The term Chronic Stress is far less misunderstood than the word trauma, and yet that's exactly what it describes. And this is what I am going to talk about here. Now, do you ever wonder what Trauma actually is? Most of us have some distorted ideas about it. Time we cleared this up.
Contrary to common belief, trauma is not in the event. Trauma is in the nervous system. Trauma is simply a nervous system dysregulation.
Trauma occurs when our biological systems are pushed past a threshold of tolerance and remain stuck in the survival strategies such as flight, fight or freeze.
There are different types of trauma. Most of us are familiar with shock trauma. This is often related to experiences of war, serious accidents or experiences of violence.
The type of trauma that I would like to highlight here is called developmental trauma, sometimes also called early-childhood trauma.
How does developmental trauma happen?
At some stage in our lives, we experienced an event (or several events) that simply overwhelmed us. It was more than we could tolerate at the time. It was simply too much.
So what is too much? What could possibly be too much for me as an adult? Being threatened by someone pointing a gun at my head? Yes, possibly. Or living in a war zone? Or experiencing and surviving a plane crash? Yes, clearly that would be too much for most of us, and it would most likely cause trauma.
For children though, especially babies and toddlers, the scenario looks quite different. Their nervous systems are not yet fully developed. They are much more vulnerable to outside stimuli than we as adults could even conceive of. And so, chances are that many of us, if not all of us, had an experience or two, or many more than that, that were too much for us at the time. And the trouble is that we are not aware of what happened to us for (roughly) the first three years of our lives.
What that means is this:
As sad as it is but most of us have no idea that we might have been traumatized!
And most of us have no idea, that it can wreak havoc in our relationships, work-life, career, digestive systems, general health and many other areas of our lives!
So if you find yourself having symptoms like recurring patterns of dysfunctional relationships, not making it past the 3-months limit with your lovers, going from one man or woman to the next, being left by your boyfriend again and again, choosing the wrong man or woman over and over again, experiencing constant conflict in your marriage, feeling stuck in a frustrating job, not being able to feel your gut instinct, feeling confused about your professional calling, being stuck in the wrong career, having ongoing digestive troubles, autoimmune disease, depression, chronic tension, sleep problems and other health issues that seem impossible to overcome no matter what you've tried?
The cause of all of the above might be undiagnosed trauma.
So, what can we do about it?
That's what I asked myself as well! I was utterly frustrated about having made all the efforts in the world to overcome my relationship issues, digestive troubles, work, and career issues, other health problems, but to no avail.
Until I found methods that actually started helping me release the trauma in my nervous system!
It helped me so much, it turned my life around completely!
So much that I now want to share those methods with everyone in the world!
And I understand now, more and more every day, that healing the nervous system, bringing it back to a regulated state, has to come first. It has to be the first step in everyone’s healing journey. It needs to happen before we can truly and fully heal.
Having said this, I 100% subscribe to what one of my teachers Peter Levine once said:
“The world won’t fully become enlightened until each and every person on the planet has a regulated nervous system.” (Dr. Peter A. Levine)
Healing at this level - the nervous system - is the key to healing our species,
Working with Trauma
Trauma is a scary word. But it is far less scary than we think. And it is entirely possible to recover from it.
The first thing to know is that trauma actually sits in the body. It is simply a dysregulation in the Autonomic Nervous System. So, in order to effectively work with trauma, we need to work with the body.
I use two different methods; TRE®, the abbreviation for Trauma Releasing Exercises, founded by Dr. David Berceli , and a synthesis of Irene Lyon's and Dr. Peter A. Levine's work that I call Somatic Therapy.
TRE® works directly with the muscle tissue in a non-invasive way and through this accesses the nervous system and the brainstem. Somatic Therapy uses the felt sense of the body to access the client's physiology.
Trauma Releasing Exercises - TRE
The human body is genetically designed to experience, endure, survive and evolve through the experience of traumatic events. This is what ensures the survival and evolution of humans as a species on this planet.
TRE® is an innovative set of exercises that help the body release deep muscular patterns of stress, tension, and trauma. The exercises safely activate a natural reflex mechanism in the body that releases muscular tension, calming down the nervous system.
TRE® can easily be learned and is able to facilitate and promote the body’s and the psyche’s return to balance in a very easy and quick manner.
TRE® is based on the fundamental idea, that stress, tension, and trauma are both psychological and physical, and is fully backed by scientific research. After doing TRE®, many people report feelings of relaxation and well-being.
Since this internal physiological release mechanism in the muscles is part of our natural behavior as humans, everyone can benefit from TRE®. It increases the resiliency of the body because it causes deep relaxation that naturally reduces stress levels. It can release emotions ranging from mild upset to severe anxiety whether it is caused by work stress, excessive worry, conflict in relationships, physical stresses or traumas from accidents.
TRE® cultivates self-regulation, self-healing processes, and self-empowerment. It is designed as a self-help tool that can be used throughout one's life as a maintenance tool as well as a remedy for acute situations.
TRE® aims to rid the body of held tension and to bring the body back to a natural balance and relaxation.
The reason why TRE® is fast becoming such an indispensable tool is that a dysfunction of the nervous system due to held tension caused by traumatic events creates an imbalance between the parasympathetic and the sympathetic nervous system. This dysfunction is both physiological as well as psychological. It causes the neurological, biochemical and anatomical make up, structure and reactions within the body to change, alter and define much of the personality. Our personality is affected by trauma.
TRE® will be a great aid in the restoration of a healthy balance between these two systems by 'switching on' the 'relaxation response' of the parasympathetic nervous system.
At all times in this process, you determine where the journey goes, while I hold the space for you, guide you in your inquiry, provide safe and loving container that allows you to let go.
Benefits of using TRE®
Easily learned and in many cases shows immediate results
Allows tensions to be released and works even in acute situations
Activates the relaxation response of the parasympathetic nervous system
Integrates easily into a daily routine
Restores safety and relaxation in the body thereby promoting a sense of wellbeing
Integrates well with any other therapy or treatment modality
Has no negative side effects
Here is a short video about TRE
Somatic Practice is a guided inquiry into the presenting issue using the felt sense of the body to release trauma, chronic tension and stress without psychological analysis, or re-living the experience that caused the trauma. All work happens in the here and now.
One important element of Somatic Practice is "pendulation", the movement between regulation and dysregulation. This process helps you to move to a state where your nervous system becomes slightly dysregulated (i.e. is aroused or frozen, demonstrated by physical symptoms such as pain or numbness) and then guides you to return to a state of regulation. Another very important element in Somatic Practice is "titration", a method which guides the client to carefully dip into the activated state in very small doses only, and is then guided back to safety ("resourcing"). The goal is to allow you to resolve the physical and mental difficulties caused by the trauma carefully and safely, in a way that can be integrated by your nervous system, and thereby enable you to respond appropriately to everyday situations.
I also work with "resources", which are defined as anything that helps your autonomic nervous system return to a regulated state. This might be the memory of someone close you, a physical item that might ground you in the present moment, or other supportive elements that minimize distress. In the face of arousal, "discharge" is facilitated to allow your body to return to a regulated state. Discharge may be in the form of tears, a warm sensation, body movement, the ability to breathe easily again, or other responses, which demonstrate the autonomic nervous system returning to its baseline. The intention of this process is to reinforce your inherent capacity to self-regulate.
At all times in this process, you determine where the journey goes, while I hold the space for you, guide you in your inquiry, provide a safe and loving container that allows you to let go.
True human enlightenment will happen when all human beings on this planet have regulated their nervous systems.
Peter A. Levine