Many of us have experienced trauma. I would venture to say, all of us have experienced it. We see it in the world every day. It often pains us. As Trillium teachers and mentors, we often are working with others who have been traumatized. How does trauma look, sound, and feel?
Here is a Trauma overview.
Three main areas of the brain/body are affected: the amygdala, hippocampus, and pre-frontal cortex. The autonomic nervous system (fight, flight, freeze) is affected during trauma also.
Amygdala – aka Reptilian brain, goes into overdrive like we’re experiencing trauma for the first time. Every time is the “first time” for the amygdala. The hippocampus – aka the Mammalian brain, processes emotions and conveys sensory relays. It is under-active in trauma (numbness), and less able to distinguish the past from the present. The “trigger” is a threat vs just a trigger.
The prefrontal cortex – aka Neo-Mammalian, controls cognitive processing, learning, memory, and impulse. (Where we want to arrive)
There are four emotional categories: Fear, Anger, Loss, and Guilt, each on a continuum. Trauma and triggers may involve all categories.
Fear: alertness _____________________________ terror
Loss: mild regret_______________________ overwhelming sadness/loss Guilt: mild guilt________________________________intense shame Trauma may be subtle, as a slight over-reaction or forceful as a break-down in our functioning.
What helps alleviate trauma?
Therapies/modalities that change the brain and nervous system. Somatic Experiencing, EMDR, Brain-Spotting. In addition, there are many nervous system calming modalities: yoga, Tai chi, Gi Gong, Breathing, Prayer & Meditation, Soothing music, & Bodywork. You may know of others. The Vagus nerve, running from the neck to the abdomen, is a recent subject in trauma reduction. It helps us to calm down and move out of “fight, flight, or freeze”. Conscious breathing, such as: “Breathe in to count of 4, Breathe out to count of 6-8” (or a variation thereof) will activate the Vagus nerve or parasympathetic nervous system.
My first trauma was being born… into an energy of rejection, so it’s core, primal, survival trauma. My radar is therefore tuned to the channel of “possible rejection”.
I became trained as a Trauma therapist due to my own levels of trauma. After years of trauma reduction therapy for myself, I am quicker to realize the state when it has been triggered, usually by rejection or threat. In addition, my thyroid shuts down under trauma, so my metabolism is uncomfortably slowed, another trauma in itself. Even with years of trauma-reduction therapy (I used EMDR, Thought-Field Therapy(tapping), Breathing, Homeopathy, Feldenkrais & Traeger bodywork), I can still be triggered! Why? It is the nature of trauma. I’ve actively chosen to reduce it and am more high functioning, yet trauma may still grab me. Below is my example.
Several months ago, I was trauma-triggered by the “fear of rejection”. I didn’t know it had been triggered. (A common trauma experience- delayed reaction/ confusion.) Trauma happens so quickly; it is akin to being temporarily held captive.
I had a “slip” in my communications, which I learned later was due to trauma. I was accused of the slip and other things. I apologized. I felt confused and unsure of what these “charges” were, however. Perhaps the other person had a trauma trigger too…so possibly both of us! Subsequently, I felt betrayed by what felt like an attack and misperception of me, by a victim turned persecutor, which begat more trauma! Weeks later, parts of me came back to present/
presence. Another 3 weeks and more presence & memory returned. My fear of rejection had come true. What a trauma-drama circle!
I re-tell this because this has happened and does happen in Trillium with each other and/or our students. Trauma is pervasive. As it is difficult to know at the moment that “trauma is here”, wounding and non-mutuality may occur. Our/Others’ reactions may be: fight, flight, freeze, communication slips in hyperstimulation or under-stimulation, and inability to hear/feel/see the other.
We are learning as an organization with high ideals, how to understand the ins and outs of Mutuality. Our Mutuality learning needs time. Some of us are better than others at it. If trauma is an ongoing phenomenon (even with lots of healing), then it is an aspect of our Mutuality journeys. We may not know if we are in a trauma trigger. We may know/not know if we are fully hearing the other or they us. We may both be trauma-triggered. Immediate help for this is Conscious breathing and stroking one’s arms (as trauma consolidates in one’s core). Tapping & breathing help me. Putting a thumb in the belly button and softly grabbing skin about 1” below and giving yourself a gentle pinch-juggle helps ground immediately. You may have several of your own techniques too. What also helps is Green-lighting. Green-lighting ourselves/others when we have “shut down (numbness). Green-lighting if we feel defensive & self-righteous. (fight) Green-lighting if we freeze and cannot feel. Green-lighting if we run away or want to (flight). Green-lighting if we’re “not tracking” (overwhelm). Green-lighting helps re-ignite our Presence of Self when trauma has us somewhat “off-line”. We may take advantage of Trillium’s numerous supports. Being heard and felt by another is often “good enough” and relieving.
Mutuality is an art form, as I see it. We may strive to be better at it with each passing day/year. Mutuality requires willingness and the presence of self. If we are present with self, we may be less likely to judge the other. If we are willing, we may be able to engage, or it may take time, as everything with trauma takes time. Mutuality and trauma take time.
Studies have shown that hearing and feeling others ignites “resonance”. This flows into other parts of our lives. We feel more trust in others, a positive outlook, more hope, and greater self-esteem. Being seen/felt fosters deep healing and integration.
Mutuality furthers respect for other/life. Mutuality contributes to forgiveness if needed. It may reduce the body’s stress responses.
Mutuality and Green-lighting both bring sweetness to life. They are soothing balms and warm comforting arms wrapped around us. How fortunate we are in Trillium!