Healing from Trauma and PTSD

If you’ve had a shocking experience such as a car accident, abuse, medical treatment where you felt endangered by sudden or chronic painful events beyond your control, fear and depression can start to shape your life . . . even if you’re a strong, positive and take charge person.

If you find yourself feeling unaccountably shut down, confused, anxious, irritable, startle easily or have difficulty sleeping, you may doubt yourself. You may even find yourself caught up in similar experiences over and over and wonder what might be causing this Groundhogs Day merry-go-round, especially if you experience double binds or even dangerous situations.

Self-doubt and hopelessness make even simple tasks exhausting or frustrating as fight, flight or freeze patterns become habits.

  • You may know you are a good and kind person, but you don’t feel like it.
  • You may know you are safe, but you never feel safe.
  • You may understand you are, but you feel perpetually under attack.

Overwhelming stress and double binds make enjoyable work, stable relationships and even sleep and relaxation challenging or impossible. After a while, you may start to feel like you’ve lost yourself.

When compounded by time and the daily stress of everyday life, more serious symptoms can arise such as panic, nightmares, flashbacks, strange body sensations, or feeling detached from your body.

You might be puzzled and confused, since the scary occurred long ago. But then something awakens the old feelings that you thought you had left behind. People describe it like a freight train barreling at you from inside, making you feel unaccountably terrified, shut down or enraged. It can be confusing to have these overwhelming feelings when your present life stressors are not causing this level of distress.

Sometimes the cause arises from a single event like:

  • Difficult medical or dental procedure
  • Car accident
  • Sexual, physical or emotional assault, a single, random event
  • Active duty combat
  • Exposure to a catastrophic event
  • Sudden death of a loved one or pet
  • Shocking news
  • Sudden loss of financial resources
  • Exposure to toxic substances
  • Near drowning
  • Surgery

Trauma symptoms can also emerge after gradual, long term exposure to stress, double binds or gas lighting, when our resilience gets used up. Here are some examples of overwhelming stress that can lead to chronic PTSD.

  • Living or working with people who are incapable of empathy (a feature of narcissism) who use shame or gas lighting to gain dominance
  • Combat veterans, law enforcement officers, fire fighters who face danger in the line of duty
  • Emotional or physical abuse as a child or adult that “didn’t seem that bad.”
  • Oppression and as a minority who has experienced hate crimes and chronic micro-violence
  • First responders or welfare workers who must act quickly and make crucial decisions in high stakes situations and must witness violence, cruelty and terror
  • Long term medical procedures like chemotherapy
  • Intergenerational trauma with a family history of genocide, racisim or oppression
  • Being bullied as a child, teenager or adult
  • Being incarcerated

Children are especially vulnerable to early stressors and trauma. Read more about the ACE Adverse Childhood Experiences [Nenad link to follow] study, and 45 years of research into the relationship between physical and emotional health and childhood trauma. Developmental trauma, largely undiagnosed, helps explain chronic states of anxiety and depression.

Anyone can be affected by these situations, even if they are aware, insightful, healthy and well resourced. Your biology, the animal that is your body, has a biological response to overwhelming stress when unable to escape or protect itself.

Our fight, flight, freeze responses are designed to short lived to help us get to safety. But with the complex stressors we face you may have a default mode, where fight, flight or freeze becomes your habit.

This crossroad between two opposite emotions, like love and shame, guilt and hate, helplessness and terror, can leave you feeling anxious, shameful, depressed, physically or emotionally numb. And these default mode patterns can get stuck.

You may find yourself wondering if life is even worth living, even though you feel grateful for your life, family or work . . . that’s when it might be time to reach out for Somatic Experiencing®.

Somatic Experiencing® Therapy

Somatic Experiencing® Therapy helps you to find that lost “owner’s manual,” to reacquaint with your neurobiological wisdom, so that you can start to enjoy your life rather than just endure it.

In short, it can help you get your life back.

You may be surprised to discover how gentle and enjoyable, the invitational process of Somatic Experiencing® therapy can be. It will help you complete and release stress and trauma responses from the past and help you feel more like yourself again — in a gentle but sustainable way.

You will learn to do this by bringing your awareness to what is happening now, with less focus on the past. Some people are relieved to know that ease and well-being can return without digging up the past.

Skilled Somatic Experiencing® therapists know how to help your body return to a relaxed and rhythmic state after a stress, the way wild animals recover from life threatening attacks. You will experience and then learn how to support your body to complete stuck fight, flight and freeze states.

Your body is already designed to do this naturally, and Somatic Experiencing® simply helps uncover this innate wisdom.

How Somatic Experiencing® Therapy Can Help You:

  • You will learn how to bring not just your attention, but also your biology into the present moment in order to experience the shift that happens when your energy and your attention co-exist in the here and now. The biology of trauma keeps our attention on the past and future trying to rehearse and prepare for danger. It’s like looking in the review mirror while driving 60 miles an hour on the freeway.
  • Learn how to complete, rather than just manage, the experiences that lead to anxiety, depression, anger and numbness. In Somatic Experiencing® we use four channels available to our bodies to complete unfinished business rather than thinking and rehearsing over and over. When you have support to complete a shock form the past, something new can happen. It opens up possibility.
  • Learn to differentiate developmental trauma from event based shock trauma. You can experience the safety from our therapeutic connection that allows developmental trauma patterns to change.
  • You will learn to see and feel the value in your 3 biological responses to overwhelming stress: Fight, Flight and Freeze. You may be surprised to discover that these states have a wisdom and purpose, that together we will make use of help you complete unfinished business not just understand it. They can be undiscovered super powers.
  • You will start to understand the habit of Fight, Flight and Freeze, in order to remember, practice and “wire” the state of Flow, where you feel “easeful readiness.”

The state of Flow takes much less energy and allows your “social engagement” system to blossom, so that you can take refuge and enjoy safe and supportive relationships in your life. You can pursue meaningful work. So you can enjoy your children, pursue your hobbies . . . and be part of the solution in your community, nation and world should you feel the call. All with the natural ease that comes from intrinsic nervous system regulation. Your body came wired to do this.

  • You will remember how to experience sustainable “healthy pleasure” without the need for substances, experiences, food, or work that speed us up or slow us down.
  • You will start to experience the meaning and strength you’ve gained as a Survivor of your painful experiences, and emerge with the tensile strength of Thriver who has been refined by fire, ice, earth and wind.

We will work gently and slowly building sustainable well-being. You might even find that your Somatic Experiencing® sessions are enjoyable, and leave you feeling better when you leave than when you arrived.

Finding that lost owner’s manual!

In an amusing way, Somatic Experiencing® Therapy helps you find that lost “Owners Manual” to your neurobiological wisdom, developed throughout the mists of time and start to enjoy this human experience rather than just endure it.

Where do you want to go from here?

My practice is a little full so it can take some time to get an appointment, so until then, here are some ways to continue your healing journey. Click over to the Getting Started link to learn more.