Trauma is an injury to our mind, body, and spirit. It's quite evident that trauma can change the way we process emotions, the state of our mind, and our mental functioning. However, many are not aware of just how much trauma impacts our physiology. When we undergo trauma, it causes changes to the structure of our brain, cellular performance, epigenetic expression, hormone and neurological balance. Most of us associate trauma with extreme tragedies, such as war, abuse, natural disasters, etc. These are indeed quite obviously traumatic. However, there are other forms of trauma often referred to as "little 't' traumas" that have impacted or will impact all of us at some point. These could include traumatic experiences such as being raised in a dysfunctional home, growing up with a parent who struggled with addiction, managing a chronic illness, experiencing loss, etc.
When we undergo trauma, whether the experience was a major or minor traumatic experience, it can manifest in physical ways. It may show up as a dysregulated autonomic nervous system, which has the capacity to impact digestion, sleep, heart rate, blood pressure, sensitivity to noise, and more. Trauma may also show up as chronic pain, inflammation and autoimmunity, poor immune function, and even memory loss. When left to our own devices, traumatic events and the injuries they inflected often go unresolved, as most of us were not taught how to cope, express, and heal our emotional pain in a healthy way. When left unresolved, trauma has a way of activating genes related to chronic illness, and down regulating those needed to promoted health and longevity. This means that our bodies are beautifully designed in such a way that they were not meant to carry unresolved pain and trapped emotions, but to heal, release, and transform pain. This motivates us to go on a very challenging but deeply meaningful healing journey. A great resource to learn more about the physical manifestations of trauma is the book, The Body Keeps the Score, by Bessel van der Kolk.
Unresolved trauma has a way of creeping into our relationship dynamics, causing us to be triggered by actions and responses of others, as trauma can shape our perception and change our view of ourselves, others, and situations. This might look like expressing rage when your spouse does not unload the dishwasher like you asked, as it give you a familiar feeling from childhood of not being heard or feeling unimportant. Or shutting down when confronted over a mistake you made, because a traumatic experienced led to a belief that you are not good enough. Or mimicking the detrimental behaviors we witnessed growing, because we may believe that our "normal" is the only option by which we can exist. Most of these responses are deeply rooted in subconscious beliefs that were shaped by our traumatic experiences. Therefore, it can be challenging to identify where the trigger is coming from. Triggers are reactions that may not line up with the severity of the current experience, but feel very real and severe.. They cause us to revisit a familiar feeling we experienced when we were undergoing trauma, and this is very real in our body and mind. Your muscle memory may kick in, taking your body back to the same painful traumatic moment. Your nervous system kicks into fight or flight mode, causing you to either shut down and silently walk away or burst into rage/an intense emotion.
Neither one of these responses are healthy to ourselves and others, as the fight response causes a lot of hurt and confusion in our relationships, and the flight response may cause hurt as well as suppression of emotions - further allowing the emotions to manifest in our bodies as they have not had an opportunity to be expressed in a a healthy way. This is where mind-body tools can be a huge support to unlearn these often subconscious responses and rewire our biology and mind. Mind-body tools will allow us to become aware of our triggers, responses, and pour healing into the areas of pain that are hijacking our brain and damaging our health and relationships.
Trauma has a way of marking us, changing our biology and shifting our mental state. But it also has a beautiful way of shaping our character, strengthening us, and building internal resiliency. In many ways it has a tendency to allow us to serve others in meaningful ways. Healing from trauma has a way of bringing us together with community as we unpack its complexities, grow, and support each other by challenging belief systems that tend to keep us stuck, and comforting/supporting others in their healing journey. Neuroscience studies have even revealed that helping others who are going through challenges while we are depressed or struggling ourselves actually has the capacity to increase feel-good neurotransmitters, shifting our chemistry toward a more balanced state. This shows that we are not meant to do hard things alone, and the power of healing alongside others. Healing and going on a process that transforms our trauma into testimonial wellness, is something that is hard to understand deeply if it has not yet been experienced. Therefore, sharing in each other's burdens and learning from others and how they heal through painful experiences can be so helpful in our healing journey. Community support is by far the greatest tool in physical and mental wellness.
There are various techniques that we can use to help heal from the effects of trauma. One powerful approach is using mind-body tools such as meditation, intentional movement such as Tai-chi, mindfulness, expressive outlets such as through art/writing/creating, spirituality, and breath-work to increase our resilience and cope with difficult emotions. These practices can help us to transform our traumatic experiences by bringing self-awareness, memory recall, and processing of emotions. The tools mentioned are often performed with group support, providing emotional regulation techniques in order to soothe the nervous system, allowing a chance to process memories and painful emotions in a safe space. Group support allows each member to share at their own pace and hold space for one another. Empathy is the foundation for mind-body sessions as we learn to hold space for others and embrace compassion for ourselves and each other. Serving and giving back to others is an important factor for maintaining our mental health. But we also at times need to receive and accept love and support from others when we are processing pain. Therefore, groups support when recovering from trauma is so impactful.
Additionally, there are other factors that can promote healing after trauma. For example, building a strong support network of family and friends can make a big difference in your recovery process. Seeking professional treatment from specialists in trauma recovery is also essential for making progress on your journey toward healing.
Of course, we know that the body and mind are very intricately connected, so it is important to work with a team of trusted providers to help get to the root of any physiological obstacles and health concerns that may be contributing to our mental health. When our mental health is suffering, we may also need physical support from health issues being exacerbated by the mental affects of trauma. For example, those who suffer with sleep disorders, may have a hard time processing painful emotions due to serious physical fatigue. They may benefit from a sleep study or lifestyle changes that support rest and establishing a healthy circadian rhythm. Trauma itself may also impede sleep, due to insomnia, states of depression, or anxiety at night. Nutrition and maintaining physical health is a key component of mind-body medicine. After all, our mind and emotions inhabit a physical body. Therefore, it is beneficial to work with a team to help you establish a path toward overall wellness, as it can be challenging to put the pieces together alone.
Many people do not take that first step in seeking help due to feelings of guilt, shame, and fear. We know that confronting pain can be overwhelming but so worth it. There is no shame in seeking help to get through pain, past mistakes, and painful experiences that happened to us. Though none of us are immune to feeling the oppressiveness of shame that may accompany trauma, especially if we felt humiliated after the traumatic experience. We want you to know that we are committed to creating a safe, non-judgemental space that leads with empathy in order for our community to heal. While the road to healing from trauma may be messy, with lots of ups and downs, know that you are not alone. Know that there is hope, and there are tools to get you where you wish to be. Every small step forward counts and should be a reason to celebrate! We wish to be a part of your healing journey and celebrate each step toward recovery with you!
To discover powerful healing tools to help you in your path toward transformation, contact our office.
Some members prefer to receive one on one support rather than attending a group initially. Therefore, we offer virtual and in-person one on one coaching visits with Mind-Body Medicine Practitioner, Geny Moreno. Geny teaches group sessions online and in person as well! She is trained in methodologies that support transformation of trauma, breathing techniques, various forms of meditation, Tai-Chi, Qi gong, and more.
Contact TCLM to get plugged into a healing community or set up a visit with one of our practitioners! We look forward to learning and growing with you!
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