Learning the Boundaries within the Belief
Learning boundaries within self-belief is central to the construction (or reconstruction) of autonomy after the forced disconnection and disembodiment of survival. Access to culturally relevant and inclusive resources and education is the macro to healing, where reconnection and embodiment are the intimate micros. Nothing can replace our self-belief, nothing can replicate our reclamation of internal trust, because nothing can speak our truth as our bodies can.
I had the privilege to sit amidst a group of humans last night who are doing this work and walking our their own autonomous healing in unique and profound ways. Their expression of individual freedom, their breath witnessed within laughter, their clarity expressed within their body-truth was grounded in self-awareness and belief. I felt incredibly humbled to sit beside them, at this table where all were invited to be both known and hidden, and allow my body to exist in the agony it holds without apology.
Over the course of the evening, this body agony was recognized. My eyes speak it. Eventually, the question was asked, “Is it burdensome to experience the level of body pain you do?” I don’t always have the opportunity to breathe before I respond, but there was space to do so there, and as a result, I was allowed to also feel. To not shut off my embodiment. To experience the reality of the burden and the gift of this experience in myself.
Most say, without malicious intent, that trauma gets better with time. For me, that is emotionally and soulfully relevant because of my privilege. I have developed and re-developed a fluid experience of healing that I have been able to integrate into my mind and soul. However, because of the lack of survival I have been invited into now, my body is welcome to speak the truth that my mind and soul dissociated from for over eighteen years. After experiencing abuse so horrific I should not have survived it, this body pain is the result. This body pain, this agony, is the consequence.
Do I feel burdened? Yes, undoubtedly. It is devastating to witness my body crumble. To have air and water and clothes cause screams of pain. To have my bones feel like they are disintegrating. To feel and acknowledge the existence of each nerve as if I am studying them for a test because the pain is so insidious it demands to be felt at a minute level. Yet, there is no greater honour than being forehead to forehead with that little girl, who had a body which was demanded to scream silently as she was destroyed, and witness her. To hold her cheeks, welcome her tears, and to tell her with clarity that I will not leave her side. That I will be here to hear her truths, her despair, and not doubt any of it.
I may have an invisible illness, but my trauma is not invisible to me. It is seen. Not denying my inner children of my belief is my treasure, even if that means this agony never exits. The boundaries I hold within this work are mine and mine alone to create.
Studies show that the results of long term stress results in both acute and chronic changes within our neurochemical systems, as well as the vulnerable parts of our brain like the hippocampus, amygdala, and medial prefrontal cortex. This transfers into long term changes in the brain circuits that are integral to our stress responses, inside and outside the origins of our known stressors (e.g. traumas). The effects of the stress hormone, cortisol, facilitate this survival. Meaning, long term abuse manipulates our ability to respond to life and instead demands reactions that lack conscious measures or self-awareness. Another hormone, called CRF [corticotropin-releasing factor], is also known to be responsible for behaviours rooted in fear, as it triggers neurochemical reactions that are associated with hypervigilance and coping.
Our mind-body healing is initiated by external safety when the necessity for unconscious survival begins to slowly fade and the invitation for self-awareness becomes a sustainable option. In other words, healing begins and ends in our bodies, but our mind-body connection has been manipulated by the need to survive and the valid coping responses that we’ve developed within it. Recognizing our reactions without shaming is a tender process. No matter how much privilege we hold, we simply cannot expect to immediately shift out of our coping mechanisms as they are innate. They have been developed over periods of time, and in many cases are outside our control. We become triggered, and then we become the survivor. Shifting this requires compassion, time, and a lack of expectation.
Our internal reclamation of self-trust, particularly within the slow establishment of self-awareness, will transform our healing work into something sustainable for us as individuals. It is our intimate space to touch our skin and feel our truths, without being overwhelmed by them. It takes time, it takes consistency, it deserves respect and culturally relevant resources. We can never erase what our bodies know, but we can learn to meet them without re-traumatizing ourselves. We can become empowered by the self-belief and awareness when boundaries exist within them. We can be lead by the embodiment because our bodies are the key to cultivating our own stories that do not end with words that aren’t ours.