Growing instead ……

Many times I would read about ‘releasing trauma’.  Many times I didn’t get it because mine didn’t feel that way.  Tonight I read an awesome post that shared another analogy that I really like.  Thank you Jeann for your willingness to share.

TOPIC: “Developmental Trauma CANNOT be released, instead it must be RE-PATTERNED” (quote from my therapist) …

I received this email from my therapist in the last few days:
“I’ve just received your emails. I am sorry to hear you’ve hit a rough patch. At this point in your healing journey, I recommend using one of the tools we’ve practiced to settle your system when things feel really hard or overwhelming. This is not the time to dive into difficult sensations. The simple fact that they are arising is a sign that your capacity is likely growing. I’d like you to have a little more stability under your belt before intentionally turning to address the hard stuff. Your analogy of the bottles is spot on.

Additionally it is important to remember that if anything feels overwhelming, it is not therapeutic to pursue. The goal is to stay under that overwhelm line. I actually do not believe that developmental trauma can be released. It must be re-patterned over time in the emotions, thoughts, and nervous, immune, and hormone systems. We can talk more about this when we meet next”.

I am intrigued by my therapist’s words: “I actually do not believe that developmental trauma can be released. It must be re-patterned over time in the emotions, thoughts, and nervous, immune, and hormone systems”.

During my session with my therapist this morning, she went on to explain to me “there is no big bang, big release. Developmental trauma cannot be released, it can only be re-patterned. I think the word “settling” is more helpful than the word “release” when we are talking about developmental trauma”.

She then went on to explain to me that my rough patches, overwhelming emotions and sensations inside are all opportunities for me to practice SETTLING myself.

She used the analogy of swimming in a turbulent sea and trying to stay afloat, amongst large crashing waves and extreme currents. She explained to me “at this very early stage of your therapy, your goal during such times, is to get back to your island and to settle yourself inside NOT to keep on battling the crashing waves and extreme currents, this comes later when you have more inner capacity and more inner resources”.

We then went on to talk about recognising when I am feeling overwhelmed. I have been living with feeling overwhelmed for so long that the reality is that I am used to it. I don’t really know how to recognise it anymore. Feeling overwhelmed has almost become my status quo, my ‘normal’, my ‘background wallpaper’. I have developed my own ways of “putting up with” feeling crappy and overwhelmed. The idea of taking some control and learning to manage these sensations is very new and novel to me, it’s actually revolutionary for me!

My therapist went on to use the analogy of how we learn to judge whether the temperature of the food that we are about to eat is too hot … for example, we may notice the amount of steam coming off the food, we may notice the warmth of the bottom of the plate of food with our hand underneath, we may taste a tiny bit … we eventually find ways to learn and to judge when our food is “too hot” so that we can avoid burning our mouth. She explained to me that this is a learning process and it is the same with our feelings, emotions and somatic sensations. It takes time to notice and observe and recognise the signs and to trust our own judgement and inevitably, we still will stuff up at times and ‘get burnt’.

I am FINALLY beginning to understand the importance of the exercises that my therapist has been trying to teach me to do and to practice during times when I am feeling OK, when I am effectively ‘swimming in calm, shallow waters, with my settling island within reach’. I am FINALLY begin to get this. I am finally begin to understand the importance of why she is asking me to do this … to build my inner capacity during relatively calm times so that I am better equipped to handle my storms when they inevitably arise. Before I was just going through the motions when I could, mostly doing these exercises felt too hard. I get it now.

Onward, time to implement my therapist’s recommendations:
1. Very short tremor sessions in a seated position for 15-30 seconds maximum 3 times daily. If your body starts to tremor at other times, ask it to give you a break by pausing. Let your body know that you will heed it’s needs in a gentle paced rhythm.
2. Auditory orienting (focusing on sounds in the environment) once daily for a minute or so, noting how you feel during and afterwards. If it feels supportive, you can repeat 2-3 times more during the day.
3. Butterfly hug once daily for a minute or so. Again if it feels supportive, you can repeat 2-3 times more through the day.

I’ll keep you all posted on my progress …


This is the comment that I shared:

My counselor used a slightly different analogy. He explained that our habits are like deep ruts. The longer we behaved in a certain way the harder it gets to change. It is possible to learn new paths but it takes continually thinking about the change until the new behavior develops. Two of my counselors taught me what I should have learned as a child. Both considered my process more growing than releasing.

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