Trauma – a Full Body Experience.

Have you ever had a traumatic experience? An accident, domestic violence, sexual abuse, a near death experience, death of a loved one or some other life-altering experience? Did you know that these experiences get stored in your body?

Cellular memory is a thing, and it means that you are holding onto toxic emotions that will be causing stress to your physical body. Even though you may feel OK and “over it” now, chances are your body isn’t done with it yet, and this can play out in a lot of subtle and not-so-subtle health issues as it tries to get your attention. Trust me, I know this one!

I was raped three times in my late teens. I tried to ignore it and move on with my life. Some of my memory of what happened had even been blocked. But my body was FURIOUS!! I got 6 cases of tonsilitis in one year, plus glandular fever and severe systemic candidiasis. My health was never right throughout my 20’s. I had lots of pain, chronic fatigue and my periods even stopped for 2 years! I think something was trying to get me to pay attention. (I’d had 2x near-death experiences early in my life too. So, I’ve always carried trauma.)

Going through trauma also causes physical changes in the brain. You will process information differently. Lots of responses get re-wired, and you can be triggered back to the moment of trauma in an instant. You will notice times of confusion and brain fog. Repeated inability to take action on things that you really want to (not all the time, but sometimes..). Periods of depression and a susceptibility to give in to doubt. High levels of anxiety. Periods of low productivity. You may also be more susceptible to health issues, chronic pain and extreme fatigue. (So those people who tell you that you “just don’t want it enough”, or you “lack commitment” or even suggest that you are “lazy” – have NO IDEA! There are physiological responses to trauma that can make it very difficult to take action to change your situation.)

So, between getting stuck in your fascia (connective tissue) and changing your brain – there’s a good chance your past trauma is still along for the ride. Triggering anxiety and doubt after a period of progress, a sense of brokenness and never being whole, negative self talk that keeps you from taking risks (even the ones that will benefit you). There are valid reasons why you may feel this way time and again.

Counselling and Therapy provide a certain amount of help. Telling the story is an important part of the journey if you haven’t before. And understanding yourself and your journey better, and finding strategies is so helpful. But experts are starting to recommend the inclusion of some somatic or body centred work in long-term treatment plans as well. Someone who works with fascia (where trauma primarily sits) is a good idea. This may be a Remedial Therapist, a Chiropractor or Osteopath – many bodyworking professionals are starting to learn more about these important structures and incorporate them into their practice. Things like Kinesiology and Reiki can also help release your trauma, with the right trauma-informed therapist.

Physically releasing the trauma and grief from my cellular memory was one of the most effective things I ever did to improve both my health and my life. It is hard to describe feeling the release of something you never even knew was there in your body. You feel so very different after it’s gone though! I was so blessed to have found a compassionate bodyworker who could also work with my energy in this way. I was determined to figure out how to do it myself.

The other things that were key in my healing, were processes that worked on the emotional level. These were initially more challenging for me, because I had buried these emotions so deeply, it was really hard to connect with them. It took some practice. Firstly, I worked with a mentor who used the Cosmosis Process (developed by Michael King – you can look him up). The thing I had to learn to do was feel the emotion, deeply, without judgement, and then I could drop right through it. Finding gratitude for my experiences was another key. That challenged me for quite a while too. So I used to be grateful that one day I would be able to put my experiences to good use. (and eventually I could!)

Connecting to and feeling my emotions seemed so scary to me before I tried it. I thought if I could push just things down and push on through, then I’d be fine. I was fairly determined on this path. I was a massive over-achiever, because I was ALWAYS feeling the need to prove myself!, so I developed tonnes of skills and ability. But I could never really thrive. Something always seemed to come out of somewhere and knock me back on my ar$e again. It was only when I surrendered to the need to stay there for a while, and to do the inner work, that I started to really heal.

It also turned out that facing my stuff wasn’t all that scary. The spectre of all the things I was avoiding was much bigger. And avoiding it for so long just kept the pain fresh. My feelings can’t be bigger than me though. And I was the one keeping everything locked away. Once I finally touched it and let it out, it was such a RELIEF!

Later I discovered the Spiral, a Kinesiology based tool which also dealt with things at the emotional level, but in a different way. It shifted some big things for me quickly (with a cost!), and gave me an extended period of peace. Sadly a new threat from a violent man hijacked my nervous system AGAIN. This wasn’t a failing of the previous work. This was a new injury. To a system that already held damage pathways.

Unfortunately the tools I’d used before didn’t work a second time. But a colleague in Sweden did help my system to recover, using a combination of Myofascial and Energy Work very similar to my own. I understand first hand the frustration of continually trying new things to get traction. But there’s never going to be a magic bullet to heal from trauma. It’s normal to need to find different things to help at different stages of your journey. Keep lots of tools in your arsenal. Different things work at different times. Cycle through them as often as you need to. Just don’t give up.

Hopefully some of this resonates for you, and you will realise that it isn’t just a lack of commitment to blame for not healing yet. Or for why all the coaching programs you’ve signed up for haven’t gotten you results yet. Maybe your system is just too clogged up with old trauma, at levels you haven’t looked at yet. There are several ways to take the emotional and physical load off your human system, and get you functioning better. Then you can access all of that potential you’ve got stored. The good news is that it never expires. It’s always going to wait for you. It’s not a one session fix. But each session will create permanent change that you can build on. And it doesn’t seem to matter how diligently you do this work. Not everyone can afford a block of consecutive therapeutic sessions to work through their stuff. I tackled it sporadically myself for many years. As timing and the ability to integrate the work are also factors, it didn’t seem to hamper my progress any. Many clients only see me whenever they hit a crisis point. Life throws up a new challenge, which uncovers a deeper layer of trauma. Maybe once or twice a year. Once they move through the crisis, they go back to living their life until the next thing hits. Life shouldn’t be about continually battling your trauma. Trust that whatever you are able to access is going to be enough. And then do your own self work in between. Journal, read books, get into your body, spend time in nature. Develop movement, meditation and gratitude practices. Apply the tools and insights you learn to your everyday life. Give things a chance to settle. All of these will play a role in your healing.

  • Photo by Alexander Krivitsky from Pexels.