Learning To Feel What Seems Unfeelable

I often write about the importance of learning to feel into your body. It is in your body that the keys to unlock the things that hold you back can be found.

I always write this knowing that it is possible to learn to do this, as I have done. But I am also aware it is not easy to reach there. It is virtually impossible without the assistance of a trauma trained counsellor.

I was reminded of this recently when I read a blog by a trauma yoga teacher.

She wrote about leading a yoga and meditation class in the mental health ward of a hospital. Her clients were people with dissociative disorders.

Feeling Into Your Body Is Something You Have To Learn To Do

Having learned, as I have, to be able to feel into her body in safety, she realised she had to allow for the difficulty these people experienced feeling into their bodies. When you have unresolved trauma from the past it is very hard to feel into your body where all those unprocessed and very scary memories are stored.

This experience forced the teacher to explore how to bring attention inside without being so frightened that you dissociate. She explored how to bring attention inside without feeling like you are floating, disconnected from your internal and external environment.

Being In The External World Is Easy, But Go Into Your Internal World And It Becomes Very Hard

We find it so easy to get angry or irritated by people in our external world, why is it so hard to turn out attention internally to situations in our past that hurt us?

Why is it that we can be courageous in the world around us, but when we come to look in side ourselves and allow us to feel what we find there, we are terrified?

Every Child Needs An Adult Who Loves Them And Can Teach Them How To Self Regulate

If you never had an adult in your childhood who was able to attune to you. Able to teach you how to make sense of what was going on in your body. Able to help you learn how to regulate your emotions so that your internal world is not terrifying. Then how could you learn?

When you lacked someone to guide and teach you then how do you navigate your internal environment?

Trauma Trained Counsellors Learn How To Do This

This is what a trauma trained counsellor knows to do. I have learned how to connect those broken pieces inside. How to piece your body, mind and heart together so that you can feel safe to look inside yourself.

I know these techniques work because I used them myself to learn.

All those trapped memories need to be processed. Until you learn the skills and have someone skilled to walk beside you and help you, you will not be able to process this trauma. And it will cripple your life.

Childhood Memories Of Trauma Are Frightening

Those memories are frightening. They hurt. They are full of a child trying to understand a very frightening world. There is a deep sense of shame, of being wrong. Of thinking that what happened was your fault and because there was something wrong with you.

There is despair at never seeming to get any better. There is rage at the unfair things being done to you. There is hurt that someone who should care for you can do this. There is disappointment that no matter what you try, nothing gets better.

All these terrifying memories are the reason you become numb. Feeling them is terrifying so blanketing them, freezing them, dulling them is the only way to survive. And because they are still there your body reacts to them in the only way it can.

How Your Body Reacts To The Pain

You get terrible fear and pain from these memories.

You get anxious, depressed, you do whatever you can to shut down the memories.

You take pills, you drink too much alcohol, you try an array of drugs, you go on spending sprees, you do any behaviour that is repetitive to drown out those horrible memories and feelings of deep shame and unworthiness.

What You Need

What you need is someone to teach you how to manage those emotions. How to release the feelings of unworthiness, exclusion and shame. How to release these harmful feelings.

You need to take it slowly. To only visit those memories when you have the skills to calm yourself.

Yes you can reach a point where you can make the choice to be who you want to be. A place where you know how to respond to calm yourself. Where you know how to respond to not put yourself in a fight/flight/freeze state. And I can help you with that learning.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your childhood trauma, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with helpful information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

The Real Impact of Trauma

It is one thing to process memories of trauma, but it is an entirely different matter to confront the inner void – the holes in the soul that result from not having been wanted, not having been seen, and not having been allowed to speak the truth. If your parents’ faces never lit up when they looked at you, it’s hard to know what it feels like to be loved and cherished. If you come from an incomprehensible world filled with secrecy and fear, its almost impossible to find the words to express what you have endured. If you grew up unwanted and ignored, it is a major challenge to develop a visceral sense of agency and self worth.” ~ Bessel van der Kolk, The Body Keeps The Score

This quote from the book The Body Keeps The Score, by Bessel van der Kolk has always hit home for me.

It is such a powerful summary of the impact of abuse, neglect, lack of attunement, poor attachment, emotionally unavailable parents, narcissistic parents and more that include the range of wounds that comprise childhood trauma.

It is horrible to not be wanted. It is devastating to not be seen. The wounds left by never been greeted by your parents with love and lit up faces are immense.
When all those things happen the child feels like they don’t exist. They feel unsafe. The feel they have to fight for their survival. They learn to people please and fawn to be given the tiny bit of attention needed to survive. They do things that make them feel ashamed and cripple them in adulthood with shame. They learn to feel like a nothing. To have no way to express their fear, sorrow, anger and more.

My Own Experience

I understand this because that was my childhood. I was never wanted and was told that often. I was deliberately ignored. There were never any proud parents watching my achievements as a child. There were never words of congratulation around the dinner table at night.

I never knew what it was like to be greeted by someone whose face lit up when they saw me, that is until I met my husband. The things my parents did to me were never discussed.

In adulthood when I tried to discuss them with my parents and my siblings there was a wall of silence. My mother constructed a narrative to dismiss my recollections as me being neurotic, or over exaggerating, or making a mountain out of a tiny molehill.

I have had to fight very hard to heal from that. To learn that I am worthy, that I do have a sense of agency, that I matter. I have learned to feel safe, to learn to trust others, to fearlessly speak my truth.

Because I have done that, I know you can too. It is scary. It is hard to trust. Progress can seem so agonisingly slow. But you will get there. You can heal.

As well as my own lived experience, I have studied extensively the latest research on trauma and the best practice approaches to heal trauma. I have helped countless people heal from their trauma, and I can help you too.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your childhood pain and trauma, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with helpful information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

Trauma Blocking Behaviour

I often write about the impacts of trauma in childhood. I also write about the way our society teaches us to avoid uncomfortable feelings.

Today I want to talk about some behaviours people engage in that are designed to cover up deeply upsetting feelings.

These are:
Excessive use of social media and compulsive mindless scrolling.

    I am not referring to people looking on social media to catch up on what friends have posted. I am referring to people who search and search social media pretty much all the time, even when there is nothing to read. I know we can all do that to a certain extent, but when it becomes every day, all day, then it is a problem and most likely to be a trauma blocking behaviour.

Drinking alcohol to excess, including binge drinking.

    Taking drugs of any type, smoking, vaping are also trauma blocking behaviours. In fact experts in addiction agree that the addictions are caused by trauma.

Excessive and mindless eating, even when not hungry.

    Like alcohol, drugs and smoking this is a behaviour that helps to block trauma.

Compulsive exercising to reach an unattainable goal. Or just exercising compulsively.

    As with other addictions, this behaviour blocks uncomfortable feelings so it is compulsively adopted.

Being frightened of being alone so you stay in toxic relationships, even when you are unhappy or in danger.

    It is the idea of it being better to be in any relationship than none at all. But is it better to be in a terrifying and potentially deadly relationship?

Being frightened of being alone so you constantly surround yourself with people and activities to stop you ever being alone.

    This can also involve manipulative behaviours to ensure you have people around you. And when you are alone, you may well use alcohol, drugs or self harm to suppress the fear.

Feeling unsafe if you have nothing do you so you keep yourself busy with constant projects.

Compulsive shopping, especially online, for things you don’t need and going into debt

Being a workaholic with poor work boundaries so that you end up being available 24/7

I am sure you could add others to that list.

Do you find yourself adopting these behaviours?

If you do, you are not alone.

Do you want to stop using these behaviours, or others like them?

This is where a counsellor can help you learn how to face and heal deeply upsetting feelings.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your trauma blocking behaviour, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with helpful information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

Why Is Your Body So Important In Trauma Treatment?

For many years, it has been known amongst Trauma Practitioners that the body plays an important role in trauma.

For decades, the mind and emotions were focused on as the areas where trauma impacted. But research over the past decades has changed that.

Somatic Therapy

Somatic Therapy, as practiced by therapists such as Pat Ogden is one area of work in the way we hold our bodies as having an impact on our mood as well as holding uncompleted defensive actions from our past.

Peter Levine, with his breakthrough book “Waking the Tiger” works to release trauma from the body where it is trapped in incomplete movements.

Bessel van der Kolk, with his book “The Body Keeps the Score” is another who has presented the evidence that trauma is stored in the body.

The Impact Of Your Body Posture On Your Mood.

More recent research has shown that your posture and the way you hold your body has a major impact on how you feel and how shifts in posture can release stress.

Big expansive poses such as the so-called power poses are empowering and stress relieving. Power poses include standing with your arms outstretched or on your hips, or sitting with your arms outstretched and leaning back.

The opposite of these poses, ones that trap stress hormones in the body include any posture where you hold yourself as small as possible. These include hunching forward and crossing your arms and legs slumping with your shoulders hunched forward and your head hanging down.

Body Poses That Empower

Poses that open up your vulnerable front, such as the power poses empower you whereas poses that close up your vulnerable front, disempower you.

Bessel van der Kolk often mentions in his lectures the impact of taking a person who is sitting slumped in front of him and directing them to sit up and pull their shoulders back. He reports that the person’s mood immediately lifts.

It is worth remembering the importance of posture when you are feeling stressed, or nervous about meeting certain people. Stand up, pull your shoulders back, gaze ahead, don’t look down. You will find your ability to remain calm will increase and your mood will improve.

Trauma Stuck In The Body Needs To Be Released

As for trauma stored in your body. That trauma needs to be released. I mentioned earlier how Pat Ogden and Peter Levine work with completing uncompleted defensive actions from the past. This is very helpful. I use this approach often when working with people. Being able to complete defensive actions that were not able to be used when the original trauma happened is very powerful.

It is also helpful to adopt practices to help you release the trauma. There are many different practices, although the one most often used is Yoga, which is a particularly well-known approach and there are Yoga practitioners who work with releasing trauma. Movement therapy can also be helpful.

Mindfulness can be used to feel into parts of the body and work with the movements those parts need to complete as well as the trauma those parts need to release.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with releasing trauma from your body, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with helpful information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: https://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

I have been in a traumatic situation. Will I develop PTSD?

I see a lot of people who have been involved in traumatic situations. One of the biggest fears they express is that they will develop PTSD as a result of the trauma.

What does PTSD look like?

I am including this information to demonstrate how complex PTSD is. People are often afraid they have PTSD but are actually just experiencing a normal reaction to a really traumatic situation.

This information is not to be used to self diagnose. If you are concerned it is best to see a professional who is experienced with PTSD and can make a correct diagnosis.

Formal diagnosis of PTSD includes experiencing at least one of each category of the following symptoms for at least a month:

Re-experiencing the trauma – at least one of these:
• Flashbacks including reliving the event and experiencing physical symptoms of fear such as a rapid heart beat or sweating
• Recurring memories or dreams of the event
• Distressing thoughts about the event
• Experiencing a rapid heart beat, sweating or other physical symptom of stress

Avoiding reminders of the trauma – at least one of these:
• Avoiding places, events, objects or anything that reminds you of the trauma
• Avoiding thoughts or feelings related to the traumatic event.
• Changing routines to avoid anything that reminds you of the trauma

Symptoms of arousal or reactivity that have arisen or worsened since the event– at least one of these:
• Easily startled
• Feeling tense or on guard
• Difficult concentrating
• Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
• Feeling irritable, even having angry outbursts
• Engaging in risky, reckless or destructive behaviour

Thoughts and mood symptoms – at least one of these:
• Having trouble remembering parts or all of the trauma
• Experiencing negative thoughts about yourself or the world
• Feelings of blame directed at you or others that are exaggerated
• Experiencing negative emotions that persist. These include fear, anger, guilt or shame.
• Losing interest in enjoyable activities
• Feeling socially isolated
• Finding it hard to feel positive emotions such as happiness.

How likely is it that you will develop PTSD after a traumatic event?

More people recover from trauma than get PTSD.

Research has shown that previous trauma, especially in childhood, increases your likelihood of developing PTSD. But even that does not mean you will develop PTSD.

The Normal processing of trauma

Many people will report some memories of traumatic events for some time after the event, but these memories fade over time.

People can become stuck in the traumatic event. Triggers that throw them back into the event time and time again are distressing and interfere with healthy daily functioning. Others will avoid talking about the event and situations, people or places they associate with the event.

Trauma processing is similar to Grief processing

There is another life event that can have a similar effect. That is the death of a loved one. For some people the only way to cope with the grief is to avoid all reminders of the loved one.

Another thing that researchers have found is that the more you avoid memories and reminders of traumatic events, the more likely it is that you will develop PTSD. Just as the more you avoid memories and reminders of a loved one, the more likely it is that you will develop Complex Grief Disorder.

Avoiding these memories and reminders is usually due to the extreme discomfort of experiencing these memories and reminders. The emotions associated with them can be extremely difficult to experience.

The importance of processing trauma

When a traumatic event happens it is essential you emotionally process what happened. Much as with grief, it is considered the best way to process this is to titrate your emotional exposure to the event. You allow yourself time to think about it, then allow yourself time to think about other things.

Debriefing after a traumatic event is very important. 30 years ago it was considered essential for everyone to talk about what happened. People were forced to take part in debriefing when they weren’t ready to talk. This caused extreme distress for some people. Not everyone is ready to dive into processing something immediately after it has happened. They need more time to titrate the emotional exposure.

Debriefing today is more an opportunity to talk if you want to and access to trauma counsellors who can help you debrief.

Having your story witnessed and acknowledged

Sometimes after a trauma the focus may be on certain people who are considered to be “worse affected” than others. This may mean that you are not given the chance to tell your story and have the impact of the trauma on you acknowledged. In can be helpful to talk to a trauma counsellor to allow you to share your story and have that story acknowledged. This allows for a better resolution of the trauma.

Some people process things by talking and talking. Others process by reflecting. That is why the debriefing I do, and the format that is recommended, involves letting you talk if you want to or allowing you space if you don’t want to talk.

Sometimes you will need to talk to a counsellor to help with processing the trauma, especially if you are avoiding the emotions and memories due to the pain they cause. A trauma counsellor can help you learn how to cope with those overwhelming emotions and how to titrate your exposure to them.

Unhelpful coping behaviours

In trying to cope with trauma, some people may adopt behaviours that are extremely unhelpful and keep them trapped in the trauma. Substance abuse and increased alcohol consumption are the most common behaviours that I see. They may provide temporary respite from troubling thoughts and emotions, but they are dangerous in the long term and actually keep you trapped in that place of trauma.

When to seek help

Traumatic events take time to recover from. Most people will recover in time. Recovery will usually involve talking about what happened, reflecting on the incident, being willing to cry or experience other emotions.

If you feel that you are stuck in these memories and emotions and don’t seem to be getting better, then it is helpful to seek counselling.

To summarise:

Risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing PTSD:
• Previous trauma exposure, especially in childhood
• Getting hurt or seeing others hurt or killed
• Feeling helpless, horror or extreme fear
• Thinking you are going to die
• Having little or no social support after the event
• Being exposed to extra stress after the traumatic event such as pain and injury, loss of job or home, loss of a loved one.

Things you can do to reduce the likelihood of developing PTSD:
• Seek support from friends, family, support groups. Accept offers to engage in critical incident debriefing, either when the counsellors are present or at some point in the next few days.
• Allowing yourself to be upset and impacted by the traumatic event
• Allow yourself to process what has happened and learn from it
• Seek counselling if you need support with the impacts of the event and processing the feelings around the event.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with processing your trauma, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with helpful information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz