Have you felt afraid lately? Tense, on edge, scared? I admit that I have felt an immense amount of fear over the past week. The world, after all, seems so uncertain. The news doesn't help either; it is also extremely unsettling. Life at times looks really dangerous, doesn't it? So many shootings, drownings, accidents, illnesses, natural disasters. People are dying every second. The list seems pretty dismal, especially when reviewing my list of sheer tragedies. But what about those that recently lost a job, or are facing a decision about whether or not they should stay in their relationship? What about the day to day life experiences that we each face? Can those feel just as scary?
As I prepare for my next Mastering the Trauma Wound Weekend Workshop, I realize, as is the case every time I facilitate this particular workshop, that similar to any trauma survivor, my own memories always arise. It is like dust getting kicked up in a windstorm. Sometimes the dust blinds me from seeing clearly; hence my fear lately. Thankfully, I have my own tools and resources to help me get back on track when I wander into my past.
I am reading The Body Keeps the Score (2014) by the brilliant Bessel Van Der kolk, M.D. In it he explains, "As long as trauma is not resolved....emotional responses keep getting replayed...Flashbacks and reliving are in some ways worse than the trauma itself" (p.66).
He adds, "People who suffer from flashbacks often organize their lives around trying to protect against them. They may compulsively go to the gym...numb themselves with drugs [or via other addictions], or try to cultivate an illusory sense of control in highly dangerous situations" (p.67).
As a result of the chronic illusory battle that goes on within a survivor of trauma, one tends to get exhausted and worn down in their day to day life. After all, constant and intense emotions can break down the physical body. We cannot emotionally or physically sustain in a constant state of fear, anxiety, and in some cases, even panic.
If I have felt a lot of fear lately, I am guessing that others have as well. Isn't there a sense of ease and comfort in knowing that there are other trauma survivors out there whose fear gets kicked up at times, even when it is only an illusion of a storm and not reality? Knowing there are others walking (or running) through the dust storm, fighting their way through life's confusion, is indeed a relief.
As the distinguished emeritus professor of child psychology at Harvard, Jerome Kagan, once said to the Dalai Lama, "for every act of cruelty in this world there are hundreds of small acts of kindness and connection" (in The Body Keeps the Score, p. 79). He concluded:"Being able to feel safe with other people is probably the single most important aspect of mental health" (p. 79).Is this truly possible? To feel safe around other people? Especially if one has endured trauma as a result of other people's actions?
To get to a place where you can fully believe the statement that YOU ARE SAFE takes some practice. However, it is definitely possible. It starts within.
One of the support tools I offer is called the Safety Affirmation: "I am safe, I am ok, this is just sensation." Saying this repeatedly to oneself throughout the day can create a sense of internal ease. This is a great tool for folks who have a tendency, based on past trauma, to be hyper-aroused in their regular lives.
Van Der kolk also encourages that folks learn to befriend their bodies (p.100). He says, "The bodies of child-abuse victims are tense and defensive until they find a way to relax and feel safe...Physical self-awareness is the first step in releasing the tyranny of the past"(p. 100,101).
Sit with this statement for a moment: "You are safe." Then, say to yourself: "I AM safe."
Do you believe these statements? Why or why not? Which one feels truer? Is there a clear reason why you are not safe (if you feel unsafe)? How much of what you feel is from past trauma (i.e. the body remembering)? Or are you unsure (which is ok)? In what ways are you or aren't you safe? For instance, are you emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually, sexually safe? How so or how are you not? It may be helpful to journal your responses (or mentally note them to share with a safe person).
Some tools for learning how to feel safe include: Containing challenging emotions (safe container), imagining a safe state or a safe place, deep breathing, counting with inhale/exhale, yoga, exercise; drawing, writing, creating spit in your mouth (which awakens the "Rest/Digest" part of the brain), even smiling. These tools will assist you in beginning to experience a sense of safety and comfort in your body, especially when triggered by a flashback. Letting yourself feel safe when you are safe is key.
Please always remember:
YOU ARE WORTH IT.
Candice CHECK OUT WHAT IS GOING ON AT NAMASTE!
OUR 4TH MEN'S HEALTHY SEXUALITY GROUP: Mondays, 5-7 p.m. $45 per group; 12-Week Series.
MASTERING THE TRAUMA WOUND WEEKEND Workshop (Part 1) 2-Day Intensive May 30, 31. THIS WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE! Payment plans available. Only 4 seats left! If you have experienced ANY trauma in your life and are ready to take your healingto the next level, sign up today! firstname.lastname@example.org.
YOGA FOR RECOVERY FOR MEN is every Monday in June from 7-8:15 p.m. with Carrie Coppola, yogi and healer (owner of Mudita; bajoyyoga.com). $40 per class/4 week commitment required.
HEALTHY BODY! Cari Junge, our fabulous Program Manager, is also now our Integrative Health Advisor. She will be offering health assessments, treatment plans, etc for folks in need of getting support for their physical health needs. She will offer a one night introductory class the first of June to share her wisdom about healing the body. Stay tuned for dates!
Contact info: CANDICE@NAMASTEADVICE.COM; 801-272-3500