• Jacqui Snooks

Trauma Recovery and the Body

New discoveries in trauma treatment over recent years have had a profound impact on the way therapists can help to heal trauma. We now know that merely talking about our traumatic past can trigger painful memories in a harmful way. This can create a repetitive traumatic experience that leads to a cycle of pain, rather than relief.


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Critically, we have discovered that our traumatic pain lives in our bodies, and that it is often triggered by seemingly small events, which can be a confounding experience for us and our loved ones.


We have learned that our traumatic memories are not due to the event itself, but our response to the event.


This is why a single traumatic event experienced by the same people leaves a harmful traumatic imprint on some, while others appear to shake it off and move forward without much difficulty. It is our response which leaves us traumatised, and this is usually due to a feeling of helplessness and paralysis at the time of the traumatic experience itself.


When this occurs, our bodies protect us by shutting down and leaving the memory lodged in our bodies. This way we can move forward in our lives. However, if you have trauma, then you may become stuck in ways that make a thriving life impossible to achieve. This is because trauma and post-traumatic stress can have serious symptoms which effect the way we think and feel about ourselves and the world. We can become stuck in a traumatic loop where we relive our pain over and over in ways we don’t understand. We can feel haunted by our past so our future seems dim.


With trauma, we now know that we need to work with the implicit memories in the body, to gently and slowly cultivate a sense of safety while building up the tolerance needed to hold our emotional pain.

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Our therapists here at Haven are trained in how to, as trauma recovery expert Bessel van der Kolk says, ‘call up the felt sense without becoming overwhelmed by what’s lurking inside’. We teach our clients how to recognise the survival strategies which keep them in a loop of traumatic experience. We then help our clients learn new, healthy ways of regulating their emotional landscape. This helps to

create an environment where processing traumatic memory can be achieved by integrating the experience, rather than reliving it.


Learning how the body holds onto to trauma and discovering ways to integrate this experience by fostering new, more healthy ways of managing our bodies and emotional lives can be the springboard to living a life with a greater sense of flow which is more aligned with our authentic self.


Jacqui Snooks is a registered counsellor and psychotherapist and the Clinical Director of Haven Counselling and Psychotherapy in Mornington. For more information please visit: havencounselling.com.au


Reference

Levine, Peter A. PhD. Trauma and Memory; Brain and Body in a Search for the Living Past. Ergos Institue Press: Colorado, 2015.

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