When it comes to injury and illness of the body, our culture has lots of medical remedies. But when it comes to healing injuries of a mental/emotional/spiritual nature our culture has a hard time thinking of such things as ‘real.”
No one is ever judged if they catch the flu. But if they are having panic attacks, (which one could call a different kind of flu) they are often considered at fault and expected to ‘snap out of it’ as if emotional distress were an option they were choosing to indulge in. If you got the flu would you expect yourself to stay up late and write a term paper? You would probably have soup and go to bed. Why then, if we have a nervous system injury do we expect ourselves to function at full speed? We should consider emotional pain and anger as seriously as we would physical injury.
The nervous system is as real as your bones. Thoughts are things. Feelings are not things we choose at will. They are the results of events unfolding and if we do not have sufficient nutrition, our thoughts and feelings suffer just like our bones and body.
If a goal has eluded you for years on end and there has been a nagging frustration of not being able to achieve a love connection or a career path, it may not be because your brain won’t just ‘snap out of it’ and get with the program. It may not be something you can just decide to think differently about and turn around by sheer will.
You may have a nutrient deficiency preventing your brain from manufacturing the neurochemistry it needs for healthy, positive functioning. Or, you may have a nervous system injury from the past, (a trauma) which has been tucked away out of your awareness until you feel able to navigate the pain without being overwhelmed. Traumatic events have a serious impact on brain chemistry. Trauma is an event where too much pain occurs in too short of time and the ability to process a situation is lost. If we are overwhelmed by an event we usually flee to a safer place. We do not immediately start processing the trauma unless we are fortunate enough to be in the presence of a trauma specialist. What usually happens is, sadly, nothing at all. The event gets buried and grows thorns that become hard for us or anyone to approach. This buried pain has an effect on all we do in life and if left too long, will eventually emerge and demand to be dealt with. Preventative medicine would be to turn towards that task sooner rather than later.
If you had a pebble in your shoe would you keep hiking? You would probably stop and remove whatever was causing the discomfort. If that is how we treat our physical bodies, why don’t we treat our emotional bodies with the same care? Do not proceed with life in heartache or buried rage.
Do not settle for anything less in life than true, unquestionable peace and joy. It IS attainable. But to attain lasting contentment, we need to change our understanding of what makes (and keeps) us happy.
What makes and keeps us happy is the truth. Knowing the truth, telling the truth, and living truthfully with others. This idea is what the Buddha spoke of in his four-fold spiritual teaching which states:
- Life is painful
- That pain can end.
- There is a WAY to end the pain.
- That way is Truth.
Living in and discovering the truth always leads to unshakable peace. But committing to a life lived truthfully is about actively signing up to break through comforting illusions we might have about our selves and our relationships.
Nervous system injuries often linger for years due to being ignored, overlooked, underestimated, and dismissed. Few people want to go back and re experience feelings of powerlessness or embarrassment. But the reality is, by avoiding those feelings they do not eliminate them from their lives. Those painful feelings linger under the radar and add an unwanted tone of tension to what could otherwise be a pleasurable time.
So the question to ask is, What are you avoiding and why? The best answer to that question would be very specific, involving a moment in time with specific people involved. What happened that has upset you? The part of your brain that has tucked the event away will likely tell you it is foolish to keep ‘rehashing’ past events. But if there is still a charge to the memory there is a need to move through and realize something more.
The ability to compartmentalize is a magnificent survival tool which saves our lives all the time. But the idea of ‘mind over matter’ is only a temporary solution. Eventually that “matter” will mind. That matter will knock and knock until you open the door and hear what it has to say. If you’ve suffered a trauma and tucked it away somewhere, your body may be able to go a decade, even two, without any symptoms of distress. But sooner or later, if there has been injury, that injury will surface in the form of physical shaking, terror, rage, and a host of other overwhelming emotions which did not get recognized at the time of a traumatic event. When these symptoms arise, they can often be baffling since they are now so removed from their origins. But the important thing to do here is to trust your body. If it is shaking, you have stress that has lost the ability to be verbalized. That stress is speaking now through body language. Listen. Let it talk. Do not be afraid of shaking. Indigenous cultures all over the world understand the essential value in letting the body “freak out.” Only our modern western culture has deemed such behavior as negative. Become a part of the growing movement of reclaiming ancient healing wisdom and let yourself do what you need to do to find the release you need. Blocking release causes stagnation, which eventually manifest as solid physical symptoms we “take seriously” like the flu. How about we take thoughts and feelings seriously, too?
The first step in releasing trauma is to ask yourself if you believe healing is possible. If you do not believe you will ever get better, you are in despair. It is okay if you are in despair. You have the right and you should not bully yourself out of there artificially. Let yourself go to the depths of frustration and follow the logic. The perspective of despair is actually a survival tactic. The logic goes, if you checkout and stop hoping things will get better you won’t feel the unbearable pain of disappointment. Being negative keeps you safe. Possibly. But you will have to live in a hopeless world where no one can help or be trusted.
You are an inherently healing system. You heal instinctively, automatically, as can be seen when you cut a finger. Miraculously, the wound fades, doesn’t it. If you leave it alone and protect it from further injury. The same is true for mental emotional injuries. But we have to put our attention to those injuries. We have to keep any other stresses away from their healing process, the same way we would use our left hand if our right hand were injured. Because you are a naturally healing system, it IS possible for you to heal anything, no matter what your injury. If it has not killed you yet, know for a fact, your body is constantly moving towards wholeness.
How To Heal
No one but you can lift yourself out of despair. If it has gripped you, you are not at fault but you are responsible for getting yourself out. It may very well be that you were brought to despair by someone in your life and that it truly is that person’s fault you are having trouble now. How you got to this injury is less important than how you will get out. Let the cause of the despair have no more claim on your time.
That said, you don’t heal alone. You heal through connection, interaction, being listened to and listening to new perspectives. People can help, but you will need to let them. You will need to trust that they want to help and that ultimately they can not do anything for you that is for you to do yourself. Doctors and healers are only temporary of guides and no one will know your journey more intimately than you, so here is some advice on how to make the most of a doctor or therapist.
Communicate your situation, but don’t waste too much time and money recounting to a professional things you already know. Get to topics you don’t have clarity on as soon as you can. Therapists are paid hourly. That hour needs to be used efficiently to find clarity on something you don’t understand. The therapist can not force you to be efficient. They can’t possibly know what that would be for you. They will sit and listen to whatever you chose to talk about. Resentment could form if you don’t take the initiative to dig deep and go into the danger zones yourself.
A therapist, if they are effective, should not be in your life for very long, in the same way a doctor who wrote you a prescription to heal a rash would not become part of your life. If relief is not rising after three months, move on. Healing psychological emotional pain is intimate and intense but it should not last years. Could you imagine a flu lasting years? You wouldn’t tolerate such conditions. You’d find relief. If you are living at less energy than you know you are capable of, settle now for nothing less than your FULL vital life energy and go after it. Do not allow feelings of pain, fear, shame to persist. If your efforts have not resulted in relief, do something else. There is no better use of your time than to discover what heals you.
As Peter Levine says, “Trauma does not have to be a life sentence.” You CAN heal from emotional pain. But only if you set your sights on pursuing the healing process. If you decided to walk to Alaska would you stop after a day because you could not see signs of Alaska anywhere? You would probably have more patience because you are certain that Alaska is there. The same certainty can be found when going after your healthy, happy self. It’s there.
Keep going. Gather books, audio programs, workshops or any other resource that will lift you out of despair and into the hope of returning to your personal power and clarity. You must believe it is possible. From this basic assumption, the rest of your healing journey will be a work of art you alone will create regardless of how many doctors or healers cross your path. To begin a healing journey here are a few books that have changed my life and helped me regain that life energy that is my birth right.
Here are resources to start your journey:
Will I Ever Be Good Enough?: Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers by Karyl McBride-
This book is helpful because it breaks the myth that all mothers are mothering. Disconnecting from a negligent mother (Or childhood care taker) is the first order of business for anyone healing trauma. But there is a strong reluctance to do this because there is a part of us (a child self) who still believes that we need a parent as an adult. We don’t.
Waking The Tiger by Peter Levine – Peter Levine has many books and they should all be read. This one is the most comprehensive explanation of the physicality of emotional trauma. How trauma is not only a mental anguish. It is stored in the body and it is the body that will release it- NOT the mind. The mind will follow after the body’s natural impulses if we don’t try to stop it from ‘acting weird.’ He is the recognized authority on how to approach healing trauma.
Healing Developmental Trauma by Laurence Heller – Peter Levines work deals mostly with shock trauma, single abrupt events that have a clear beginning and end (like an attack or crash) Developmental trauma is what happens when someone is exposed to constant daily harm by a care giver. There is shock trauma release involved with this process but it also requires a deeper understanding of the effects the people in our lives had on us as children which we are no longer conscious of as adults.
Growing Beyond Survival by Elizabeth Vermilyea This is a workbook with invaluable guidance from the author about how to understand the process of therapy itself and work with a doctor rather than against them. It is an anchor for people who are experiencing acute symptoms of panic attacks, shaking, (which Peter Levine talks about as a sign of healing) and how to navigate out of ‘flashbacks’ which are what happen when a traumatic event returns to a person’s memory and seems like it is happening in the present moment.
You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay – This book is like a glass of water to the brain. It plots out all the possible negative thought patterns we often have and then offers the positive affirmation so that when the negative thoughts flood in, reading this book of affirmations can be a lifeline. All is well. I trust in the process of life. I open to change with grace and ease. All is well in my world. Her work is a loving mother to thousands of people.
Healing The Shame That Binds You by John Bradshaw – Shame is an illness, a condition of the mind which needs healing. This is a very insightful and helpful book on the cultural psychology we live in and explains in detail the effects of being raised by parents suffering from shame.
The podcast: Insights At The Edge with Tami Simon (of Sounds True) – this podcast is available in iTunes in the Podcast section. It is the most valuable free guidance on earth at this time with hundreds of interviews with leading edge healers, doctors, shaman, and medicine women from all over the world. Peter Levine has several on-line programs with Sounds True as do many other excellent doctors.
Peter Levines website: www.traumahealing.org has a “find an SE practitioner” button. (SE stands for Somatic experience – meaning the physical body’s process of healing from shock) This blue button at the top right leads to a nation wide list of all doctors in every city that have trained with Peter Levine.
Sometimes healing from trauma requires an intensive weekly or biweekly relationship with at psychologist to help access hidden thoughts and feelings. If someone is having frequent panic attacks, they need more than an energy healer. They need to tell their story, often to themselves for the first time. They need a doctor who has trained to meet weekly for months and be ‘on-call’ and available by phone at any time if the therapy process begins to open up panic attacks. Not all psychologist offer this level of care. Those trained in SE – to help trauma victims specifically are the ones that will meet twice a week and be reachable by phone. I know several of the doctors listed on this site for the LA area.