Not everyone understands trauma as a path of healing, a path deeper into ourselves, a path to freedom. Although many people have experienced trauma at some point in there life, mostly in childhood, oftentimes we can not remember or recall these events, since children live in a feeling state, not in a thinking state. Anything that doesn´t fit into the box of love, peace and harmony, can not be processed and therefore simply gets repressed into the subconsciousness.
A trauma does not always have to be a majorly dramatic event. It might have been something we did not know how to deal with at a very young age. That can be anything from birth trauma, to being left alone for a few hours as a baby to more severe events.
These early traumas can be subtle and hide for some time to then suddenly resurface. Or they might influence us in unknown ways in our behavior, interactions with others and our life path, building obstacles in our life we can´t find ways to remove.
However, when we are ready to receive and are ‘ripe’ to a point were we can mentally, emotionally and physically go towards release, the body will point us the way. It can come through memories bubbling up or through emotions moving us, although unrelated to our current life situation. Or it can be physically. Strange illnesses that no doctor can explain, breath shortness, skin problems, jolts, ticks, pain in always the same part of the body, unusual reactions in body work. Weird stuff altogether…
There is no way out of trauma, without fully acknowledging it and giving it the time and space it needs to heal. To bring us back into one full piece instead of a few broken pieces that refuse to be joined together through the dark matter of trauma that sits in between them.
Trauma in the Body
The body doesn´t lie. It really doesn´t. If something is off kilter, the body is going to say: ‘Hello, check yourself or I go on strike’. Do you know this? When you run a few more errands than you could actually handle, when you say yes to the boss although you really meant no, when you stick around in a relationship although you already know it´s toxic. And then all of a sudden the body lies flat and sends you the alarm bell. Go check yourself.
I started suspecting that there was a trauma in my body that I previously had no idea about, when my body showed inexplicable signs. It started a few years ago with the skin in my face going from red rashes to normal, seemingly unrelated to what I ate, did or where I was. The only common denominator seemed stress. But even then, it could come back just out of the blue and then leave out of the blue. I cut out coffee, sugar, processed food as much as possible and tried every skin remedy and suggested healing mode. However, nothing seemed to be really effective, as the skin did as it pleased independently from the remedies.
The shaman said, drink almond milk instead of cow milk. The Kinesiologist said it was a past life death, someone throwing a stone on my face. The Ayurvedic doctor said cut out all acidic foods. The haematologist said take this antibiotic cream. None of it changed anything.
After getting initiation in Reiki I was told that physical problems might appear if something old came up to be released. After all, Reiki is cleaning you off of all toxins and energetic blockages. A skin problems for 3 years though seemed to be a fairly strong and long-lasting effect. But – if we are not ready to see, we are not ready. It´s a lot of inner work to be done to release old trauma that has been in the system for years..
The skin problem popped up after an incident in the desert, with a few drunk berbers that scared the hell out of me. Which, from a now perspective, maybe just re-activated the trauma from childhood that I then didn´t know about. The younger we are the less we can remember in words or images, as we are in a feeling mode. Events that we can’t put into a box of love, peace and harmony, simply get repressed, because a child doesn´t know anything else than love, peace and harmony. If the incident, however, gets repressed it keeps influencing us in very subtle way throughout all our life, not necessarily visible to us, if we are not on a quest of finding out about our shadows. That can be anything from strange eating behaviours, to addictions, excessive coffee consumption, smoking, problems relating to others, difficulties in finding stability in life and / or expressing our tree needs and wants, as subtle as certain things simply don´t work out in life, without us being able to pinpoint why.
Most of the time everyone wants to run towards the light as fast as possible. But the light is not erasing the shadows. And it doesn´t make us lighter instantaneously. The more light we are able to receive, the more shadows will show up to be dealt with. That´s the path of liberation. Look at the shadows, acknowledge them, and then release, so they don´t haunt you anymore.
The next thing that happened was a few strange incidents in Tantra workshops. Until then all Tantra meditations had been peace, love and harmony for me, but with another facilitator (talking much about shadow work), I ended up with a partner that I did not feel comfortable with. I tried to blame him for his insensitivity and inability to respect boundaries, but at the same time I knew, Tantra is deep inner work and anything that shows up in partner meditations, either shows us our light or our shadows. I asked a few other Tantra practitioners, if this might be the case. The answers were mixed, sometimes some people really do not know how to respect boundaries, but it will only truly affect us emotionally, if there is still something to heal.
In the end, Tantra practices are like role plays. You are given a techniques to act out with a partner (like gazing into each others eyes, breathing techniques etc.) that in the best case open you up emotionally in unknown ways and brings you into a state of bliss, or it shines a light into the darkest corner and unknown emotions or physical memories show up (not necessarily mental memories with images).
I became more curious and went to a few more workshops. And again, in one of them, the same situation came up. So I became quite alert. Not only because of Tantra, but also because simoultaneously my body started having physical reactions in bodywork. Living in Thailand I took a couple of massages per week and in almost each of them I fell into a deep sleep just to be woken up by my left leg getting jolts as if it wanted to shake something off. Most of the time an uncomfortable feeling in the leg remained.
After another workshop I was having a strong physical reaction and went ill for a week, lying fully flat in my bed, sweating, fevering, coughing like there was no tomorrow. Maybe a coincidence, maybe not. Fever is another way to sweat something out. Coughing relates to the heart that has been damaged.
A few healers along the way from Aura Therapy to Shamanism, Reiki and Kinesiology had pointed me towards a problem from childhood in the first and second chakra, including suppressed anger and fear and the second chakra not being fully in flow, but I could never wrap my head around what it might be. Of course not, I didn´t remember, I was too young when it happened. Anything that deeply affects the first and second chakra in a way we can not remember, happens in our very first years in life. The first chakra develops around the first year of age and stands for trust and security (and if traumatised for fear, insecurity and instability). The second chakra develops between the second and third year*, and stands for one-on-one relationships, pleasure, creativity, nourishment.
What finally woke me up and made me question the message of the skin, the body and all the healers of the past 7 years was one of my clients. A person that seemed to inherit a trauma from childhood with all external signs pointing straight towards it.
It was not the only one however that presented me with this theme, but certainly the most ‘in the face’. A few other ones that came to private sessions had similar issues, a trauma that they would not see yet, but which I could perceive through symptoms, either physically myself or through common denominators for trauma that are externally pointing towards it.
What a therapist or healer has to deal with in sessions is very often a mirror in front of them: ‘This is your stuff, too’.
Trauma and Yoga
A few years ago I did a teacher training with Ana Forrest, who overcame multiple severe childhood trauma through yoga and several healing techniques. She now focuses her work on trauma release through sweaty tough yoga classes and long held poses that help people to release stuck emotions from the cell tissue that they might not even know about. Often these releases are accompanied by intense anger or strong crying.
Probably this training was no coincidence, although when I took the training, I was profoundly convinced that there was no trauma in my body. In 2007, I had a powerful Kundalini experience, which erupted a volcano of old (long forgotten) emotions and memories from my teen years, moved like an electric current through me, left me uprooted and moving from place to place, destructed quite a portion of my previous life, but ultimately brought me on the path I am on now. But – it ‘only’ went back to the teens, not childhood.
However, when I prepared for the Forrest training, practicing with several of Ana Forrest videos, I already noticed something was stuck in my neck, on the left side. Simply dropping my head to the right, stretching the left side of my neck left me breathless and in a state of inexplicable anxiety that I had to stop the exercise. I never experienced that before in any yoga class.
That´s why Yin or Restorative Yoga is so deep. Long held poses help the fascia (connective tissue) between the muscles to release and open up, so that miraculous things can happen. Emotions, headaches, deep relaxation, anything is possible.
Walking towards Release
The last things that completed the trauma process, now that I was actively seeking answers and release, was a Systemic Constellation in which pretty much hell broke loose and a few more physical symptoms.
1) Breath shortness (again, now not only in long held neck stretches). I never experienced breath shortness or asthma in my life, but coming back to Berlin I hardly could breathe.
2) The left side of my body started to itch and made itself noticed in several places with different symptoms that I almost thought I needed to go see a doctor.
I followed my intuition and went to a Hypnotherapy session with a medium that did’t know about these symptoms (at least not from me), and it showed that the symptoms were directly related to the trauma. Breath shortness and anxiety from the fear experienced back then, body reactions related to the parts of the body involved. After the session all symptoms were mostly gone and my breath was back to normal.
Sometimes it´s the light shining into and onto things that already helps to release. The becoming aware of what it is that needs to be seen and accepted without judgement, is a healing in itself.
“The body is the vehicle, consciousness the driver. Yoga is the path, and the chakras are the map.” - Anodea Judith
If we see trauma or any negative event from the past as road block, an enemy or an excuse to blame our dysfunctional life for, healing might hardly occur. What we resist persists. We bind ourselves to the past instead of being open for what´s to come. In order to walk as whole and holy person through life, we can only find inner peace, when we embrace life fully with all it has to offer for us now. Every single step on the way made us the person we are today, unique as we are, and we never know what gem is hidden in a supposedly ‘negative’ or traumatic event. Most of the time we only sharpen our senses and receive new ‘skills’, when a situation is uncomfortable rather then pleasant. While we are in it, it might be hard to see, but just a few years later every thing might take a turn, enabling us to receive the lesson as a gift.
“Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could have been any different.” ― Oprah Winfrey
*There is different theories about when the chakras develop exactly, but I found the development of them according to our first years in life quite fitting (first year – first chakra, second year – second chakra…), with a few years and developmental stages overlapping lateron.
Pic: Anand Kapalkassery
Disclaimer: I´m by no means an expert on trauma and all healing modalities, such as listed above, and these are not replacing psychotherapy. I´m simply sharing from experience and what helped me along the way. What works for one does not work for somebody else and ultimately everyone will find their own (healing) way of life.