with this response, such as emotional avoidance or desensitization, and understand it as a super skill that once kept us safe. In order to become more emotionally available, we must first establish a sense of safety and cultivate a slower pace of life that allows us to tune into our body and emotions in a more healthy manner. Somatic integration can help us create safety in our lives by developing our capacity to sense and feel our bodies. Through this process, we learn to recognize when we are in a state of stress or anxiety, and to bring ourselves back into a state of calm and balance. Somatic integration also helps us slow down and create space for ourselves, by bringing our attention to our body sensations and the present moment. This helps us to become more emotionally available, and to develop healthier ways of experiencing and expressing our emotions. By integrating our somatic experiences with our cognitive and emotional experiences, we can create a more holistic and integrated sense of self, leading to greater self-awareness, self-regulation, and resilience in the face of stress and trauma.
Reaching the Breaking Point: Recognizing the Signs of Ignoring Our Internal Landscape
It's common for individuals to only start exploring their inner world when they reach a breaking point, feeling like they can no longer cope with their circumstances. This may manifest in different ways, such as chronic physical ailments, anxiety, depression, or repeated negative patterns in their life. They may have tried various external solutions, such as medications, therapy, or self-help books, but have yet to find relief. This is often when individuals turn to somatic healing and therapy, as a last resort, realizing that they need to address the root causes of their suffering, which are often stored in the body. Somatic therapy can help individuals tap into their body's wisdom and re-establish a connection between their physical, emotional, and mental states. It offers a safe and non-judgmental space to explore and integrate their past experiences, emotions, and beliefs. The goal is to create a new relationship with themselves, their inner world, and their surroundings.
Shut down (flight) - Fleeing from themselves, Avoiding their own emotions
We often only examine our internal landscape when we can't take any more. It's usually when we're desperate, feeling like nothing has helped. We can shut down (flight) - fleeing from ourselves and avoiding our own emotions. This can make life seem to stop, with a pervading feeling of numbness and disconnection, or an inability to really connect with others or even our own children. We watch people laughing and wonder why we don't feel the same joy. Sometimes we act to pretend it's there, but it never quite feels real to us. Our body doesn't seem to be with us, and our emotional responses are buried and suppressed. We live life from our minds, intellectualizing every move.
Explosion (fight) - Fighting themselves, internally battling, polarising
On the other hand, we can explode (fight) - fighting ourselves and internally battling, polarizing. Life can become unpredictable, feeling like a series of blows to the stomach. It's one thing after the other, a loss, a failure, an insurmountable challenge, a stuckness that won't shift. There's an inability to cope with what feels like a mountain of stuff. We feel like we need change but don't know how to get it. Emotional responses are usually outbursts that then create further explosions leading to illness.
Unlocking the Healing Power of the Body-Emotion Connection with Somatic Therapy
Somatic therapy and healing works with the physical and emotional realms of a person's lived experience, including the obvious and subtle, the seen and unseen, and even the known and unknown. The unknown aspects are those yet to be revealed through the mind but vibrate in the nervous system and energy body.
At a physical level, somatic therapists focus on attending to basic spinal integrity, fluid flow, and organ vitality to bring the body back into balance. They work to reintegrate sympathetic charge so that it does not become overwhelming and trigger the fight or flight response. Therapists may use their hands to facilitate vertebrae that may be restricted, lengthen compressed fascia, restore proper movement to bones, release nerve impingements, and more. While physical touch is only one aspect of somatic therapy, it can be powerful in addressing physical manifestations of trauma.
There is always an emotional component held in the physical patterns of the body. Through somatic therapy, clients are brought into a space where they can feel and connect with previously inaccessible emotions, allowing them to regain a lost sense of connection with their emotional world. By bringing in the emotions, which may include fear, grief, sadness, anger, and more, a new relationship can be established with them.
Rather than trying to wish away feelings of hopelessness, for example, somatic therapy allows clients to become aware of how they relate to the feeling. They may hold it tight and bring it in every time they face a tough challenge at work, or it may relate to something a teacher told them when they were young. The feeling of hopelessness cannot simply disappear, but changing one's relationship with it can transform it into a superpower. Through this shift, hopelessness can become a pathway to other feelings such as hope, self-belief, and empowerment.
By developing a new relationship with their trauma responses, clients can learn to integrate them and live with greater ease and resilience.
Reconnect with Yourself: Join Our Healing Dissociation Course Today
Do you feel disconnected from your emotions and your body? Do you struggle to form meaningful connections with others? If so, you may be experiencing dissociation. Dissociation is a common response to trauma that can leave us feeling numb, disconnected, and overwhelmed. But healing is possible.
Our Healing Dissociation Course is designed to help you reconnect with yourself and reclaim your life. Led by a skilled somatic therapist and healer, our 8-week online course will guide you through a series of somatic exercises and practices that will help you release the patterns of dissociation that are holding you back. This course is also for practitioners who want to learn how to work more deeply to support and reintegrate the dissociation reflex in clients.
You will discover how to integrate your trauma responses in a healthy and empowering way, so that you can live a life that feels more authentic, connected, and joyful.
Don't let dissociation keep you from living the life you deserve. Join our Healing Dissociation Course today and start your journey towards greater wholeness and healing.