The Body & Mind Connection to Trauma & the Healing Journey
Updated: Feb 19, 2022
Over the past 11 years, I have been on an amazing healing journey. What I have discovered is that Western medicine has missed the link between the body and mind connection to trauma. This is such great disservice to all survivors who’ve suffered abuse and trauma.
The fact is that trauma is not just about our mental health. It goes well beyond prescription medicine and talk therapy.
Trauma also impacts our physical, relational, and spiritual health. In statistics, 80% of trauma survivors have lingering symptoms. They may include:
· Chronic pain
· Autoimmune disorders
· Complex PTSD/PTSD
· Medical conditions
· Panic attacks
· Substance abuse
· Fight, flight, Freeze, or fawn response
· Plus, many other conditions
When we feel triggered, stressed, or threatened, our bodies release hormones called cortisol and adrenaline. This is the body's automatic way of preparing to respond to danger.
This can have a range of effects, which are sometimes called:
· Freeze – Feeling paralyzed or unable to move.
· Fight – An internal instinct to fight back or protest.
· Flight – Running away, hiding, or exiting where you are at.
· Fawn – Trying to please someone who harms you. Being submissive towards the perpetrator.
Studies have shown that stress signals can continue long after the trauma is over. This might affect your mind and body, including how you think, feel, and behave.
Abuse is directly linked to traumatic events. Trauma has a body and mind connection, which is cellular memory and epigenetics. Even if you have fragmented memories of your past abuse or if you cannot recall the trauma, your body and brain remember everything. Your trauma is enmeshed within every cell of your body.
Oftentimes, when abuse survivors have a nightmare in their sleep about the perpetrators or abuse, it is a clear sign that there is more healing to recover from trauma. In a sleeping state and/or a waking state, you may experience flashbacks, triggers, and awful memories. In addition, you may experience fight, flight, freeze, or fawn.
Although it may feel terrible or cause anxiety, our body will continue to have a normal trauma response because we are still in the midst of processing everything, addressing abuse, and coming to a new understanding of what happened to us.
Simply stated, there is nothing wrong with you. Abuse is about what happened to you. The abuse is not your fault. The perpetrator must be held accountable. Healing trauma won’t happen by ignoring it, burying it, or denying your own conscious reality. As an adult, it is your responsibility to seek emotional support, educate yourself about trauma, and to do the hard work of your own healing journey.
Oftentimes, when we are triggered, we may not understand what is happening to us. Or it feels so uncomfortable that we avoid our triggers, flashbacks, and negative memories.
While I do understand how unpleasant triggers and flashbacks can be, I have learned as a trauma survivor and as a Certified Trauma Recovery Coach that it’s in our best interest to not stuff our pain, to not numb out with harmful substances, and to not bury our trauma. Truly, that is a maladaptive coping mechanism that keeps us stuck and in a vicious loop.
In case you were not aware, everything is energy, including your trauma. In reality, trauma is trapped energy inside of your body. You cannot outrun your trauma by pretending it doesn’t exist.
From one abuse survivor to another, I had done that when I was much younger. As a child, teen, and younger adult, my coping mechanism was the flight response. If I felt triggered or had a flashback, I would try to avoid it and ignore it.
Yet, it haunted me for 50+ years. It was a living hell for me! Let this sink in…
My past abuse and trauma didn’t disappear. Even though I buried my pain, the trauma was still present. It was still within every cell of my body, including on an energetic level.
I experienced emotional dysregulation, due to my nervous system feeling unsafe with these terrible triggers. My heart started racing, I broke out in a hot flash with perspiration, and I felt an internal instinct to run away as fast as I could.
But the trauma was present. It didn’t vanish. No matter how hard I tried in my childhood, teens, and adulthood to forget my child abuse, my sexual assaults, my physical abuse, and narcissistic abuse, I continually felt triggered over and over and over again.
This carried on for years, until I finally gained wisdom, insight, and I looked outside the box for a gentle, holistic approach. Week by week, month by month, and year by year, I was able to release old, trapped trauma and toxic energy inside of me. Was it an overnight success? No. Yet, it was so worth it for me. I am proud of myself for investing in my recovery process. It has been a breath of fresh air for me. I am so grateful for these gifted healers who are trauma experts and who have been a big part of my healing journey.
The body keeps the score. The body never forgets what we suffered. An excellent quote by trauma expert, Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, nails it perfectly.
He said, “Traumatized people chronically feel unsafe inside their bodies: The past is alive in the form of gnawing interior discomfort. Their bodies are constantly bombarded by visceral warning signs, and, in an attempt to control these processes, they often become expert at ignoring their gut feelings and in numbing awareness of what is played out inside. They learn to hide from their selves.” (p.97) ― Bessel A. van der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma
These visceral warning signs include our five senses, which are sight, sound, taste, touch, and scent. When we are triggered, usually one or more of our five senses is unconsciously reminding us of our past trauma. Here is an example: Let’s say that you were physically and mentally abused by a narcissistic mother. During your childhood abuse, your narcissistic mother always wore a perfume with a rose aroma. When you are a grown adult and you are at a botanical garden, let’s say that you stroll through the beautiful rose garden. Out of nowhere, you may experience triggers, flashbacks, chronic pain, anxiety, a panic attack, or unpleasant body sensations.
The reason why is because your body remembers that your abusive mother wore a floral rose fragrance during your traumatic experiences. The rose garden where you are present as an adult is alerting you to danger. Your body is alarmed and feels threatened. This is a common and normal trauma response.
For some trauma survivors, they may need to leave the rose garden. It may cause them an intense setback. For other trauma survivors, they may be able to consciously connect the dots to their visceral response of how smelling roses can cause them triggers, flashbacks, and discomfort. They may not feel the need to escape. Rather, they may practice breathwork in the rose garden. By taking a few deep breaths to inhale and exhale, they may successfully be able to emotionally regulate their nervous system and body.
The reason why holistic modalities are so powerful for healing trauma is because they are effective. Holistic modalities usually focus on the body and mind connection to our past trauma.
Therefore, it implements a natural, gentle approach and/or Eastern medicine.
Holistic modalities, such as bodywork, breathwork, meditation, Emotional Freedom Technique, EMDR, energy healing, professional massage therapy, yoga, prayer, mindfulness, nature, acupuncture, somatic embodiment, dancing, art therapy, pet therapy, and cranial sacral therapy are so beneficial.
To learn more about holistic modalities, here’s my blog post:
Holistic Modalities to Support Your Trauma Recovery (danaarcuri.com)
For those who have been in talk therapy for years, but still feel stuck in your recovery process, you may want to look outside the box. Consider learning more about a gentle, natural approach to healing your trauma. Try something new. Choose whichever healing method aligns with your core values and beliefs.
When we walk beside trauma survivors in the darkness, we can be a healing balm to help them find the light within them. Today, despite what you have suffered and endured, I send you love, peace, and positive thoughts. Feel free to reach out to me to inquire about my Certified Trauma Recovery Coaching services. Coach | My Site (danaarcuri.com)