How to Heal a Traumatic Experience
The first thing we need to know is that we have all suffered some trauma at some point in our lives, and that these traumatic experiences alter the way our brain and nervous system communicate.
A trauma caused by an event that occurred when I was 11 years old, may have remained intact for 50 years, conditioning the rest of my life.
Many people feel trapped by anxiety, depression, limiting beliefs, repetitive behaviors… What happens? How does our brain interact with our body when it comes to processing and classifying experiences?
Our brain keeps the memory of traumatic experiences and it keeps them constantly present so that that happening never happens again, but in doing so, it keeps us trapped in the trauma.
It’s hard to understand that your brain’s strain is the cause that keeps you trapped in the trauma, but that is so.
In reality, the brain is just trying to protect us. So for example, when it fights anxiety, the brain just wants to protect us from that anxiety and, in doing so, creates anxiety. It reactivates the same thing it is trying to protect us from.
Therefore, we cannot leave the resolution in the hands of the brain. Our brain is not designed to facilitate a prosperous, happy and successful life. Our brain is guided by a survival instinct that seeks protection and security. And it is not easy to stop its hyper-reactivity, because it works very fast. It will automatically connect with reference events in your life, all in nanoseconds.
But then, how can we harness our power of free choice to change those automatisms?
First of all, you have to understand that although thoughts are the language of the brain, the language of the body are the emotions.
Both need to be addressed if we are to start a process that will enable us to strike a reasonable vital balance.
Even if we try, we can’t go back and change the past, no matter how many times we think about it.
Belief systems are the drivers of all our thoughts and behaviors.
Those systems were born to protect us and prevent «that» from happening again, and to prevent «that», it keeps the trauma active.
Does that mean that we have to go back and relive the experience?
At the time, your brain extracted meaning from the traumatic experience and created a belief about you and the world: «you are worthless»… «this is not a safe world»… «children don’t cry»… etc.
All that lack of confidence, insecurities and self-limiting beliefs are emotionally charged with a neurological response.
When you go through trauma, the first thing is to survive. At that moment we don’t have the ability to feel and deal with all aspects of that experience, and we have to move on.
Subsequently, there was no opportunity to do so, there was not the necessary space to process and integrate what happened… there was no time to cry or space to feel all that sadness…
And the trauma becomes even more rooted with time, while the brain remains in a hypervigilance response that keeps us trapped in the drama.
Effective therapies work in layers and it the brain must feel safe to start tearing those layers apart, because letting go of the trauma means putting ourselves in a vulnerable and unsafe place, something the brain constantly avoids.
Therefore, it is very important to work with the brain in a process that allows it to feel safe to finally let go of that state of alarm around the trauma.
The essence of a good therapeutic approach is to explore what may need to be felt to free it from the body and release it from the mind.
Emotions need to be felt and released from a place of safety. It’s not about feeling the trauma and getting caught in a loop, but about feeling it to finally release it and let it go.
And then it’s important to address the meaning, to draw the lesson. There are numerous examples of human beings who transformed their traumatic experience into a purpose for their life. It’s definitely not easy, but it’s absolutely possible.
The first step to take is to change the meaning around emotions. Two people can go through the same experience with a completely different outcome, because of the meaning they gave to the experience.
We have to understand that we put emotions in boxes and label them. These are good emotions and those are bad. These are positive and those are negative. That way we label a risk or a threat around certain emotions and the brain wants to avoid those threats.
A lot of people can’t release emotions, because there’s an internal resistance, not just to release them, but even to feel them, because there’s a belief installed that I can’t afford to feel everything I feel.
Emotions are not necessarily good or bad, they are just part of our human experience and there is nothing wrong with feeling emotions. But we’ve been taught to judge our emotions: «I shouldn’t feel that way»… «I’m not strong enough»… etc.
As human beings, we will experience a wide range of emotions in our lives. In fact, weu cannot live a full and meaningful life without living a wide spectrum of emotions, often challenging and sometimes contradictory.
Finally, there are traumatic experiences that vibrate with events that occurred in our families and connect us with transgenerational memories that we often do not know.
The resolution of those energetic loads is an important aspect if we want to feel in harmony with ourselves and our family of origin.
The Netflix series «Mi Otra Yo» (Another Self in English) shows us that invisible face behind our personal and family reality.