First Published in Center for Healthy You Magazine August 2015
Attention deficient hyperactivity disorder, depression, bi-polar disorder. What lies behind these diagnoses? Why have they become so endemic in our culture? Is there something we are missing? It may be time to look at other causes underlying the proliferation of mental illness. Could they be the result of unprocessed life experiences? Each has its own set of behaviors and characteristics marked by dis-regulated energy and could be the indication of unresolved trauma. Our bodies are designed to survive and produce chemicals in response to our environment. Could any chemical imbalance be the result of difficult life events? If there is trust in the body and psyche’s inner wisdom, there are messages that these disorders are conveying. By reframing our perception of these conditions, we may find more effective methods and treatments. Even If a behavior seems out of control, it can be sending an important message we need to listen to.
An event is deemed as traumatic is if overwhelms the psyche and disrupts normal functioning and self regulation. If an event causes disorganization or impairs ones ability to engage in a healthy lifestyle, it may be worth looking at, Understanding how trauma impacts us depends of so many variables unique to the cause, severity, and each individual. Was it a life threatening event, or a sustained experience of emotional duress? Was it an incident caused by a family member? Experiencing a natural disaster is very different from being the victim of a crime. These variables have a big impact on how the event will be processed. When several factors become compounded it adds layers to resolving an issue. Complicated experiences can be like a tangled ball of yarn, creating knots in our bodies and minds, and creating blocks in energy flow. Just as we would untangle yarn, we need to look at one string of experience at a time. If someone has been traumatized or overwhelmed, and has not fully processed an experience, they can feel stuck in negative patterns of behavior. By completing unfinished business and processing trauma, a person is empowered to move forward in life.
if support is not available at the time to process an experience, emotions and sensations connected to the event can implode or become compartmentalized until we feel safe. Feeling stuck or frozen may occur for moments or years, and bringing awareness and compassion towards ourselves can help us begin the process of thawing. If our ability to move forward in life has been compromised and has limited our enjoyment, if may be helpful to look to methods to help us become unstuck. When we find our current behaviors no longer serve us, we look for answers and support. As much as we may try to resolve emotional issues solely through talking, research supports that the most effective treatments bi-pass our analytical minds.
In his book In An Unspoken Voice (p. 135), Dr.Peter Levine says: (Traumatic) memories are encoded not primarily in the neocortex but, instead, in the limbic system and brain stem. For this reason behaviors and memories cannot be changed by simply changing one’s thoughts. One must also work with sensation and feeling–really with the totality of experience.
Through accessing the part of our brains that process information through long-term memory, sensation and emotion, we can make changes. We naturally access our emotional minds and work out experience in many ways. Dreaming, playing, meditating, walking in nature, listening to music are just a few. All of these activities function to help us understand and integrate our experience. Expression through its many forms, dance, writing and painting each create a powerful bridge from our inner worlds into outer form, bringing unconscious material to the surface in a really powerful way. All of these modes of engaging can provide a space where we can safely rest and better understand ourselves. Certain modalities have developed to help us connect to subconscious experiences in a place beyond words: Hypnosis, expressive arts, and somatic based therapies all offer us a methods to process experience.
Hypnosis for processing complicated experiences.
Even though an experience may have been challenging, it does not need to be scary to process it. Going to a “safe space” inside is a powerful resource and a foundation to build on when slowly dissipating the effects of trauma. Humor and joy are natural ways we can keep ourselves safe and happy when dealing with difficulties in life. How many comics have had tragedy? We can cultivate feelings of joy and unconditional love to help support us. By connecting to what is most inspiring and entering into deep relaxation we are able to connect and strengthen inner resources. Safety, gratitude and connecting to our own loving kindness provides a powerful formula for Developing a personal practice and connection to inner strengths through hypnosis is a wonderful method for moving forward. Joining that with grounding techniques
Our Bodies reflect our minds
In his 1997 ground breaking work, Waking the Tiger, Dr. Peter Levine explores trauma and our body’s natural response to it. Through observing animals in the wild Dr. Levine witnessed that the freeze, flight or fight responses are natural survival instincts in moments of perceived danger. His research gave birth to somatic experiencing, a method to help individuals connect with their innate ability to move forward after a traumatic event. The basic premise is that individuals do not always get to complete their body’s natural response to perceived danger during a traumatic event. It can come as a huge relief that many of the symptoms connected to depression, ADHD, even bi-polar may be the result of natural physiological survival. Our bodies don’t lie and can accurately reflect our experience and beliefs. Symptoms can provide us with clues and even methods to help us restore our health.
Untangling can take longer if we experience many challenging experiences at once. The complexity of the unprocessed experience can create knots, which find physical expression, at times resulting in dis-ease, discomfort or unproductive behavioral choices. Take the simple example of a child who has a new sibling. As common a situation as this may be for a young child, there are several things for this child to navigate. The obvious, and foremost is that he or she is no longer the only child. This can create a complex mixture of feelings including excitement, anger, loss and even fear. Add on a move, surgery, divorce, and/or the loss of a loved-one, each additional experience creates more complexity. Life is full of just these kinds of events that can become compounded and disruptive to normal development.
Taking Steps to help process complicated Experience.
Healing the Body, Healing the Mind
Tracking through sensation is a method often used in hypnosis as an effective means to access memory. Through following body sensations, we can travel back to the time of the event. The subconscious mind can be engaged to focus energy on a specific area in the body, which creates a bridge beyond time. We can bring in support and healing. Through simply asking, “where am I feeling this depression?” How old is it? Identifying its color, describing it form and tracking it, we can take the first steps towards shifting. Using art to draw the sensation is another method to support this process. When the sensation is identified and expressed powerful step towards getting a handle on our situation.
Paying attention to our senses is not something we are taught. As odd as it sounds, the process of simply staying present and embodied may be a challenging task. It may be difficult to tolerate feelings associated with being physically present. Learning to track our energies in relation to our physical bodies can take time, especially if we had challenging events. If we check in with ourselves and inquire how embodied we are, the experience of tracking our physical experience maybe new. When we hold ourselves accountable and check in, we may be surprised.
Our bodies provide maps that portray holding patterns of emotions and unprocessed experience which often get locked into our physical landscapes. Body sensations offer us “messages” we can listen to for relief. Holding in emotions can create blockages associated with stomach ailments, headaches and even back pain. In his 1998 best selling book. “The Mind Body Prescription: Healing the Body, Healing the Pain” Physician John Sarno examined the link between a variety of painful conditions and repressed emotions. Continued research is being done on the vital connection between mental and physical health. In addition to the DMSV illness, unexpressed emotions make take other physical expression, Many conditions from most neck and back pain, migraine, repetitive stress injuries, to skin ailments and stomach issues are often rooted in repressed emotions. Understanding one’s own repressed emotions is an invaluable key to living a full life. By recognizing the body’s natural inclination and holding patterns, an individual is able to move the body out of fight, flight or freeze response pattern resulting from a traumatic event.
There is a Silver Lining
“Inner sanctuary to which the beleaguered ego repairs in time of crisis is also a world that opens onto transpersonal energies.”
― Donald Kalsched, The Inner World of Trauma: Archetypal Defences of the Personal Spirit
As difficult as traumatic experiences may be, they may offer a doorway into transpersonal experience. It is no coincidence that great mystics and spiritual seekers may have encountered trials and tribulations through out history. Joseph Campbell’s Heroes’ Journey may offer us a wonderful framework to use in our approach to healing traumatic experience. Like Homer’s oydesy, the journey of healing offers a path from the personal to the universal.
Part of becoming unstuck may require us to loosen our attachment to our own story.
This can be done through connecting with many others who have also been through challenges and come out transformed.
Through accessing higher states of awareness we can make sense of experience. Inner Journeying beyond time allows us a variety of vantage points from which to view our experiences with clarity and resouces. Modalities like Quantum Consciousness ©, Past Life Regression and Live Between Lives ™ experiences offer us the chance to see difficult experiences as part of a greater pattern of learning. Through entering into depth states marked by theta brain wave activity, challenging life events can be put into perspective. If we join these skills with greater body awareness, we will truly have our feet on the ground with our heads in the sky.