13 October 2022

Trauma and Somatic Counselling

Background to Trauma

Trauma and Somatic Counselling

Most of us have been traumatized at one stage in our lives. It is not only soldiers or victims of abuse or attack that are traumatized. Both the sources and consequences of trauma are wide-ranging and often hidden from our awareness. These include natural disasters (e.g., earthquakes, floods, and fires), exposure to violence, accidents, serious illness, sudden loss of a loved one, surgical procedures, divorce, loss of your job, difficult births, events surrounding the Coronavirus Pandemic and high levels of continued stress.

What most people don’t know is that many seemingly benign situations can be traumatic. Some people claim they have never been traumatised, but if you ask them if something frightening or upsetting ever happened with them, they can recall many such events. These people simply renamed trauma as something frightening or upsetting.

The Effect of Trauma
Traumatic effects are not always apparent immediately following the incidents that caused them. Symptoms can remain dormant and accumulate over years or even decades. Then, during a stressful period, or as the result of another incident, they can show up without warning. The effect of trauma is long-lasting and widespread even if you don’t think consciously of the trauma-event; it always leaves an imprint on the mind, brain, and body. This imprint and the impact of trauma may not be fully conscious, but it certainly is fully active and affects the way we think and behave.

Sometimes we have traumatic symptoms that go unrecognized as symptoms of trauma. For example: anger issues, fear, panic attacks, unexplained anxiety, helplessness or phobias may all be symptoms of trauma that occurred in the past.

The phrase “time heals all wounds” simply does not apply to trauma. The part of our brain that is devoted to ensuring our survival (the reptilian brain - deep below our rational brain) is not very good at “forgetting” or “I will get over it”. That is the reason why long after a traumatic experience is over, it may be reactivated. The rational, thinking brain (the neocortex) might be able to help you understand where feelings or sensations come from, but it cannot abolish sensations, emotions or thoughts.

Healing from Trauma
The question is: How can I gain control over the residues of past trauma and return to be master of my own ship? Just as there are physical laws that affect the healing of our bodies, there are laws that affect the healing of our minds. The fullness of our healing lies in the ability to integrate the functions of the triune brain (the Neocortex, the Mammalian and Reptilian core of our brain). To fully resolve trauma, we must learn to move fluidly between sensations, emotions and rational thought. When these three parts of the brain are in harmony, our organisms operate as they were designed to and we can operate at a level of optimal functioning. At this level you can cope with the normal stresses of life and process thoughts and emotions positively. It includes cognitive, behavioural, and emotional well-being which affects how we think, feel, and act.

Unfortunately, in the last couple of years, we have tended to identify so much with the rational, thinking part of the brain (the neocortex) that the wider role of instinctive, bodily responses in shaping and influencing behavior and consciousness had been largely ignored. However, the neo-cortex is not powerful enough to override the instinctual impulses that is caught up in the reptilian brain and in the central nervous system. Freud correctly pointed out “The mind has forgotten, but the body has not.”

Most people find thoughts, ideas, opinions and emotions a far more interesting topic of investigation that mere sensations of the body. Furthermore, we are not encouraged to listen to our bodies. We are encouraged to be tough, push through, just move on and get “over it”. However, if you want to learn to recognize the physiological sensations of your body that underlie your emotional reactions, the opportunity for healing becomes so much greater. Uncomfortable body sensations come from symptoms, and symptoms come from negative impulses and energy; these impulses and energy is what I work with as a Multi-Level Neuro-Processing Coach.

Multi-Level Neuro-Processing (MLNP) is a brain-body (neuro-physiological) facilitation process which helps the brain to process and integrate both negative and positive information. It is both a top-down and bottom-up approach and it is as effective for complex trauma as it is for performance enhancement. The bottom-up process is also called somatic processing, because we work with the body. An important difference between “talk-therapy” and somatic therapy is that the body needs to tell what’s on its “mind” first in order for real transformation and healing to take place.

The body needs to be given the opportunity to learn that the danger (or the experience of negative impulses) had passed and that it is safe to live in the reality of the present. Visiting the past should be done while people are, biologically speaking, firmly rooted in the present and feeling as calm and safe as possible. Being anchored in a present safe environment while revisiting unpleasant experiences of the past opens the possibility of knowing and feeling that the unpleasant events belong to the past. As an accredited MLNP coach I facilitate this somatic process and I have seen many people being healed from traumatized events that used to haunt them for years.

Article: How Does MLNP™ Life Coaching Work? >>

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This article is not intended to take the place of medical advice from your personal physician.

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