Half an Apple…
I’ve talked quite a lot about letting go and in this blog I have mentioned the process of healing (esp. dissolving trauma).
Letting go is something a lot of folks want to know about but before we can get there, we have to do the work that makes letting go easier and more effective.
And that work is healing old wounds.
A brief search on the nature of trauma will lead you to a realization: trauma is stored in your body physically. There are a few competing hypotheses about how that might work, but the important thing is that your body really does store up trauma.
What is trauma?
The type of trauma that we’re talking about here seems to come about when we experience something intense (usually painful and/or frightening) and we don’t allow ourselves to think it through and/or experience the range of intense emotions that we would experience if we weren’t so profoundly affected.
In other words, something terrible happened and that pain, fear, and sadness wasn’t expressed. Your body stored it and held onto it. In response to this, your body decided to help you out and respond on autopilot to this situation in order to keep you alive (if it was a physically dangerous experience, it may have literally kept you alive by “instinctively” crawling to safety, for example). Your brain does you a favor by repressing some of the memory of this event and develops unconscious strategies to avoid this kind of trouble in the future. Your body then needs to express the pain and the brain is trying desperately to avoid it.
In order to cool off or otherwise process or avoid trauma, we develop all kinds of problematic habits: addictions, “bad habits”, stunted growth, emotional imbalance, precarious circumstances, etc.
Believe it or not, your brain and body work this toxic samba with intensely pleasurable experiences as well, though these feelings are usually repressed out of fear of judgment, abandonment, condemnation, humiliation, etc. Quite a few people repress intensely pleasurable experiences and hold them in their bodies. Like traumas from painful experiences, these unprocessed pleasurable experiences act as traumas as well: our bodies store them and our brains try to keep us “safe” from them. As humans tend to fear humiliation more than death itself, quite a lot of people are holding onto a lot of pleasure!
As you can imagine, broken, unconscious responses to stored up, unexpressed pleasure can be even more unhealthy than holding onto pain. I’ll leave the horrors you can imagine to your imagination. But these can fester and become quite icky!
You may have guessed from my word choice (or the subheader above) that the remedy for stored up thoughts and feelings (those old pesky traumas) is to express them. Before we can let go, we have to drain ourselves of the funk that we’ve been clutching to. Old traumas are harder because usually our brains can do a better job identifying with our pain.
Humans, you are quite skilled at crafting your suffering into an identity and using that identity to resist change.
Quite a lot of would-be healers would use this space to share possible tricks your brain is pulling on you, such as “I’m the kind of person who…” or “I deserve…” or “I keep it real…” or “I remember where I came from…”, etc. But you know you better than I do.
If you pay attention to your thoughts and find yourself identifying with your suffering, that can be an incredible clue as to what kind of trauma you’re holding on to. So if you don’t know where to start the healing process, start there.
Now the fun part
Every time you notice a dark spiral where you experience suffering from something that isn’t real (the past, the future, identifying with self-sabotaging nonsense, or your judgment/reaction to these things), you might want to get out your notebook and dig into your memories, thoughts, and feelings to see if you can track down the root events that set your trauma in motion.
And then express your thoughts and feelings as best you can in whatever amount you can.
You don’t have to be thorough. Just feel, think, and express what you can. And repeat this process until you have let the funk out of your body.
I advise you to not punish yourself, judge yourself, or otherwise chastise yourself in this process. Simply express your old thoughts and feelings. Accept the unreal as being “okay” and allow yourself to feel as much as you can.
This process will probably be uncomfortable. Perhaps even unbearably so — at first!
The stored up pain may feel terrible, but soon you won’t be stuck with it anymore.
The stored up pleasure may be quite enjoyable to experience, though the breakthroughs and realizations that typically follow can lead to some radical shifts in belief followed by radical shifts in circumstances. Please don’t be too alarmed; this is natural.
Don’t expect to fix everything at once.
This is a gradual process comprised mainly of tiny steps and it may take some time to work through. While you work through these old traumas, the wisest moves you can make are to take good care of your body and brain: meditate, eat healthy, and exercise.
Yoga can be a great help. As can massage and a devotion to getting enough sleep.
And learning to communicate with others in healthy, conscious ways. Even when it hurts or feels “too good”.
Next, we let these old pains, pleasures, fantasies, indentities, and warped habits & previously-unconscious coping mechanisms go.
I will post about this — the other half of the apple — next!