When faced with health issues, be it mental or otherwise, sometimes we just want the quickest and simplest way to heal ourselves without adding more tasks to our already-overwhelmed body, like going through the process of finding a specialized doctor or therapist, for instance. I get that 100%. I’ve been there.
So in this way, for today’s reading, I’ve curated the most crucial steps to trauma healing on your own. One of the purposes of this article is to hopefully give you an idea of what to expect in case you do ever decide to go down the traditional therapy route.
Now, I must add an important disclaimer here: I am NOT a licensed therapist or physicist. Human psychology is simply something I’m very passionate about and have therefore been reading, discussing, and learning about mental health and human behaviour for as long as I can remember.
What is trauma?
Trauma is defined as the lasting emotional response that often results from living through a distressing event, by Canada’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. It is usually categorized into 3 different types:
- Acute trauma: results from a single incident. Example: a car accident.
- Chronic trauma: results from a repeated event over a prolonged period. Example: bullying.
- Complex trauma: results from the exposure to multiple traumatic events, usually within the context of interpersonal relationships. Example: family disputes.
For the sake of not turning this article into a 500-page book, we’ll be looking specifically at chronic trauma. I’ll be addressing this type since it’s the one that I’m most knowledgeable about and that I’ve experienced personally.
How does trauma healing happen?
Essentially, trauma healing all comes down to our physical body. In the words of Somatic Experience practitioner Ilene Smith, “Your nervous system does not function through thoughts, it functions through feelings”.
In this context, feelings can also mean physical reactions, sensations, etc. Now, that statement alone may be a bit too vague so let’s look at it in a more straightforward way.
Let’s take animals. Animals in the wild rarely experience trauma despite facing threats practically daily. On the contrary, domesticated animals find themselves living a life more similar to that of humans, in terms of trauma-related experiences. So, why is that?
Well, the idea is quite simple. Trauma psychologist Dr. Peter Levine’s theory suggests that wild animals have the full freedom to live in accordance with their natural instincts, which in turn allows them to act on self-protective impulses.
They are free to play, move around as they wish, ground themselves in the comfort and presence of their herd members, and live a meaningful life full of sensory stimulation. When a being finds itself in these natural living conditions, the symptoms of PTSD and other stress-related disorders are relatively non-existent. And so are the unhealthy coping strategies that we commonly use in response to trauma.
In other words, our first target for trauma healing is to restore our bodies back to health.
“The potential for clearing neurobiological debris from the nervous system clears the way for positive neuroplasticity and personal expansion whether that is seen as spiritual or otherwise, and which is separate from one’s history of pain and woundedness.”Quote from the Comprehensive Resource Model® (CRM), a neuro-biologically based, affect-focused trauma treatment model.
Using therapy for trauma healing
Having studied practically all the different trauma treatment models that exist out there, one common pattern I’ve noticed to appear in almost every one of them is the use of mindfulness. In essence, mindfulness techniques are used in therapy to address traumatic events in some way, shape or form. And that goes for all 3 types of trauma.
When we are being mindful, we are bringing focused, non-judgemental awareness to our experience. It is this attention that changes the structure and functions of our physical brain (Dr. Dan J. Siegel, 2007).
Example: if you’re a passenger in a car, you may not be able to retrace the route taken from your home to a new destination. But if you have to drive and pay attention to where you are going, your brain literally builds a pathway of neurons that “remember” how to get from A to B.
Such bulking up of spatial memory has been studied in London cab drivers who need to recall thousands of streets and laneways. Their knowledge can be seen as a thickened area on a brain scan (Begley, 2007).“Mindfulness.” Trauma Recovery, https://trauma-recovery.ca/recovery/mindfulness/.
Types of mindfulness exercises
Focused attention practices (visit mindful.org for examples)
Awareness of breath
Therapy methodologies that inspired the model we’ll be using for trauma healing
Down below, you can find a small list of treatment models that can help you if you’re not yet ready to revisit the memories of your traumatic event. You can identify if this is the case for you or not if, for instance, you get triggered or experience uneasiness when thinking about it.
Feel free to explore these therapy models by visiting the online resources I’ve linked to, or by seeking a licensed therapist that specializes in the particular method that you’re interested in.
These models can position you into getting more comfortable with triggering thoughts by using “indirect” methods, to then step into the healing part of the trauma healing journey.
- RRT and EMDR:
Generally use hypnosis techniques. How does it work? Once the therapist brings you into a state of hypnosis, you enter a relaxed place that is caused by bilateral stimulation (imagine the typical movie scene with the psychotherapist moving a pen in front of their patient’s eyes). The goal is to settle you down into your parasympathetic nervous system, which is the system that dominates our “rest and digest” mode, as opposed to our “fight or flight” mode.
Example of a relaxation/hypnosis meditation
- Somatic Experience:
Has similarities to EMDR in the sense that its main goal is to calm the amygdala down – the region of the brain that is primarily associated with the processing of emotions. Rather than just talk about your personal issues and painful memories – like in traditional talk-therapy – somatic therapists guide patients to focus on their underlying physical sensations.
Encourages people to embrace their thoughts and feelings rather than fighting or feeling guilty for them.
Milk-milk-milk exercise by the ACT
Now, for mitigating chronic trauma, also characterized by the undergoing of little experiences that overwhelm your capacities to cope, let’s get into the path of healing. These next steps are inspired by the DNMS, whose goal is to provide the emotional repair wounded child parts need to become totally unstuck from the past.
Results: fewer unwanted behaviours, beliefs and emotions and a greater ability to respond to stressors with adult skills and strengths. As our wounded child softens, we are presented with the resolution of internal conflicts.
Connecting to our Adult Resources (encompasses the first 2 steps)
This treatment model assumes that many people already have within them, mature adult parts of self that can help child parts heal. We begin with a protocol for strengthening a connection to those “Resource” parts of self.
There exist three mature, adult Resources states of mind:
A Spiritual Core Self
A Nurturing Adult Self
A Protective Adult Self
The goal here is to establish what we call a “Healing Circle”, by connecting with all three parts through the use of mindfulness.
The Spiritual Core Self
- Considered the core of one’s being. Some people refer to it as the soul.
- Often experienced during:
Peak spiritual experiences
Enlightening near-death experiences
- This state of mind embodies qualities of:
It is not necessary to believe in God or spirituality to connect with this part of self. For those who believe in God, this is the part of self that resonates with divine love from a higher power.
Guided meditations may be used to help connect to this Resource.
Example of a meditation for connecting with source power
The Nurturing & Protective Adult Self
- A Nurturing Adult Self is the state of mind that can competently nurture a loved one.
- A Protective Adult Self is the state of mind that can competently protect a loved one.
Many skills and traits are needed to be a good-enough nurturer or protector. Most people have all of these skills whether aware of it or not.
If a caregiver skill was applied even once in the past, it can be applied again in the future. Examples of caregiver skills: empathic, compassionate, understanding, nurturing, reliable, trustworthy, respectful, strong, courageous, and protective
In traditional DNMS, two guided meditations are used to heighten awareness of these skills – one meditation connects to the Nurturing Adult Self, while the other connects to the Protective Adult Self. Since the two meditations are very similar, we may use only one meditation that encompasses both Resources.
Example of a meditation for connecting with our nurturing/protecting powers
The Child Part (encompasses the 3rd and final step)
Once the Healing Circle is established, we invite our inner child into the process. The goal here is to strengthen bonds with each Resource and to finally heal that emotional trauma. By accessing our Nurturing and Protective Self, we have the necessary tools to alleviate our wounded inner child by, you guessed it, nurturing and protecting it.
An inner child meditation is then used for this step.
Example of an inner child meditation
As with anything in the realm of personal development, trauma healing doesn’t happen overnight. But once you get the hang of it, the time and mental effort spent in working on our past traumas such as toxic relationships, is so worth it!
If you want to learn more about DNMS therapy, go to dnmsinstitute.com
I wish you the very best in your path towards a healthier and better you.
Save this post: