“Trauma originates in the nervous system, not the event” – Peter Levine
Trauma is any experience that is either too much, too soon, too fast, or not enough than we are prepared to cope with and can leave our physical, emotional and spiritual selves feeling overwhelmed.
Living through a trauma experience disrupts your sense of safety in the world. Often traumatic stress, fear and immobilization of survival impulses such as fight, flight, social enagement, are stuck in our nervous systems, limiting our ability to fully experience a sense of safety in our bodies. This is why healing from trauma is not just something you can fix by talking or reading alone, it requires you to experience or ‘move through’ it. Without inviting the experience of safety in your body again, your nervous system will continue to stay stuck in attempts to complete and discharge survival energy. This is what Peter Levine is suggesting when he refers to trauma not as an event but in our physiological relationship to the event in present time.
Unresolved traumatic stress in the body can show up in many ways; negative self-worth; general sense of feeling powerlessness; people-pleasing in relationships; feeling out of control of your emotions; feeling like you need to be busy all the time or having difficulty relaxing. It may also show up in a general sense of feeling disconnected or numb, as anxiety, depression or irritability; as irritable bowel syndrome, migraines or other chronic pains not clearly linked to an organic medical issue. You may experience a lack of trust and discomfort in connecting with others. You may even read this list and resonate with these symptoms but have no explicit memory of living through a traumatic event. This is because our nervous systems may be responding to pervasive experiences that such as growing up in an emotionally unavailable household or other socio-cultural and intergenerational traumas that aren’t linked to a single ‘shock trauma’.
Safety is trauma therapy is often created by titrating the work to not overwhelm your system. This allows you to expand your capacity to cope; to slow down and allow survival impulses to move through to completion; to feel safe enough to allow your nervous system to discharge sympathetic charge with an empathic witness. Inviting imagery, playfulness and empathic witnessing to your own experience can also support safety. Trauma resolution is more than retelling of a story but also inviting coherence back into your body.
Remember, trauma resolution is not about achieving a perfect outcome but rather inviting choice on how to move forward. Feel free to contact us to learn more about our expertise in treating trauma with embodied modalities such as somatic experiencing, dance/movement therapy and developmental transformations.