Trauma is a nervous system injury not just a psychological disturbance.
In seven days there were 6 deaths of teenagers in the Northwest. The Reynolds High School shooting was the 74th in the U.S. since the December 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
Trauma damages our relational life and our connection to ourselves and others. It destroys our ability to trust, our sense of power and diminishes our ability to move.
It destroys the fundamental assumption of a safe world so we no longer experience personal safety. A pervasive fear takes over and we may live in the feedback loop of “what ‘s wrong?, What awful thing is going to happen next?”
How does trauma affect the body?
We require 5 basics to stay alive: air, sleep, water, food and exercise/movement.
Trauma affects the Breath. Years of breathing at a minimum level causes decreased movement of the chest and rib cage, the place where men carry their power, makes us feel small. The night of my son Reed’s fatal injury I was at Norfolk High School comforting his girlfriend. When I arrived home emergency vehicles with flashing lights and sirens sent a jolt through my body. I drew in a sharp breath seeing my son draped in a sheet being wheeled away into an ambulance. I did not breath deeply for years. That sharp inhale registered in my nervous system and restricted the movement of my diaphragm. It required the touch of a skilled Rubenfeld Synergist and a rolfer to release this damage.
Trauma pulls us out of ourselves. I stopped in front of the big screen tv at work when news of the Reynolds shooting moved like a tsunami through the building. My first thought was “Oh these poor kids.” as my attention and heart went out to what I was witnessing. Then I remembered thattrau I needed to put on my own oxygen mask first. I needed to return to myself. I mentally scanned my body and felt myself holding my breath, the tight muscle constriction in my stomach and the ground beneath me became fragile.
What can we do when we see trauma like this on the tv screen?
We can have the awareness to return to the body. Awareness is curative. The Body remembers its natural state. The Body is central to the healing process because it knows the way. The Body sensations hold the key to healing trauma. Here are three simple tools that anyone can use to listen to their body:
- Pursed Lip Breathing which engages the Parasympathetic Nervous System. Inhale 4 counts through your nose and exhale 8 counts through your rounded lips.
- Grounding which lets you feel the earth beneath you and create safety. Imagine tree roots moving from your feet into the center of the earth. Now repeat step 1. Feel safety and security flooding your body in this moment.
- Gentle Listening Touch which heightens your awareness to your body. Scan your body to identify the tight areas. Then float your hands there and notice if this place has an image, color, sound or a word for you. Keep your hands there until you feel a shift in your body.
How do you talk to your children when they experience a traumatic event?
You can help them discover where safety lives in their body by practicing the three steps above and focusing on the five basics to stay present – air, sleep, water, food and exercise/movement.
If you’re struggling with the emotional process of grief...
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