Unpacking Trauma Series: Part Two
Reclaiming the understanding of what intimate and personal safety feels like in our body is the most powerful foundation to sustaining our healing. However, it is often overlooked when we view trauma and abuse, of any kind, through a singular lens.
Like we discussed in Part I of this series, trauma and abuse are complex by nature. Even if we can denote one singular event or circumstance, it does not mean that the individual who experienced this singular event or circumstance has a singular result or impact. Nevertheless, when we try and approach healing/restoration from this viewpoint we often unintentionally shame the individual who is then experiencing a reoccurring response to their traumatic and/or abusive experience. Especially given that we’re educating our culture and society to believe that the impact ends after the experience does or the impact SHOULD end once a resource has been found. Meaning that those who have the privilege to receive help, and do not see the results they are told they ”should,“ feel less than and diminished. Which is just not reality.
The holistic and intricate development of personal safety is similar to the conversation around western vs eastern medicine. This safety is rarely taught in clinical, organisational, or educational environments and thus primarily only sought when all other resources either run out. We can witness this transpire through survival, as an individual adapts either into deeper survival or into a more holistic understanding of their healing work through creative means. We also see this safety embodiment practice more commonly approached and guided in NGO groups and individuals running private practices who have learned about the importance of it through their experiences with clients and/or themselves. (Shout out to all the immensely brave and beautiful wellness providers, teachers, artists, creatives, coaches, therapists, guides, and facilitators who are extending this! You are seen and appreciated!)
Personally, I was privileged to find a psychologist post rehab who knew that if we were to adopt a dogma, healing modality, methodology, or practice external to me it would never allow me to establish trust within my healing. For I would not feel safe without that external resource, in the event that I forgot it in a state of panic, didn't have access to it, or any other common things that happen when we live a life that isn't controllable. At first, this development of safety began through my psychologist simply listening, but not providing or prompting words. It was uncomfortable as fuck because one of my survival adaptations was filling space with eloquent speech to distract from truth. I was good at that. I had to be. However, over time I ran out of them, and it became wildly agonising to sit and slowly be invited to recognize that truth wasn't anywhere to be found without feeling, and I was not feeling at all. After months of this, and through the surrender to feeling, we eventually guided my body into a space where agony could seep into reality and truth could exist in the room where we worked. It sucked*. (*That's a nice word for it.)
From there it was all about boundaries. How and what it felt like to unfurl into grief, open my palms to the indescribable remembrance of 18 years of incest, abuse, and trafficking, and release when my body, mind, and soul invited me to detach from the acts and hold the resulting impacts. Instead of being chained to the cover up of truth, through grief I became/I become freed by feeling. And, it was all done through reclaiming safety to do just that. To feel, and to not question that that feeling was my past reality, became my present responsibility.
Before safety felt like secrecy. If nobody knew...then I was safe. However, that secrecy chained me to the traumas, and kept me stuck within a cycle of victimhood. I advocate heavily that seeking out memories isn’t something I recommend. I fully believe we will know, if and only if we need to. For, as aforementioned, it’s not the knowing that is important, it is the belief in the resulting impacts that we are tasked at holding. If I can believe my fear, pain, agony, grief, anger, panic, anxiety, numbness, need for control, survival adaptions, etc. Then I am opening up the understanding to know I have more than just that response as an option. Not that I am demanded to choose another route, I am valid in my resilience, but that I have the option to when I never had it before. I am developing, fostering, cultivating my own safety.
This doesn’t mean that need to/will experience safety 100% of the time, for that isn’t attainable. So many factors in life trigger us, no matter what our history is. It’s natural, human, and real to be triggered. To be spun about something as ”simple“ as our peanut butter being out when all we needed was that PB today, and how that disruption to our intended plans causes us to feel out of control and unsafe. So many factors play into this; from sleep, to stress hormones, to environment, to resources available, to all other intersections of privilege. We’re human, we're allowed to feel. That feeling will look different every second, just as our healing will. Which is why this internal safety is so invaluable. It is the option of a new space to come home to, inside our bodies, when all else feels dangerous. It is here where we learn what belief feels like, as we extend it to each part of us.
Taking a deep breath, finding the most comfortable position your body is able, what inside you is speaking to you? Can you hear it? Is it fuzzy? Is it clear? Is it quiet? Is it painful? Is it nervous? Is it joyful? Whether we practice this once a day for 5 seconds or multiple times, this is where we are invited to not question why we feel what we are, but how we can believe what we’re feeling regardless of how frustrated, confused, pissed, exhausted, and scared we are. That belief is our power, our autonomy, being reclaimed.
You are not responsible for what you experienced, but you can become empowered to be responsible for believing the resulting impacts and emotions. No matter what it was, it is not less than; you are not less than because you are still feeling the resulting impacts of it. You are allowed to be impacted, you are allowed to feel it. You are also absolutely worthy of reclaiming safety, and believing yourself, in order to be free. Not erasing the results, for some may remain forever, but knowing that when you feel them you are welcome to. For, you will always work towards believing it, and from that becoming unchained.
Sending you tenderness from bed this morning, thankful for a sick body inviting in rest.