The energy, sensations and feelings in our body are a rich source of information on what has not yet been resolved and healed. Welcoming and attending to our experience, turning towards instead of away from our feelings, is the key to freedom.
Children need protection and connection. When we’re scared, neglected or abused, it triggers our survival defense mechanism of fight/ flight/ freeze. We find a way to escape physically or emotionally. We get angry and lash out. Numb out with food or screens. Daydream. Get really busy or focused on sports or academics. Hang out at a friend’s house. We can’t afford to feel so we hunker down and make it through.
As adults, the effect of disconnection might show up as persistent anxiety or depression. Fear of anger. Co-dependence or trouble maintaining relationships. We struggle with addictions from overwork to shoe shopping, screens to food, alcohol or other drugs.
Childhood trauma is more than the extreme cases of childhood abuse. It includes neglect. Children need food and safety. We also need secure attachment and connection to thrive. We need to know we count and that someone cares.
We start off scared of the feelings in our body. This make sense. Unresolved fear is stored in the tissues of our body along with the associated memories. We become aware of it as energy and sensations. It’s the black hole in the pit of our stomach or our clenched jaw. Cement shoulders or hot rage. Feeling numb. Living “from the neck up”, absorbed in our thoughts and not in our body.
Adults have the capacity to resolve difficult childhood experiences. I can learn, understand myself and develop strength and resilience. I can be the person who gets to know myself and who cares. I can be my own kind and loving friend.
When we get clear about our actual lived experience, it can feel like a shock. I used to think of myself as fairly calm. I realize now I was numb. When I was 40, I learned meditation and began to watch the thoughts in my mind. Wow! I was tortured with catastrophic, compulsive thinking, what-if scenarios and shame. That launched my 25 year journey to healing my body, mind, emotions and becoming an emotionally mature adult.
When you experience an intense, painful sensation in your body, stay with it and look to see if it feels like the energy is here to hurt you. Notice the sensation itself and notice the space all around it. Why is it here? What does it want you to know? What are the associated memories and thoughts? Mindfulness inquiry is a way to get to know ourselves on a deep level and heal stored trauma.
We reach a tipping point where we no longer fear our own body and mind. We become more able to welcome everything because we know it is all part of us. This is what we were unable to process with our child’s development and position of needing protection. We are adults now. We can heal this and be free.
I know this is possible for you because it was for me and it is for the people I work with. We still have a nervous system that remembers danger. We can work with that through breathing, relaxation and releasing the stored trauma from our system. We have tools like tapping or tracing to stay mindful in the moment.
We begin to trust ourselves. As we know it is safe to feel, we come alive.
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