“Trauma is always about loss. Loss is the very foundation stone of trauma.”
What is lost in trauma? Almost always trauma takes away something that we were attached to. so I pick up the top six of my client notes and here are the losses that form the foundation stones of the traumas they are dealing with:
• The trauma of losing health and being unable to live the active life he has enjoyed for so many decades.
• The loss of power or status as his employment prospects are shattered by recession.
• The loss of physical safety and physical and psychological boundaries from abuse. With this, unsurprisingly, comes a loss of trust in the world.
• The loss of any sense of security from surviving the terrors of a natural disaster.
• The relentless and daily loss of her sense of self in the requirement to “be someone else” in order to find acceptance in the family of her birth.
• The loss of a loved one who died in a tragic accident
I ask myself, is trauma anything more than simply an overwhelming cascade of loss?
To survive the intolerable pain of loss, the traumatised client must split off the part of the self that is in pain and move it to a place of numbness – to a place that does not feel, to a place that “is not me”.
This intolerable pain then gets packaged up, wrapped up and shoved away deep into the psyche – deep into the cellular structure of their bodies. If we could see these split off traumatic bundles, these losses, they would be visible as small energetic cysts of wrapped up pain with hardened and impenetrable external shells.
Just as the phagocytic cells of the body engulf and wrap up foreign pathogens, those external invaders and threats to our very survival, so the psyche wraps up and despatches our intolerable pains to the far flung extremities of our consciousness for our very survival.
They are dumped into the unconscious Bodymind with labels that read “Toxic, do not touch”
Distanced, disowned and dissociated from the conscious self, these emotional and energetic cysts mature over time and become harder and harder to contain. they get bigger and bigger as they grow with neglect. They start to rupture and contaminate the body and the mind. They become a problem – often many years after the original loss.
So the big question is just how do we help this unconscious Bodymind bring these cysts to the surface and let them become discharged and healed?
The loss that was intolerable was only intolerable to all these clients because of one reason: they were alone and were not supported long enough in their grief and their pain. The well meaning people around them, struggling to contain their own levels of locked away loss, encouraged them to “move on” and “get on with life”. Either that, or the traumatised individual had already been conditioned into not accepting the support that was there for as long as it was there.
Neuroscience has shown us that these ‘conditionings’ are to be found in the very structures of their nervous systems. The blocks to our grieving and our processing of loss lie in the way our brains are structured. However, neuroscience has also shown us that these structures are plastic and susceptible to change – but how do we re-educate the nervous system? How do we literally “change the brain”?
In particular, how do we re-educate the neurons of the mid brain, where we know the traumas and their triggers reside? As counsellors and psychotherapist, how do we re-educate a part of the brain that we know to be immune to words and the traditional arts of ‘talking therapy’?
To bring these long buried cysts of grief and loss to the surface of our client’s psyche, we need to talk in much more than just the traditional words and gestures of conventional therapies. We need to learn a new language so we can “talk nervous system”. This means learning to speak in an ancient and primal language, previously spoken only by shamans, healers and bodyworkers…