Emotional Trauma

Recent events in my life have opened up old wounds that I thought had healed.  I’m amazed by how raw some of these wounds still are.  This has lead me to the questions – how do we actually heal old wounds and move beyond them?  Can we truly heal old traumas or do they stay with us forever?

A friend of mine recently posted this on facebook:  What do you do when the heavy negative energy won't lift...

This question hit home for me.  I realized that I had been carrying a load of negative heavy energy.  Some of it was mine, but some of it is from other people dumping their negative energy on me.  Somehow, unknowingly, I absorbed it and made it mine.

Time to release it!  Time to root down and lift up.  Time to heal. 

Over the last few days, I’ve done a bit of research into healing old traumas and new ones.  There are so many outlets available to help the healing process. 

Before we get into ideas and options for healing emotional trauma, what exactly is emotional trauma?

Emotional or psychological trauma is a type of damage that occurs as a result of a severely distressing event.  This is often the result of an overwhelming amount of stress that exceeds the ability to cope with or process the emotions that result from that experience.  (Thank you Google!)

For myself (and maybe others), it wasn’t one event but rather a series of small events over years that have brought me to where I am now.  Some of these events reinforced old beliefs, limiting beliefs while others brought on heavy emotions I wasn’t ready, willing or prepared to deal with at the time.  I’ve gotten really good at pushing those unwanted emotions down, locking them away and not dealing with them.  Stopping this cycle of an unconscious learned behaviour has been one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done in my life. 

I believe that stopping the cycle is the first step towards truly healing.

There are so many ways to get out of entrenched patterns of behaviour.  The first step is always to consciously decide that we want to change.   

The decision to change, to heal, to be something other than what I have always been is hard but it makes a world of difference when the hard days hit and I am tempted to go back to the way things were.  When the thoughts ‘it wasn’t so bad’ or ‘this is too hard’ come up.  Leaning into those thoughts and feelings is how I get out of the rut I’ve created. 

Yoga refers to these ingrained patterns of behaviour as Samskara or Samskaras.

B.K.S. Iyengar talks about consciousness being like a lake in his book Light on Life.  One of the examples used in the book is as follows:

You are invited to dinner by dear friends and, at the last minute, they ring to cancel, then you’re very disappointed.  That is the primary wave on the surface of the lake.  You’re disappointed, you’re unhappy, you feel let down, and you deal with that on the surface.  You have to calm yourself down, get over your disappointment. 

That is a challenge, an external challenge as it were, that causes a ripple on the surface.

The secondary fluctuations or waves are different.  Those are the ones that rise up from the bottom of the lake.  The bottom of the lake is covered in sand and so, if in life you experience a sufficient number of disappointments, the ripple on the surface creates a wave that goes down to the bottom, and imperceptibly that ripple creates a little bank in the sand, so there is a little mount of disappointment.  As a result, you will find yourself frequently disappointed or sad as this mound as the bottom sends off secondary fluctuations or waves. 

Once a ripple creates a little mound, more ripples add to that mound; eventually changing it from a little mound into a larger mound.  Smoothing out mounds of negative samskaras can be very difficult as it requires consciousness of thought and catching ourselves when we start to repeat and reinforce negative thoughts.  On the bright side, we can replace negative samskaras with positive ones. 

Okay, so I’ve made the decision to change… Now what?

The biggest step for me is to observe my emotions without judgement.  To allow them to come up.  To actually feel them.  Validating or accepting my emotions without guilty or judgement is a big part of this.  Noticing what is happening in my body.  What muscles are tightening up, what is this doing to my breath? 

This does not mean letting my thoughts run wild!  This is about feeling lose, grief, sorrow, pain without letting past experiences or the little voices inside me (the ones I like to call my itty bitty shitty committee) tell me how horrible I am for being here again. 

This step is about having compassion and making time for myself. 

Purging or detoxing also help me get out of negative head space.  The house gets cleaned, things get picked up and put away.  The usual life detritus that seems to follow me around gets dealt with.  It’s something I can control and something I can do.  It gives me a sense of accomplishment and pride in my environment.  I also reach out to people in my life who love me for me regardless of my faults.  By reinforcing positive relationships, I distance myself from those who are contributing to the negative ones.

There are so many other options for healing – meditation, being creative, walking in nature, being near water, yoga, spending time with friends, pranayama (breath work), try something new that I’ve always wanted to try, be active, cook healthy meals, journal, make sound, join a community that supports me, the list goes on.

The key to any or all of these things is to make time and space for myself.  To actually take the time to do one or two of these things each day. 

I’d love to know how you cope with emotional trauma.  Do you have any activities or routines that help?  Please share in the comments below!

Love, Light and Om,
Andrea