Trauma is visceral, Sensory, cellular. It’s a Soul Wound that impacts the very core of who we are, what we believe about the world and our place in it. We experience trauma with all of our senses; taste, touch, sound, sight, smell and our 6th sense, intuition. In this last month I gave myself the gift of watching almost all of the Academy Award nominated movies and I had the most extraordinary revelation. Everyone one of those beautifully made, emotionally driven movies were about trauma in the lives of both ordinary and extraordinary people. The effects of these stories impacted generations and their message, pain, sorrow and triumph are universal, which is why we are so drawn to movies, theater, music and art. Those gifts of the visceral, sensory, cellular reach to the center of our Soul.
The Dallas Buyers Club brought me back to the horror of the Aids epidemic in its earliest days. Desperation and despair walked with bigotry and hatred and the gay community suffered immensely as death and dying ensued. Many, many of my friends and their families continue to experience the pain several generations later and as the LGBT community continues to fight hatred and bigotry we can re-experience and remember through this masterpiece of a film and celebrate the ability of young men and women coming out of the shadows with less fear. The Butler, 12 Years a Slave and Mandela provided that same emotional catharsis for the victims of slavery, segregation, Aparteid and hatred. Through the intergenerational trauma created through more then 5 generations we can have clarity and a safe place to re-visit the reality of what is inflicted by humans on each other. When we consider even the most benign or loving experiences in our life, every experience we have in a lifetime is imprinted on our senses, on our Spirit, on our Soul and trauma events have a huge and lasting impression on the viscera.
Understanding the signs and symptoms of PTSD is understanding this concept. Trauma survivors experience flashbacks, dreams and disturbed sleep, dissociation, body memory, somatic issues and a diminished sense of self, low self esteem, despair, hopelessness and a myriad of other sensory symptoms. The movie Philomena is a riveting example of how those flashbacks and memories remain in our viscera for decades as she attempts to find her illegitimate son who was torn from her and sold for adoption by the Catholic Church. The long held secret affected Philomena’s relationships with her daughter and husband and impacted her vision of herself. She had lived in trauma shame for decades. In her search for her son came trauma resolution even so many decades later.
Healing trauma must be visceral, sensory, cellular and must heal the Soul. At The Refuge we utilize experiential, sensory and somatic modalities which are incredibly effective in processing trauma resolution. Trauma healing is a process of pendulation…going into the trauma story, experience some of it, coming out and building more resources, going back in deeper each time and then building more resources. By utilizing Cinema therapy and other experiential, sensory modalities the trauma survivor is provided a safe distance to process and yet a very cellular experience that can help to bring a catharsis and resolution. Experiential therapies create the environment for this process, for instance psychodrama becomes a safe vehicle for engaging in observation of a trauma event. Amazing healing happens in this process. Peter Levine’s modal of Somatic Experience is a modality that we use, as well, as hypnosis, DBT, EMDR, art and music therapy, grief work, equine and adventure therapy. Of absolute importance in trauma work is for clinicians to recognize that substance and process addictions and self harming behaviors are coping mechanisms that are often created by trauma events. Our staff are trained in all of these modalities as well as having several Certified Sex Addiction Therapists and Eating Disorder Therapists. Everyone is trained in trauma and addictions.
OCD, ADHD, anxiety and depression can all be a result of a trauma history that is never explored. The questions are often not asked…. When did you start having OCD behaviors or when were you diagnosed with ADHD, anxiety, depression…? With just that question we can discover the next question…So what happened when you were 7years old? Or what was going on in your life? Too often clients come to us on many medications with a list of diagnosis but no one has asked those important questions. We ask the questions. We’re not afraid of the questions or the answers. When we can assist our clients in understanding that their behaviors make sense as a result of the trauma history it is the answer to a puzzle they have been struggling with for a long time. We know this: When you Unravel the Trauma Story The behaviors all make sense… Clearly our cinematic industry recognizes this very important truth as we see this playing out on the “big screen” in living color. A heroes journey through the pain to triumph and purpose. When you can give this gift to clients, healing takes place; clients can move from shame, guilt and remorse to healing the Soul Wound and becoming the person they are meant to be.