THE HEALING JOURNAL

An image of spiritual reader Lisa André, embraced by sunlight, signifying her wisdom and compassion in her practise.

SURVIVING TRAUMA: BREAKING THE SILENCE | BY LISA ANDRÉ

I believe that everything that happens, happens for a reason. I was raised in a conflicted family dynamic where the forces of light and darkness dominated my life. My father was a tyrant, a narcissist, alcoholic, and an abuser — and my mother was a devoted wife and a very religious woman, although trapped in his spell. She only realised what happened to me once it was too late.

Not enough tears could grieve what was broken within me. No person could ever make whole the missing parts of me — that floated out of orbit where life was not possible. I can truly say I was living dead: the agony, the bitterness, the self-hate, including beliefs that were fundamentally defective, toxic or worthless stress disorders, that desperately kept my pain hidden and silent. I spent more energy running from it than I did living. However it would always catch up to me re-enacting toxic relationships from the past in an endless cycle of self inflicted abuse or partnering with abusive partners. This led me to substance abuse, eating disorders and risqué behaviours to avoid the unpleasant experiences but instead created a sense of disconnection and emotional upheaval.

An important part of healing is to repair this sense of disconnection and emotional dysregulation. I contemplated how I could regain my “spirituality”, and develop a deeper connection to all life in my difficult moments. I was spiritually dead, emotionally exhausted and consumed with shame, grief, sadness, guilt, fear and anger that was ravishing my body, mind and spirit. Thus began my personal healing journey.

I took responsibility for my own healing and passed myself between spiritual practices, earth wisdom traditions and self-care models to mend the inescapable reality of my suffering. Spirituality offered a vision, a clairvoyance, a psychic lens into a felt future that kept me striving through the struggle to heal. Being spiritually in tune with myself, and the universe was the basis and the entirety of my salvation.

When I first became interested in the connection between spiritual practices and trauma recovery, it became clear to me that within each person there is a spirit, a life force, an essential self, that nothing can ever hurt or destroy. We are more than the sum of what has happened to us — we are something greater. The essence of this truth encouraged me to stay connected to the memory of my wholeness, and influenced my ability to make sense of my experiences.

Having a clear context of meaning allowed me to draw strength from beyond when I couldn’t find it within. I discovered a spirituality that didn’t deny my pain; but instead transformed it — when I speak of spirituality, I’m referring to anything that brings us closer to ourselves and the world. I became grateful for the opportunity to awaken to the truth that in any moment I could shift my focus from a state of “powerlessness” to “empowerment”. This experience connected me to the awareness that every single one of us has the ability to heal.

When you experience trauma, your life and your soul are altered forever. It literally can “take our breath away” impacting our physiology and physical wellbeing. Essentially, trauma disrupts our emotional, mental and physical health and leaves us feeling numb, distressed and disconnected. When we think about trauma we usually think about really big things like violent attacks, accidents, injuries, bullying, emotional or physical abuse, or surgeries but trauma lives on a spectrum. We’re shaped by the big ones and the little ones.

On a very simple level, a traumatic event is anything that overwhelms our capacity to cope and respond. It leaves us feeling helpless, hopeless, and out of control. If the physical and emotional byproducts of trauma are not fully processed, then they are stored in the body as cellular memories. These imprints affect the biochemical structures of the body affecting the way we view ourselves, the world around us, our coping mechanisms, and the relationships we form. An integral part of healing is to repair the division within ourselves, to our bodies, to our families, and to others. The good news is, you can heal and move on with life whether the trauma happened years ago or yesterday; and regardless of the cause.

Transmuting Trauma Through Holistic Practices: The Method

Trauma is stored in the body, not in the brain. It always leaves a physical imprint in the body. According to Bessel van der Kolk, M.D., author of The Body Keeps the Score.

“Trauma is not the story of something that happened back then, but the current imprint of that pain, horror, and fear living inside [the individual].”

Trauma is an integrative experience that requires integrative healing. This largely focuses on treating the mind, body, soul and spirit in order to tap into the higher brain functions that determine our deepest emotions and wellbeing.

When we experience trauma, our energy field is thrown out of balance. This energy field influences everything about you, from your mental state to your physical health. When the energy system is disrupted, somatic processes such as Breathwork, Yoga, Reiki, Shamanic or Soul Connection practices — can help bring the entire body back into alignment.

In somatic processing the body has the answers — we just have to learn to listen and pay attention to the story as it is expressed through the body. What I love about somatic work is that it helps us to understand that our felt-sense contains the emotional charge of all of our experiences before the story — the story holds no charge but the mind holds onto the story to justify the nervous system response we are experiencing. When people realise that, a lot of the shame, guilt and judgement falls away.

When we start to pay attention from the inside out, we can see more clearly the stories that we have internalised. There is now room to choose whether we want to let go of those stories and free ourselves from unhelpful patterns that have inadvertently run our lives. An integrative holistic approach, using modalities in conjunction with one another is the only way to heal from trauma while learning to come back to feeling our sense of self, our wisdom, our strength, and our joy in life for good.

Copyright (c) 2022 Lisa André * All Rights Reserved.

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