When an overly stressful experience occurs, your mind and body immediately goes into overdrive to try to resolve the intense system overload.
If you are a Star Trek fan, think of this response as similar to putting your shields up to maximum capacity in order to ward off external enemy attacks that could lead to your ruin and/or destruction.
When your body tries to defend itself from what it perceives to be an attack (real or imagined) due to the trigger of an overwhelming mental, physiological, emotional, or other type of disturbance to your normal regulated state of homeostasis, you immediately begin to put most of your energy and focus into its defense, causing adrenal functions to be impacted, digestion and other important bodily functions to be suppressed, your heart-rate to become hyperactive, and your entire being to fall into automatic survival responses that can show up in the form of fighting, fleeing, or freezing.
After an “attack” is over, and you have survived the “battle,” however, you can become stuck in a hyper-aroused (actively ready to protect yourself from attack) state that creates a psycho-physical feedback loop that drains your energy and attention by keeping you hyper-vigilant and over-protective. This pattern makes it hard for your overdriven system to calm down (which can cause long-term damage over time) even in the absence of immanent danger; this response is what is known as Trauma.
When you experience Trauma, the danger and extreme stress that you faced that contributed to it (and or the threat of new and other dangers), you feel, is still lurking, waiting in the shadows to attack you, like the Ferengi (more Star Trek reference), poised to stir up some trouble at any time instead of peacefully existing in your shared galaxy. After all, you may think, “an attack could happen again.” Didn’t the first “torpedo,” the second torpedo, and then the fires that it created, not just come into your life in the blink of an eye, or last for a long period of time? One day you were going about your day coursing curiously through space and time, and then, in a moment, you were under direct threat or attack.
This cycle of hyper-vigilance, as you are simultaneously working to heal any damage left behind from battle, as mentioned before, keeps your shields at maximum capacity at all times. When you become traumatized, you keep your shields up 24/7, draining power, for reasons beyond warding off an attack, and this constant overdrive (just to feel and be safe), over time, fatigues your vessel, leading to worn out gears and functions, and to the development of serious issues that will lead to a great deal of suffering in the long-run if not fully addressed.
Regardless of whether your traumas are a result of catastrophic or uncontrollable accidents or disasters or the direct result of the actions of others, and regardless of how your symptoms might manifest, the reality of how trauma impacts the human body is the same in most people.
Fortunately, because of these patterns of similarity, we now have an understanding that enables us to come up with effective solutions for healing as well.
We, as a species, are now aware, through research, that the body and mind have innate and powerful capacities to heal, and we now even further know that healing trauma can actually, and somewhat paradoxically, be a powerful way to acquire the important skill of resilience that is required to develop the inner strength (from overcoming such great stress) to live a full and happy life. Overcoming, healing, and transforming trauma in one’s body-mind, interestingly enough, when the necessary inner skills are honed to do so, makes a person more capable of navigating through the uncertainties of life.
Everyone’s healing journey will look different (and there are as varied healing plans as there are traumatized people in this world), because everyone’s trauma, identity, brain, support network, and bodies are different, but everyone’s healing plan should have the same necessary components. Each plan should contain components that serve the purpose of creating greater mind, body, and spirit connections within traumatized individuals.
Today, I will share the five essential tools that you will need in any effective Trauma Healing Kit so that you can better craft a healthy pathway forward for yourself as you journey closer toward your full thriving in the world.
5 Essential Internal Tools That You Will Need To Possess In An Effective Trauma Healing Kit
- Self-Regulation As A Goal– This can be difficult at first since you are often unaware of how certain trauma responses have become normalized defenses within your body. So, you must first work to educate yourself on the effect of trauma on the mind, body, and spirit, then work to develop self-awareness. Within your own personal being, you must learn to identify how your trauma, and it’s resulting stress responses, are impacting your life right now. How are your trauma responses manifesting in your thoughts, words, actions, and in your body? With awareness, you can begin working on regulating your responses a bit more each day. Over time, you can then develop a practice for self-regulation, that is guided by the Eightfold Path of Yoga, for example, in order to move from simply healing, toward thriving after healing.
- Ongoing Somatic And Creative Release– Mantras, Asanas, dancing, singing, crafting, hiking, swimming, painting…anything that you are naturally drawn to, that fully involves using your body and mind in an intentional, free, but still controlled way, will help you to start releasing the stored tensions and stresses that you still possess, or continue to accumulate, from your traumatic experience or experiences. A good way to begin is to start a practice that you can commit to doing at least every week, then work your way up to doing your practice each day, mixing and changing it up as you see fit until you find your right groove. As you work on releasing any stored traumatic tensions from your body through Yoga each day, for example, you may start with Asanas, then move to Pranayamas (to regulate your breath). This can be a great starting point for trauma survivors to begin with since these two limbs are tangible and practical enough that with time, they can inspire practices for self-regulation in all other areas of the Eightfold Path as well once the body is sufficiently calmed down. This can essentially move a person from not just healing his/her traumatic experience, but assist them with internally thriving in a more integrated way in the long-run as well. Remember, please, that you cannot control the past, nor control what happened to you, but you can control your choices moving forward, even if you cannot fully control all of your boldly responses and triggers right now. With applied effort, over time, as you gain mastery (confident, relaxed, control) of yourself, using all of the weights of your past experience to develop your resiliency muscles, you will find that even simply having this one tool alone in your kit is enough to get you through processing your physical pain/trauma symptoms effectively.
- Practice Presence– Be here now. As best as you can in every moment, work on becoming fully present to what is unfolding in your life right now, in this moment, as opposed to focusing in what has occurred in the past. The stories of the past, and of our past experiences, although they do need to be told if one is called to do so in a safe environment for effective processing and letting go, can feel like threatening warning signs or shadows that we cling to, instead of simply just lessons and completed experiences that have less impact in our lives moving forward than the realities of the present and choices that we make in the current moment. Please remember, however, that the flow of time makes it so that you are no longer living in the past physically although you may be stuck there mentally or emotionally. You are here now, require your full attention and energy here, and in this moment, your life is filled with infinite potential to create and experience wonderful things. The actions that you take now are what matter most, so work on detaching from those pesky past memories that make you feel like you still need to respond to them right now. You are free now…to touch your toes, to take in and then release a deep breath of fresh air, to walk slowly or quickly across a room, to have a snack or a conversation, to start a new project, to express love. You are free (to the extent that humans have free will) to control yourself right now through choice.
- Practice Loving-Kindness Toward Yourself– You may, or may not, choose to forgive your perpetrator if your trauma was inflicted intentionally by another, you may, instead, choose to simply have “disregard” for wickedness and evil (just do not give an evil person importance or significance, or space in your mind, just let their karma–actions that have a cause and effect–deal with them; their actions are their concerns, not yours) as Surta 33 of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali suggests. Since your actions are what matter in your life, whether it is a choice or conscious response to a circumstance outside of your control, you should always be practicing loving-kindness toward yourself in order to ensure that you provide yourself with the healing touch of tenderness, kindness, love, and support that you need in order to effectively heal and stay well at all times. Part of your loving-kindness practice, if your trauma is from toxic relationships, for example, may involve building a healthy community with people who truly love, appreciate, and value you (as, and for all that, you are). But always remember to fill yourself up with love first and then let it overflow. This way, you are quenched in your thirst for these things, and can simply enjoy sharing your love, and giving it to others freely within respected boundaries, as opposed to becoming dependent on/attached to getting “love” from others, co-dependent, or transactional in your relationships, leading to a wide range of ego-related suffering caused by overstepping, or completely eliminating, healthy boundaries and natural appreciation for your, or others’, well-being.
- Commit To Your Health and Self-Care– Healing and thriving are lifelong processes. You are not somehow done with your learning, or life, one day before death, after which you can then sit on the beach staring at the sunset for all of eternity. Life is with you until your very last breath. You will navigate through life in your body, and interact in the world, until your very last breath. Commit to life-long growth, development, and refinement for your greatest expression in the world. Since you know, or now know, that health is your choice, and you know that you have your whole life (even if it just one more day) ahead of you to liberate yourself from suffering, do not deny yourself of this.
Building the right Trauma-Healing toolkit can help you release, and transform, the suffering connected to past events and/or issues. When building an effective healing kit, always remember that your kit should be personalized to you and be aimed primarily at supporting wholeness in your body, mind, and spirit. Yoga provides an excellent guideline for an effective journey toward healing and thriving, but please remember that there are many pathways to your destination. Do a bit of self-searching, and research, and find what “resonates” most with you, after finding your pathway forward, the only thing that you then have to do is simply walk your path each day.
I wish you all the best, and continued success, on your healing and growth journey.