Trauma Sensitive People

Over the years, during traditional forms of therapy, I've mostly been asked, 'what's going on in you're head?' When I attended a focusing session I was asked 'what's going on in your body?'


When I started the sessions, I spoke of the pain of my past. As I did, I was invited, by the therapist, to 'focus' and talk about the sensations/feelings in my body. When I made a statement, my therapist would  repeat it. Forcing me to reflect on my choice of words. If it didn't sound right when the therapist repeated my description, I'd try to find a more accurate 'truth.'

Before I started I was skeptical about 'focusing therapy.' I've since discovered there's a genuine value on working with what's happening in my body.

As I said in my first post, research shows that parts of the brain that deal with cognitive function, are relatively inactive in childhood trauma victims. So working with the body could potentially be a more beneficial route for the traumatized?


Basel van der Kolk offers a great description of how these sensations occur. "Some trauma-sensitive people can feel frightfully unsafe. What most people do not realize is that trauma is not the story of something awful that happened in the past, but the residue of imprints left behind in people’s sensory and hormonal systems. Traumatized people often are terrified of the sensations in their own bodies. Most trauma-sensitive people need some form of body-oriented psychotherapy or bodywork to regain a sense of safety in their bodies." Bessel van der Kolk is then asked "What is the main challenge for the trauma sensitive?" His answer; "The challenge is to learn how to tolerate feelings." If you're interested, here's a link to the Kolk interview.

With focusing, I was getting the opportunity to raise my awareness of what my body was doing when I was triggered. And I was spending time with overwhelming feelings, that I previously would not have been 'present' to. I would still be feeling them. The more time I spend with these sensations, the less overwhelming and more tolerable they become. My experience of 'body orientated' practice has been profound. I've found elements of myself I didn't think I'd ever find. I'm building a map of my body. Finding a sense of self that's eluded me for nearly five decades.

Two months ago, with the help of my beautiful partner,  I was talking and focusing on my feelings of being unsafe. I located the part of my body associated with this feeling, my stomach. My partner asked me what I could see? I saw a small child, it was me aged about eight or nine years old. He was sat with his arms wrapped around his knees. When I first visualized this child I couldn't risk talking to him, my fear was I'd scare him away. I knew I had to wait for him to come to me. For two days he'd pop into my head, look over his shoulder, then look away. Eventually his eyes met mine, they softened and he said "it's going to be O.K." I was completely overwhelmed, I cried, it was the first time in my life I'd had an internal dialogue about the possibility of feeling safe.. Over the next few days the same visualization would occur, with the same result, overwhelming relief, grief, love and tears. Over a week or so, I got used to him being around, I could listen to him and feel a sense of peace. He doesn't speak to me so much now. His job is done but his reassurance is ever present.

A few weeks later I was working on my left shoulder. My therapist and partner had both noticed I rubbed my shoulder to self soothe. I also scratch my shoulder in my sleep. What I found here over the moths has been contradictory. I inititally visualized the love of my partner and grandmother. More recently I visualize a slimy human like cat creature. A demon full of anger and venom. This represents anger and shame around a sexual assault that took place when I was nine.


Two weeks ago I experienced a situation where I became triggered. I found myself frozen with terror. As is often the case the terror inside was disproportionate to what was actually occurring. Post analysis I remembered I was pinching the back of my right knee and rubbing the middle of my chest. I wonder what I'll find in these places?

No comments: