We register trauma in our body before we find the words to express it. In the words of Bessel van der Kolk, we understand trauma to be a “speechless horror”.
If we can register trauma in our body, we can learn to heal through the use of our body. We can learn to sense safety, and we can distinguish the past trauma from present reality. At first, this might seem scary. Our body might once have been a place of danger, shame, or bewilderment. But in time, with the help of an experienced therapist, we can learn to trust those internal cues that help us to become regulated again.
When a therapist helps us to learn about our body, we learn about our triune brain. We learn that we have the neocortex (cognitive), mammalian (emotional), and reptilian (sensorimotor or body) brain, and this can help us to learn why we think, feel and act as we do. With this deeper level of knowledge, we can learn to regulate our responses to triggers in our environment, whether that is the sound of a slammed door or the face of an angry colleague.
When we learn about our body with a therapist, we also understand that our responses are a matter of survival or protection, not a matter of dysfunction or weakness. Shame or pathology has no part in a trauma-informed approach.
With the right help, it is possible to heal from your trauma.
Chris Warren-Dickins LLB MA LPC
Psychotherapist in Ridgewood, New Jersey and Maine