Let’s talk about trauma.
When a person experiences trauma and turns to destructive coping mechanisms, life is akin to living a nightmare of captivity. We are robbed of our capability to grow and create as we are sent running for the solace of a poison substance. We fight patterns and behaviors only to find ourselves locked up time and again in a cycle of destruction. Some of us, frozen with fear and apathy, are unable to shake off the terror of the past.
Our human bodies are animal bodies. We are warm blooded animals. So, our bodies react to scary situations in one of three ways. We run, fight or freeze. Just like animals, when we can move (run or fight) in response to fright or violence, we have a better chance of dissipating the stress from our body. On the other hand, if we are little people and have to stay quiet or hide, or big people trapped in accidents or war zones, we freeze. Chemicals get stuck in our tissues because we have no way of moving them out of our system. The impact increases mightily if the exposure to the trauma is on-going such as in abuse cases, neglect or emergency personnel. And, we don’t just “get over it.” Instead, as any good mammal should, we seek relief. Why wouldn’t we? We drink, smoke, eat, isolate, chose one relationship after the other and act out. We repress and depress, freak out in panic attacks and spend millions on drugs to numb the pain.
The “solution” becomes the problem, no real healing is accomplished, and the cycle begins again, generation after generation. Sobriety and therapy are great options, but something is still missing.
The magic key, the missing piece of the puzzle is not just in the body but is the body. In order to heal, we must start where the initial impact took place, in this physical animal we call home. Realizing that the body is always in the present moment, unlike thoughts and emotions, can also be helpful. The body contains your entire history or herstory. A commonly held misconception is that we have to go through the original event to disperse the stuck energy. This is not always true. What does need to happen is for the body to move how it wants to move, to dissipate the places that have been “frozen” in time. We can begin to do this with simple (preferably guided) practices called the “felt” sense. Understanding the language of the body is important as we begin our practice. It speaks slowly and not so much in words as in images, colors, sounds and memory.
Slowly, gently, like a meditation we can begin to notice what we are seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling and feeling. We notice and notice some more, what the body is doing. How does it want to move? Describing the sensations to ourselves or another, “sharp, like a tack,” or “cold” or “squishy, like mud,” begins the process of reconnecting to parts of ourselves that have been lost. Don’t be surprised if a breath to a certain area that feels pain or achy, brings up a memory, color or sound. This process is one of the reasons why yoga or movement therapy can be so beneficial for restoring a person to a life of connection. Movement like yoga or dance combines space, time and breath, equaling powerful healing.
In Kenya, the Luo tribe has a word, oyaore (oh yow day) meaning, “it is open.” They use this to describe the start of the new day, or an open door. Rich with substance, this phrase brings to mind the openness of a human (or animal) life that has faced the past and escaped the chains with the magic spell of movement, present time, awareness and breath.
This new life is now open.
Just as the sun rises everyday with new determination, a life that was haunted, is now full of possibility. After the initial healing, it seems that for the majority of people, life begins to unfold with much promise. As time flows on, many appear to morph from cocoon to butterfly with exciting careers, affirming relationships and a passion for supporting others along the path.
Traveling with your body, connected with it and its needs, requests and the information it holds for you is a rare and unique practice. Trauma and your reaction may never fully disappear. And, with patience, practice, and understanding you can connect with disturbing emotions and behaviors (these will typically catch you by surprise), until you decipher the message held within. The old patterns will decrease over time, because you have worked with them and honored their information. The practice of being with your senses, also begins to give you a greater compassion for what others may be experiencing as well. In the long run, this makes the world a more “open” place for us all.