The unconscious und uncontrolled yet natural survival reactions we experience in a traumatic situation are supposed to be temporary and the body should be allowed to return to its natural relaxed state.
That is what we expect and what seems to happen: anger calms down, fear is diminished, the broken bone is healed but still – something is not right.
The mind, meaning our constant stream of thoughts and inner dialogue, compulsively goes back to the event again and again. Fragments of the situation pop out of nowhere and we don’t know how to deal with this and how to stop it. If we constantly try to exert control we are at war with ourselves, in conflict. If we let the mind go back we have to re-live the trauma again. It seems like a Catch 22.
BUT – There is a good reason for the mind wanting to ‘resolve’ the trauma. During a traumatic experience our sense perceptions are fragmented, we are overwhelmed, what is happening does not ‘make sense’.
Sometimes our ‘belief system’ is shattered because we ‘never thought it can happen to us’.
We find it very hard or impossible to integrate facts of pain or loss into our internal, rational compartments but our mind HAS TO organize everything we experience, it is the mind’s occupation to label everything and put it into context. Hence the fragments of impressions and perceptions and the facts that do not make sense need to be integrated, otherwise we can not feel safe and whole.
A lot of methods are subconsciously employed to do that:
We might find ourselves in similar situations again and again – even bring them about by repeating the very same behaviour that traumatised us. Every time we re-live a similar situation we have a chance to put the pieces into context and expand our belief system to integrate them. But this can take many years and until then we can feel constant stress and guilt and reject ourselves for self-defeating behaviour.
Rules and regulations may appeal to us as a safety net, but in the end they restrict us further and increase the stress.
Talking about remembered trauma, especially sharing it with people who have had similar experiences may help – but revisiting the past too often and in an intensive manner can prolong the healing process – instead of moving on, we can cling to ‘our story’ and identify with the experience to such an extent that it is impossible to let go.
But it is possible to let go – to detach from the story and to put the experience into a new context. Trauma can becomes an important part of personal history – without the pain that used to be triggered. Many people have drawn wisdom and grace, health and a renewed appreciation of life from resolved trauma, it is possible and we know it. Nelson Mandela is one shining example of this fact.
But what about the deep seated, subconscious things that our mind cannot reach? Why are those emotional triggers still relevant and may throw us off course long after the event ? What about the fear and anger that is often out of proportion to the reality of a situation? What about the lingering pain in the arm that was hurt a long time ago? It comes and goes but never stays away for good. We come to accept it as being part of ‘who we are’. Not only this, we might actually become fond of it, embrace it as a token of bravery or a medal we won in the war of life. If it was gone altogether we would feel as if we had lost a part of ourselves. We use it to excuse our moods and our inability to change. It is as convenient as it is unhealthy.
Many approaches have been tried and people have found their own way out of this dilemma – often without knowing how it happened. Some give up and become victims for life, some develop depression or live with constant stress, anger and resentment.
The mind alone cannot resolve trauma because the memory of the event also resides in the body.
In a situation of overwhelm, our body overrides our mind and triggers survival responses. Watch the video below to understand these mechanisms better. TRE® helps the body to release traumatic stress – and in doing this prepares the way for rational integration of trauma.