“Safety IS the treatment.” In order to heal, we need to feel safe. Dr Stephen Porges defines safety as the absence of threat PLUS a feeling of connection.
“Trauma is what happens inside us as a result of what happens to us. The effect of trauma is that we disconnect from ourselves, the present moment, and our sense of value.” Gabor Maté, MD
I use these as foundational principles of healing trauma. I work with people from awareness that we are deeply connected and grounded in the present moment.
Trauma is stored as energy in our body along with associated memories and thoughts. Traumatic memory is stored with a frozen sense of time and we need to bring that forward into the present to release its grip. Through presence and inquiry, we reveal and see through core deficiency stories, those false internalized beliefs that what happened to us as children was our fault because we are fundamentally bad or damaged.
I know in every cell in my body that each one of us has the capacity to heal. I trust this. It is not my job to fix you. Working with people from awareness means in part that I am present in my body and breath during our sessions. As a facilitator, it is my role to be grounded in safety and connection with you to support your healing work.
I help people understand trauma and normalize what is happening to and in you. It is such a relief to realize that what you are experiencing is a trauma response, not something inherently wrong with you (core deficiency).
As the firestorm of the effects of trauma begins to clear, we get glimpses of our true nature and have more access to the stillness and clarity in our mindbody. We can’t access that when our nervous system is hypervigilant and we are flooded with adrenaline and cortisol.
I encourage people to learn to down-regulate their nervous system through breath and relaxation in the body. During sessions we co-regulate then you down-regulate on your own to be more grounded in daily life. We really can’t do much with deeper trauma until this becomes more stable. When we are terrified, we are in survival mode: fight/flight/freeze/fawn.
Dr Peter Levine teaches that we need to titrate – to move toward something then take a step back. When someone is losing awareness of the present moment, I remind you to breathe and to orient back into your body. We need to feel safe and be in the present moment in our body when we are working with trauma.
Memory and sensation might be intensely painful and that is held in the present moment while I am there with you. Your adult self is there and the child who was hurt is no longer alone.
Many people come to my daily online relaxation practice regularly for years because we need a long term practice of gradually feeling safer in our body. This is a way to do it with guided practice in a community.
Our system/ mindbody wants to heal. As we feel safer, we experience being on our own side. Our nasty inner critic begins to calm and we can work more skillfully with emotional flashbacks. Learn more in Pete Walker’s excellent book Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving.
When we work with painful energy, it is a good idea to look to see if this energy or sensation is malevolent. Does it want to hurt you? The answer is usually surprising to people and it is always no. It is here to protect us or alert us to something. Then we can ask a mining question like “Why is it here?” or “What does it want you to know?”. I sometimes ask people to put a hand on their heart and ask “What does the heart know about this?”. It is another way to get out of our thinking mind into the body.
The foundation of my work with you is to support healing the trauma responses in your mindbody. This is what gives us space to release identification with thought and to deprogram our conditioning. This is the deep healing that opens into joy and freedom.