Our Bodies, Our Selves: Building connections to the body post-traumatic experiencesApril 18, 2017 0 comments
I discovered yoga my last semester of college and it forever changed my healing journey. Yoga transported me to a different time and place. It was in the moments of silence that I learned to go deep within myself and watch the feelings of: pain; disgust; fear; anxiety; betrayal, as clouds passing by. I acknowledged their existence, but did not dive deep into them. Instead, I focused on my breathing.
Through yoga I learned to check in with myself and take time when needed. I did not always do this and I am still learning to listen, but I am also learning to be patient with myself. Healing is not linear and triggers may happen at any given moment, often when least expected. Leaving me to feel betrayed by my body. Pause. Inhale. Exhale. Check in with your self: you are breathing hard, your heart is racing, and you are curled into fetal position. Take a deep breath and let it sink in. Calm your breath and the rest will follow.
In my healing journey, there is nothing worse than feeling betrayed by my body. But in those moments it is imperative to remember to listen, it is when I do not listen that I am most betrayed. I make it a point to get to know myself better and learn from my triggers. I do not always succeed, but I am learning not to be hard on myself. Instead, I try again. Resiliency.
5 Easy Steps to Ground the Autonomic Nervous System (Learn more)
- Begin by exhaling all the air from your lungs.
- Take a deep inhale to the count of five.
- Hold the inhale at the top for at least 2 seconds.
- Exhale slowly to the count of five.
- Pause for two seconds at the bottom of the exhale.
Repeat as many times necessary.
Trauma is known to rob the individual of the feeling that they are in control, and the continuous triggers that occur posttraumatic experiences serve as constant reminders. When danger has ceased and the brain continues to register the threat, bodies experience high levels of stress and are constantly in belief that they are under crisis. Not only does the individual remember the events of the memory, but also psychologically and physiologically re-lives the fear along with other emotions associated with the memory. This results in many survivors of trauma feeling disconnected from their bodies and experiencing great vulnerability. Survivors feel this way because they were not in control of their safety during the assault and post assault they may feel disconnected from their bodies – due to inability to distinguish safety from danger, past from present, actuality from delirium. This is particularly relevant to sexual assault trauma, because the body itself was the location of the trauma. Therefore, the body becomes a barrier to the individual’s recovery and it is not uncommon for survivors to feel disgust or shame of their bodies. In these instances, victims of sexual assault find themselves navigating through the aftermath of trauma, not knowing what to do or how to begin to process the events that have occurred in their life. If trauma is unresolved, the brain will live on high alert and continuously send high alert hormones throughout the body, thus eventually exhausting the body. These hormones are correlated to increased depression, increased insomnia, leading to a low immune system, and unhealthy responses that affect biopsychosocial status of the individual. Learning to use breath as a grounding technique is a beneficial first step, as it aids in momentarily removing the individual from the memories of trauma and grounds them in the present moment.
Van der Kolk, Bessel A. The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma. New York: Viking, 2014.