Many people often state that social media is a waste of time, and contributes to a very superficial culture matrix; however, I believe it is how we view it and use it. Social media has an extremely conscious aspect to it when used from such a lens. I have learned so much from people I follow. I also have pieced together gaps in the healing journey, via experts I follow on social media. These offerings connected a few dots that I couldn’t find the correct wording for. One such gap was the definition of Trauma. I was under the impression that trauma as it pertains to the patient is defined as a deeply disturbing experience in the form of shock, violence physical, sexual, verbal. It absolutely is this, without a doubt. However, trauma has a greater definition.
The subconscious mind is formed during childhood, and it is shaped by how we as infants and children get our needs met, this is where we build our beliefs and safety mechanisms and store trauma. Trauma can be defined as anything that was traumatic to the child. It may be absolutely unrecognized by the parent and the child to be trauma. The subconscious mind does not know time and space, and therefore something of great impact to the child may be a long forgotten memory, but the trauma remains in the nervous system and subconscious mind.
A child who experiences trauma as a child, will result in a nervous system developed to compensate for the trauma. This will be the same lens of our adult life, until the trauma is healed. Our nervous system is shaped by how we get our needs met or not met. It is shaped by adapting to the pain of not having our needs met as infants and children. A child who disassociates from their body in order to compensate for pain, is a child who has experienced trauma. One major clue of dissociation can be various symptoms.
Many of you have heard my health history of horrific childhood asthma and anaphylaxis. I had ZERO idea, up until very recently, that I experienced extreme amounts of trauma, unbeknownst to me, and my parents. I am alive and thriving? Where is the trauma? Well, trauma infused every cell of my body as it does for many patients who also perceive trauma to carry a heavy experience of abuse. Trauma can be from the symptoms themselves (In my case life threatening asthma); it can be from the hospital experience; it can be from your parents stress response; it can be from parents inability to help integrate and allow the child to feel. Perhaps parents were preoccupied with work and finances, this can be traumatic to the child; perhaps the child was left with loved ones after maternity leave expired, this could be traumatic for the child. Perhaps there was high stress in the home. It could be anything, anything the child perceives as painful and not having their needs met, and disassociating from their body.
This is nothing to do with placing blame on parents; this type of trauma is very confusing to catch, as often the intentions behind parents actions often is out of love. This is ALL based on the child’s own perception of trauma, even with the most loving family. Why is this important? Well it will result in symptoms, and with awareness, we can transform them.
Three symptoms of a traumatized nervous system:
- The need to be busy
Very often with a traumatized nervous system, “chaos” feels normal, and so the need to create chaos in life, will feel like home. Whether it is being late; having mess all over; over complicating issues, this is all a subconscious attempt to create chaos, the traumatized person usually has no awareness that they do this. Other times, a person is so busy and works so hard, and over-achiever, and they wear this busy-ness as a badge of honour. However, it is often rooted in trauma and wounding, and the need to feel worthy. Working and working and being busy fills their desire to make themselves worthy of feeling love. They can then earn their love. The need to be needed is a powerful drug. Some may wonder how working hard is a bad thing? When it is coming from a wounded place it is not sustainable, nor is it impactful. When we work hard from a healed nervous system, it is quality over quantity and the impact is deep and transformative.
- History of Digestive Issues
Our Enteric Nervous System (ENS) is the largest part of our peripheral nervous system. Our gut and brain are connected via the Vagus Nerve, the 10th Cranial Nerve. The stress we feel in our overall system and the chronic prolonged stress we process through our brain, is felt and often stored in the nervous system of our digestive system. A traumatized and chronically stressed child will often experience digestive issues as teen and/or adult. Often issues such as Crohn’s, Ulcerative Colitis, Anaphylaxis and food allergies. These are deeper imbalances of the gut, that are often rooted in trauma. It is important to heal the gut, repair the gut lining, choose high quality whole foods, at which point the person will start to feel quite well. However, at the root of the healing, will require a deeper exploration into the experienced trauma.
- Living in the head: fear, anxiety, analyzing, controlling, etc
The experiencing of trauma, results in dissociation from the body. Where the pain of what was being felt was to great, so the coping strategy is to disassociate from deep feelings the body is experiencing. A child will quickly learn to do this when there is no ability to cope with the traumatic experience. The child’s nervous system brilliantly figures out ways to compensate for this disassociation. Often as an adult there will be an experience of anxiety and fear and controlling and analyzing. These are all attempts at controlling the outer world because of the powerlessness felt as a child. If everything can be controlled or thought of or studied so there are no surprises, the now adult will feel safe. This is how their nervous system learned to compensate. This is a classic outcome of a traumatized nervous system. It is ruminating thoughts; living in the head; high levels of monkey brain activity. There is a heavy focus of being in the head, and a cut off from the body. The body is not able to feel. There was outer chaos and pain, so the child feels the only way to feel safe is to learn to control. The emotions are processed through the stories of the mind and the pain is often heightened as a result. Pain is the very thing the child feared the most, and yet by living in the head the pain is typically amplified. The healing is in the peeling back of layers and the erecting of the inner architecture to house one’s own pain and ability to transmute feelings through the body and heart. This is no easy feat. It takes time, and tremendous amounts of patience. And one day, there is living in the heart, no control, no analyzing and no stories attached to the feeling. Simply feeling. This is true freedom. This is the ultimate journey of healing – this is Thriving.
I will leave you with a profound proverb. I have experienced this to be the absolute truth.
“The longest journey a man must take is the 18 inches from his head to his heart.”