Tag Archive: trauma

Trauma and the Body

When any of us experience a traumatic event (sometimes leading to PTSD) – even once if it’s great enough – it isn’t something that is only emotional or mental. It’s also physical, because when we’re traumatized, we armor physically.

Resilience is something greatly discussed today, because we know now that some people who experience trauma do not armor as much as others.  The reason lies in how they were supported after the traumatic event; and this support, in turn, helped them reduce their physical, and then mental and emotional armoring.

Bessel van der Kolk, a psychiatrist from the Netherlands, became interested in how to successfully help Viet Nam veterans. As a young practitioner, he was introduced to a vet who was having nightmares; he offered him drugs to help him sleep, and after a few weeks, the vet gave the drugs back to him, saying he preferred to have the nightmares as a living testament to those who suffered the trauma with him. He realized then that trauma sufferers hold that trauma in their hearts, minds and also their bodies.

From his ensuing work with vets, he came to appreciate that traumatized people don’t remember the story. Instead they re-experience the event, as if it was happening right now. The images, sounds, smells – all physical sensations – are as real now as they were at the time of the event.

Yet, for those vets who were able to move on, their stories changed over time, eventually being  integrated into their past. Those vets were able to move on.

From studies in neuropsychology, we know that the Amygdala is involved in registering and holding trauma, by either becoming hypersensitive or shutting down. This means the person experiencing a current event may be hypersensitive to it and react as if it were traumatizing and life-threatening, and at the same time, be insensitive to the consequences of their reactions to those around them.

Trauma, being held, cuts us off from our bodies.

Wilhelm Reich, in the 1950’s recognized this and developed his theory of Character Structures as a result. Others refined his work – Alexander Lowen, Stephen Johnson, Jack Painter, and many others more recently, base their work on this recognition. Much earlier, shamanic traditions recognized this phenomenon and learned to effectively deal with it.

These practitioners, including van der Kolk, prior to working with the traumatized person on integrating their story, help them reconnect with their bodies. Van der Kolk uses yoga; others use different kinds of massage and exercises, similar to yoga. The mind-body movement popular today is, in some part, an effort to reconnect mind and body, recognizing the essential need to be able to feel in a sensual/perceptual way, how an experience impacts a person.

If you’ve experienced trauma and it continues to impact you, then a way to begin to work with it is through some form of exercise that begins the process of de-armoring. This may be through yoga or some other physical activity that stretches and tenses different parts of your body. It may be working with a therapist who can support you as you learn to regain mastery over your physical actions and reactions. It’s my specialty, and that of many others.

Whatever you decide, know that it is possible to live free of trauma, and to regain that part of yourself that was once lost.

Our society and PTSD

 

Quote of the Week 

Armor: It’s how we protect ourselves from vulnerability. We just engage in a behavior that confirms our fear.”
― Brené Brown

Announcements 

Need more? At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us.  I offer both one-on-one consultations and coaching packages.  For more information, visit my website www.thejoyofliving.co/services-and-programs or contact me directly at maryanne@thejoyofliving.co .

 

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist and Life Coach.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co.

Trauma and the Body

When any of us experience a traumatic event (sometimes leading to PTSD) – even once if it’s great enough – it isn’t something that is only emotional or mental. It’s also physical, because when we’re traumatized, we armor physically.

Resilience is something greatly discussed today, because we know now that some people who experience trauma do not armor as much as others.  The reason lies in how they were supported after the traumatic event; and this support, in turn, helped them reduce their physical, and then mental and emotional armoring.

Bessel van der Kolk, a psychiatrist from the Netherlands, became interested in how to successfully help Viet Nam veterans. As a young practitioner, he was introduced to a vet who was having nightmares; he offered him drugs to help him sleep, and after a few weeks, the vet gave the drugs back to him, saying he preferred to have the nightmares as a living testament to those who suffered the trauma with him. He realized then that trauma sufferers hold that trauma in their hearts, minds and also their bodies.

From his ensuing work with vets, he came to appreciate that traumatized people don’t remember the story. Instead they re-experience the event, as if it was happening right now. The images, sounds, smells – all physical sensations – are as real now as they were at the time of the event.

Yet, for those vets who were able to move on, their stories changed over time, eventually being  integrated into their past. Those vets were able to move on.

From studies in neuropsychology, we know that the Amygdala is involved in registering and holding trauma, by either becoming hypersensitive or shutting down. This means the person experiencing a current event may be hypersensitive to it and react as if it were traumatizing and life-threatening, and at the same time, be insensitive to the consequences of their reactions to those around them.

Trauma, being held, cuts us off from our bodies.

Wilhelm Reich, in the 1950’s recognized this and developed his theory of Character Structures as a result. Others refined his work – Alexander Lowen, Stephen Johnson, Jack Painter, and many others more recently, base their work on this recognition. Much earlier, shamanic traditions recognized this phenomenon and learned to effectively deal with it.

These practitioners, including van der Kolk, prior to working with the traumatized person on integrating their story, help them reconnect with their bodies. Van der Kolk uses yoga; others use different kinds of massage and exercises, similar to yoga. The mind-body movement popular today is, in some part, an effort to reconnect mind and body, recognizing the essential need to be able to feel in a sensual/perceptual way, how an experience impacts a person.

If you’ve experienced trauma and it continues to impact you, then a way to begin to work with it is through some form of exercise that begins the process of de-armoring. This may be through yoga or some other physical activity that stretches and tenses different parts of your body. It may be working with a therapist who can support you as you learn to regain mastery over your physical actions and reactions. It’s my specialty, and that of many others.

Whatever you decide, know that it is possible to live free of trauma, and to regain that part of yourself that was once lost.

Announcements 

If you like this blog, you’ll also like my newsletters. It’s written only for my insiders who sign up, and provides weekly insights, not only from me, but from others I admire.

To sign up  for my insider newsletter, click here. If you find it doesn’t work for you, all you have to do to unsubscribe is click on the link at the bottom of the newsletter.

Looking forward to welcoming you to my growing list of insiders!

Maryanne

 

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co 

Don’t take it personally

 

The February edition of Psychology Today has a piece by Toni Bernhard that speaks to me titled “It’s Not About You”. It’s worth reading. Last week I travelled to Michigan to see my friends and partner, as I do pretty much every month. I have a Nexus card for exactly that purpose, and have been using it with no issue for the past 9 years.  This time, I was interrogated for over an hour, threatened, and my car searched.  It was ugly and traumatizing.

Let’s talk about trauma for a second. Trauma is a brain thing, not a mental thing. That is, it directly impacts the brain nerves, and as such, when experienced, there is no way to prepare mentally or emotionally for it. That’s why the best treatment for trauma is lots of support to help the person get through the physical assault to the brain, and get back to a sense of normal balance (for a video presentation you might want to watch Dr. John Rigg explain it.

I experienced trauma, and as such wasn’t functioning well. Within 2 days, I was late for something important, completely missed another thing that was equally important – letting many others down – found myself incredibly tired, and finally had a melt down 24 hours later that lasted another 24 hours.

In that time, I blamed myself for everything and tried to work out what I could have done differently – until I had a talk with my supervisor and friend, who described what I was going through and emphasized that it wasn’t my fault. There was and is nothing I can do to prepare for a traumatizing event, and the physical outcome of that event is also not something I can change.  The only thing that is in my power to do something about is to seek support once I understand what’s happening. AND, to avoid ruminating and blaming myself.

I did apologize to my friend for missing her event, and I sent a note of explanation to the person whose event I was late for. Then I rested and let my body heal. Once my head was clear, I took the kind of action available to me that could best realistically address the issue.

I’d like to say that I avoided ruminating and self-flagellation. Alas, that was too much to ask. However, I did manage to limit it. I am a person who routinely takes on the responsibility of a situation that really isn’t my responsibility. Are you like me?

Who knows what was going on with the border guard, or why they did what they did. I will probably never know. It wasn’t for anything I actually did – my record is clean.  So it had to be something in their lives that did it. In other words, it wasn’t about me!

It’s hard not to take such an event personally, but that’s the point: it really isn’t personal. So don’t take it personally. It was unfortunate, and there was and will likely be fallout. But it isn’t personal.

In Toni Bernhard’s research, she discovered that when we take things personally, we undermine our ability to feel good about ourselves, which in turn, brings on depression and anxiety. It’s associated with greater rumination – that downward spiraling into darkness.

Here’s another example from my life – in this case my young life.  I was testing for a swimming level and was kept back and asked to repeat certain strokes.  I immediately assumed it was because I’d done something wrong and was being given another chance. This thinking made me hyper aware and I nearly drowned.  Even so, what really happened was that I got an extra commendation for excellent form.

The best kind of support for those of us who ruminate is this:

  • Develop and use your own “doubt shout”: Once you recognize that you’re ruminating (and this might take a while), find a way to stop it. I use a “doubt shout”, because it really is about me doubting myself. My particular doubt shout that works for me is “Don’t go there! It doesn’t really matter if there’s some truth in it. It’s simply a waste of time.”
  • Treat yourself to kindness and compassion. Realistic positive reinforcement is a far stronger and more effective approach than negative punishing reinforcement. I think we all know that, deep down.
  • Be clear about what you are actually responsible for. I’m reminded of the Serenity prayer here: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” What I can change is me, my approach and my circumstances. That’s all!

The Power of Reframing

 

 

Quote of the Week

Life picks on everyone … don’t take it personally.

-Steve Gilliland

Announcements

Need more? At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us.  I offer both one-on-one consultations and coaching packages.  For more information, visit my website www.thejoyofliving.co/services-and-programs or contact me directly at maryanne@thejoyofliving.co .

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist and Life Coach.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co.

Don’t take it personally

 

The February edition of Psychology Today has a piece by Toni Bernhard that speaks to me titled “It’s Not About You”. It’s worth reading. Last week I travelled to Michigan to see my friends and partner, as I do pretty much every month. I have a Nexus card for exactly that purpose, and have been using it with no issue for the past 9 years.  This time, I was interrogated for over an hour, threatened, and my car searched.  It was ugly and traumatizing.

Let’s talk about trauma for a second. Trauma is a brain thing, not a mental thing. That is, it directly impacts the brain nerves, and as such, when experienced, there is no way to prepare mentally or emotionally for it. That’s why the best treatment for trauma is lots of support to help the person get through the physical assault to the brain, and get back to a sense of normal balance (for a video presentation you might want to watch Dr. John Rigg explain it.

I experienced trauma, and as such wasn’t functioning well. Within 2 days, I was late for something important, completely missed another thing that was equally important – letting many others down – found myself incredibly tired, and finally had a melt down 24 hours later that lasted another 24 hours.

In that time, I blamed myself for everything and tried to work out what I could have done differently – until I had a talk with my supervisor and friend, who described what I was going through and emphasized that it wasn’t my fault. There was and is nothing I can do to prepare for a traumatizing event, and the physical outcome of that event is also not something I can change.  The only thing that is in my power to do something about is to seek support once I understand what’s happening. AND, to avoid ruminating and blaming myself.

I did apologize to my friend for missing her event, and I sent a note of explanation to the person whose event I was late for. Then I rested and let my body heal. Once my head was clear, I took the kind of action available to me that could best realistically address the issue.

I’d like to say that I avoided ruminating and self-flagellation. Alas, that was too much to ask. However, I did manage to limit it. I am a person who routinely takes on the responsibility of a situation that really isn’t my responsibility. Are you like me?

Who knows what was going on with the border guard, or why they did what they did. I will probably never know. It wasn’t for anything I actually did – my record is clean.  So it had to be something in their lives that did it. In other words, it wasn’t about me!

It’s hard not to take such an event personally, but that’s the point: it really isn’t personal. So don’t take it personally. It was unfortunate, and there was and will likely be fallout. But it isn’t personal.

In Toni Bernhard’s research, she discovered that when we take things personally, we undermine our ability to feel good about ourselves, which in turn, brings on depression and anxiety. It’s associated with greater rumination – that downward spiraling into darkness.

Here’s another example from my life – in this case my young life.  I was testing for a swimming level and was kept back and asked to repeat certain strokes.  I immediately assumed it was because I’d done something wrong and was being given another chance. This thinking made me hyper aware and I nearly drowned.  Even so, what really happened was that I got an extra commendation for excellent form.

The best kind of support for those of us who ruminate is this:

  • Develop and use your own “doubt shout”: Once you recognize that you’re ruminating (and this might take a while), find a way to stop it. I use a “doubt shout”, because it really is about me doubting myself. My particular doubt shout that works for me is “Don’t go there! It doesn’t really matter if there’s some truth in it. It’s simply a waste of time.”
  • Treat yourself to kindness and compassion. Realistic positive reinforcement is a far stronger and more effective approach than negative punishing reinforcement. I think we all know that, deep down.
  • Be clear about what you are actually responsible for. I’m reminded of the Serenity prayer here: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” What I can change is me, my approach and my circumstances. That’s all!

 

Announcements

If you like this blog, you’ll also like my newsletters. It’s written only for my insiders who sign up, and provides weekly insights, not only from me, but from others I admire.

To sign up for my insider newsletter, click here.  If you find it doesn’t work for you, all you have to do to unsubscribe is click on the link at the bottom of the newsletter.

Looking forward to welcoming you to my growing list of insiders!

Maryanne

 

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .