The Science and Spirituality of Trauma
Trauma is understood as anything that overwhelms the body’s ability to cope at any given time and can be measured on a very wide spectrum from disapproval to neglect to physical and sexual abuse. It can be from caregivers to strangers alike and can be sustained anywhere from pre-verbal to adulthood.
In my experience, people with trauma are less likely to self identify with its symptoms. This can often be due to the detached self-awareness needed to keep them safe. Most are likely to say things like "I had a good childhood, my parents loved me and my needs were met." because as children we do not have the emotional intelligence to understand that somehow our parents are only human. We also carry a hard wired internal logic that if our parents are bad, so are we. Or we hear things like "It wasn't that bad, at least it wasn't this or that" because, and especially if we are socialized female, we've internalized our abuse and believe we are somehow at fault or could have prevented it.
We often dissociate during stress/trauma, protecting ourselves from the pain by detaching from our feelings and felt senses. Neurologically, this amounts to shutting down the critical functions of the higher brain which help inform where you are in time and space. Instead, the emotional instincts of the lower brain take over to manage the fight/flight/freeze/fawn response. If you've ever had a panic/anxiety attack, you've probably experienced first hand what it feels like to have logic and reason completely inaccessible to you.
Because we are separated from our higher brain functions, we loose the ability to store memories attached to a particular time and place. Instead we store the memories as simple images, feelings, or smells. Because those images, feelings, or smells are unattached to any time or place, if we experience them out of their original context, our body believes we are back in the moment of that real or perceived threat and will elicit the same physiological stress response. During stress the body will route all it's resources into mobilizing to fight or flee; increased heart rate and blood flow to the limbs, and decreased resources to the digestive organs and brain. While this is a healthy function of being a human, over stimulation of the stress response can lead to adrenal fatigue, sleeplessness, nightmares, slow or poor digestive system, anxiety, depression, irrational behavior, feeling out of sorts/out of control and so on.
Spiritually, this splitting off from our feelings and felt senses is what is often referred to as soul-loss. We check-out because a part of us believes our body is no longer a safe place to inhabit and cuts off all connection to preserve itself. When we experience dissociation in this way, an un-embodied or fragmented part of us is still living in the past unable to integrate new experiences. This lost part of us, while still intact, is unable to feel felt sensations and emotions therefore unable to contribute to the spiritual growth of you as a person.
Our response to stress is vital to our survival. Healing from trauma necessitates honoring and befriending our coping mechanisms because once the threat is over, coping mechanisms only serve as limiting beliefs. These limiting beliefs take up space in our bodies and energy fields, blocking us from being fully present and keep us from experiencing how life energy wants to move through us, connecting us to our joy, self love, abundance, confidence, and self acceptance.
At our most basic level we are looking to be loved, seen, and understood. The goal of this practice is to re-engage the critical thinking mind by using mindfulness as a tool to become an observer of our patterns rather than having them dictate our reactions. By accessing emotions and felt senses and being met with positive reinforcement in real time, we are able to start re-wiring the way the brain stores trauma so you can live in alignment with what is most true for you.