How to Know When Forgiveness is the Next Step in Your Recovery Process

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If you’re like most people, forgiveness can sometimes seem impossible.

Maybe you feel like the person who hurt or wronged you doesn’t deserve your forgiveness.

Forgiveness can be tough. Let’s review what it is, and what it is not.

What forgiveness is:

  • It’s complex, often including your thoughts, emotions, body-felt sensations, and even your spiritual experience.

  • It’s a process, not an event. It unfolds over time, as you are ready.

  • It’s a letting go of heaviness, bitterness, resentments, negative thoughts and feelings towards the offender.

  • It’s a decision to replace negative thoughts with neutral or positive thoughts towards the situation.

  • Above all else, forgiveness is for you, not for the other person. It’s you choosing to feel better and getting on with your life.

What forgiveness is not:

  • It’s not forgetting the incident

  • It’s not overlooking, condoning, or excusing it.

  • It’s not necessarily reconciling or restoring a prior relationship.

Forgiving someone doesn’t always come naturally. It sometimes works in windows of opportunity. Your mind and body send you signals when you are ready to forgive. It’s up to you to listen and follow through. Consider the following, in looking for your own “window.”

Beyond what your offender does or doesn’t deserve, you deserve the heavy weight of unforgiveness off your shoulders.

You’re Emotionally and Physically Exhausted

When you don’t forgive someone, you carry around an array of negative emotions, body tensions, and disturbing thoughts. These emotions, sensations, and thoughts can get very, very heavy.

Resentment and bitterness are two emotions that often accompany unforgiveness. With these emotions come tension and rigidity throughout your body. Negative emotions will begin to affect your thoughts, as well. You may experience unusual irritability and find yourself short tempered with your friends and family.  The way you perceive the world might have even changed because of the incident. Instead of feeling open and accepting you find yourself feeling critical, closed minded and inflexible.

Your body speaks in its own language as it responds to the stress and discomfort associated with unforgiveness. It’s quite common to feel muscle aches for no apparent reason and feel fatigued all the time. You may even experience headaches and stomach discomfort more frequently now.

Here’s the thing, your mind and body communicate all day long. To understand the conversation, you have to pay attention to the way you feel or to your physical symptoms. It’s common for aches and pains to be a primary way your body talks to you.

It’s hurting. Something needs to change. It’s too full of negative emotions to feel good anymore. Basically, you’ve given your offender the right to keep hurting you and your body is screaming for you to protect it.

Through forgiveness, your body releases tension and rigidity. You may even find yourself breathing a sigh of relaxed relief.

Revenge Hasn’t Relieved Your Pain

Let’s be honest, when you feel emotionally wounded, revenge can seem like a great idea. You may have even daydreamed about how you would do it.

It might be that you actually attempted to exact revenge on your offender. Whether it was a physical act or through a vicious mental game, you tried your best to make them hurt. You expected it to feel good, but it didn’t really make you feel any better.

Now, you sort of want to throw your hands in the air, because if revenge didn’t work then what in the world will change how you feel? You just want to be okay. You want that feeling of peace and openness you once had.

This feeling of frustration is a sign that you’re ready to forgive.

The reality is that no amount of revenge will do the trick and now you know better. It’s time to forgive and finally let yourself feel better.

You’ve Reached Some Sense of Empathy

No matter what caused your pain, the dust of that emotional culmination will eventually settle.

It could have been abuse, betrayal, or any number of things that hurt you. Directly after the offense occurred, you might have thought your offender did it with the sole purpose of causing you pain.

As time passed, you may begin to see things with a wider perspective.

Maybe you discovered your offender was abused as a child or that there was some trauma to sway him or her down a wrong path. This wrong path, unfortunately, led to your emotional damage.

It doesn’t let them off the hook, but it does help you see things a little differently. This is the beginning of empathy emerging. More than anything, it solidifies your acceptance of reality. And, it restores the peace you are looking for.

This awful thing happened to your offender. Then, an awful thing happened to you. Amazingly enough, once a deeper understanding of the situation emerges, forgiveness surfaces. As anger, resentment and bitterness is replaced with the acknowledgment that you survived, you can begin to experience the relief you need. As this happens, you know that it’s time to move on with your life and be happy.

When you find yourself thinking this way, forgiveness is likely right outside the window. The important thing is to listen to what your body and mind are telling you. No doubt, they are saying the same thing, but you have to listen to find relief.

Find the relief you deserve!

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Beneath the Brave Face: Why You Need to Grieve Trauma-related Losses

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Are you feeling frozen inside, living behind the mask of a brave face?

Have you recently lost a loved one in a traumatic way?

Has an illness, injury or traumatic event robbed you of a valued part of yourself?

Are you trying to cope with the loss, but unsure how?

Perhaps you’ve resorted to sporting a brave face to get through the day.

Few things in this world are as heartbreaking as a trauma-related loss. In these situations, there is no easy retreat into forgetfulness or a quick reprieve from the pain. You feel every last bit of the hurt. The traumatic nature of the loss may even haunt your mind with persistent images and rumination.

Intrinsically, this type of loss presents a two-fold challenge: coping with the trauma while simultaneously experiencing the loss. Often the shock of the trauma itself tends to take over. However, to heal well, grieving is important, too.

Continue on to learn why you need to grieve your trauma-related losses.

Grieving Can Help Move You Forward

Grieving unfolds its natural sequence in five general, though variable stages. Experiencing these stages fully often allows the grieving cycle to come to culminate in healing and the ability to move on. In other words, allowing yourself to grieve properly gives your own emotions the chance to come to terms with what’s happened.

These stages include:

  • Denial – Disbelief that the loss occurred.

  • Anger – Frustration and feelings of unfairness.

  • Bargaining – Hope against reality; pleas to self, life, or the divine for an altered reality

  • Depression – Sense of helplessness since mortality wins every time.

  • Acceptance – Embraces mortality and also life itself.

When you come to terms with the trauma-related loss, you are then able to find peace within your own life. Even though you may always feel like a part of you is missing, you will have the strength to move forward with hope and a renewed sense of vitality.

Grieving Offers Multifaceted Healing

Many people perceive grief to be feelings of sadness. It’s so much more, though. For instance, how you interpret your recent loss will determine your grieving experience. No two grieving experiences are alike.

One person may have lost their loved one in a traumatic event such as a motor vehicle accident, suicide, or even a homicide. Another individual might be facing their own loss by means of a terminal illness or an unexpected physical complication.

To fathom the idea that these aforementioned losses can be measured on the same scale seems farfetched. Comparing a violent murder to a death in a hospital bed doesn’t seem fair. Sadly, death doesn’t often seem fair.

This notion of unfairness is at the heart of multifaceted healing. No matter where your loved one’s life ended, it could have been traumatic for you.

What this means is that your emotional wounds not only bleed with the actual loss but also the way the trauma played out. It’s important to remember that the grieving process can bring healing to more than the loss itself. It can heal other emotional wounds surrounding your loss.

Grieving Can Prevent Depression

Isn’t grieving the same as being depressed? In short, no.

Depression is part of the grieving process, but not a total encapsulation of grief itself.

Depression is the fifth stage of the grieving process. This phase is characterized by thoughts of mortality and the hopelessness you may feel in knowing death finds us all. Some people get stuck at this stage. Some never get to it – mostly those who put on a brave face.

Rather, these brave-faced individuals approach life in a seemingly courageous way, but all the while, allow their emotions to eat away at them from the inside out.

Allowing yourself to fully experience grief will help ward off the future depression caused by unresolved grief.

Grieving Can Relieve Physical Discomfort

What we feel in our emotions tends to mirror in our bodies. In other words, facing a trauma-related loss can wreak havoc on your body and mind. The initial shock of the loss can trigger nausea, shortness of breath, and even a racing heartbeat.

The struggle doesn’t stop there. As time passes and you attempt to move forward, it’s common to try to “tough it out.” This approach doesn’t leave room for proper healing.

A brave face serves as an invitation for digestive issues, insomnia, muscle tension, headaches, and more. Your body and mind are connected. Your body knows you are hurting emotionally and holds that hurt as much as your metaphorical heart. Your body just tends to be a little more honest with you.

By removing the brave face mask and allowing yourself to grieve, you give your body permission to let go of the “frozen, pent-up” tension, aches, and pain. Once your emotions are released, the physical discomfort often follows suit. From here it is possible to find a new expression of you and your precious life force.

Sexual Trauma: How Therapy can Help You Deal With Chronic Discomfort

Do you often experience belly aches, nightmares, or a foggy brain for no apparent reason?

Have you ever thought that your painful past might be to blame for your chronic discomfort?

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While authentic physical ailments do exist, your mental state affects your physical state more than you might realize. It may seem like an abstract idea to connect your physical discomfort to your past trauma. Still, tracing it back may be more straightforward than you think.

Let’s examine some ways your body might be trying to communicate to you.

You’re Operating in Overdrive

When you go through a traumatic sexual experience, unique changes occur in your body and mind. When a tragedy occurs, the “fight or flight” response kicks in. Your autonomic nervous system switches into survival mode. This sends your senses into a heightened state of arousal.

Often, trauma victims become stuck in this state. You might be stuck, too. It may surprise you to learn that many chronic discomforts are expressions of past trauma.

Recovering from this type of trauma can be somewhat complex, but you are not alone in your healing. Therapy can help you to understand what your body is trying to tell you.

As a multidimensional being, your mind works in unison with your body. Finding resolution in one aspect often means accepting healing in the other.

Listening to Your Body

Your body may be sending you messages, telling you that you’re ready to move on from the traumatic experience. Yet, if you’ve not healed from it, your senses could be stuck in a heightened state of arousal causing you great discomfort.

While this state is effective for surviving the trauma, it’s not conducive to an ongoing sense of security and well-being. Remaining in such a heightened existence could cause a great deal of discomfort. Following are a few examples:

  • Brain fog or feeling of disorientation

  • Pelvic discomfort or pain

  • Belly ache or nausea

  • Digestive problems

  • Nightmares or insomnia

  • Feeling of being outside yourself

  • A “prickly” sensation when people physically get too close

  • Trembling or shortness of breath during sexual conversations

  • Cognitive issues (forgetfulness or impaired problem-solving skills)

  • Anger or unexplained rise in blood pressure during sexual conversations

  • Failure to perform during consensual sex or feeling a need to withdraw

How Therapy Can Help

A therapist specializing in nervous system dysregulation can effectively guide you towards recovery. Let’s look at how that can happen:

Freedom in Understanding

After living so long with physical discomfort, a therapist can address the core issues and help bring the truth to light. He or she will act as a sort of interpreter between you and your body.

Alone, it’s often hard to make the connection between a belly ache and a sexually traumatic experience. With a therapist, you can work together to put an end to the daily discomfort.

Become More Self-aware

Operating in a heightened state can force you to ignore your senses. This is an incredible exhausting way to function; however, a therapist will teach you how to practice self-awareness.

By understanding how your body communicates and responds to those mind/body interactions, you will experience a feeling of security and wholeness. Also, you will feel more tranquil and in charge of yourself.

Increased Intrapersonal Skills

Therapy can help you develop better relational and intrapersonal skills. In short, you will be more emotionally intelligent and understand your own feelings more adequately.

Whereas you may have pushed aside valid feelings in the past, you will now be equipped to address these feelings with surety. In understanding your emotions, you will be able to express yourself better, as well.

Boost of Self-confidence

Sexual trauma therapy can support maturing in realms of trust. You will experience more confidence and security both in yourself and in others, as well.

Doubting and second-guessing yourself might have previously been your standard. Therapy can help you establish new standards based on confidence and self-respect.

Chronic discomfort following sexual trauma needn’t be an ongoing burden. Seek help. You can find relief and release. Even when it’s difficult for you to understand, a therapist is trained to help you make sense of it all.

How Exercise Helps Your Brain Heal after Trauma

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Traumatic experiences change you for the rest of your life. While a common notion is that these changes are only negative, this is not true.

Trauma can be painful, leaving you feeling hopeless and out of control. In the midst of a traumatic experience, your body’s senses heighten. If left unresolved, they get “stuck” in this heightened state.

Like a broken record, your body and mind attempt to move forward in life while your general senses remain stuck within the trauma memory. This creates tremendous imbalance and can produce significant friction in your life.

The trauma may have occurred during a motor vehicle accident, a surgery procedure, or even because of an illness. In searching for a reprieve from the scars of trauma, your body and mind must make a connection. In short, each of your senses must interact and work in unison to get you “unstuck.”

Getting to know yourself as a multidimensional and interactive being is a valuable life affirming healing process in of itself. As you come to know yourself, what follows is a deeper understanding of the interaction between your body, mind and spirit. Thus, increasing the quality and richness of your life.

Furthermore, this subtle form of communication and integration of your body, mind and spirit can lead to significant improvement in your personal well-being and resilience.

Understanding Your Body

Trauma is often referred to as the brain and body’s normal response to an abnormal event. Your body and brain respond with muscle tension, pain, insomnia, and difficulty concentrating.

Your emotions react to these events with extreme fear, anger, anxiety, or disbelief.Connecting your bodily responses to your emotional responses can prove difficult, but it is an essential step in the healing process. A professional can help you make the necessary connection.

How Exercise Can Help:

Exercise is a fundamental way to open the lines of communication between body and mind. It’s imperative to understand that we humans hold and experience the effects of trauma in our bodies. No matter the details of the trauma, your body will unabashedly display your traumatic experience.

It has been well documented that regular exercise is associated with a host of health benefits. Regular exercise has positive effects on all bodily functions including blood flow and blood vessels. Capillaries, the smallest blood vessels in the human body, are responsible for transporting nutrients and wastes to and from your body's tissues.

Creates More Blood Vessels In The Brain

Exercise stimulates the growth and diameter of blood vessels in all parts of the body, including the brain.

This is done through the process of angiogenesis, the sprouting of new capillaries from preexisting blood vessels and arteriogenesis the increasing in diameter of collateral (neighboring) vessels.  This is especially important after an injury to the brain.

New blood vessels support growth and improvement in the brain including both physical and cognitive functions. Not only does this aid in the healing process to your brain, but it’s good for your entire body, as well.

Boosts Neuroplasticity

Cardiovascular exercise causes significant biochemical changes in the brain. It enhances neuroplasticity with the development of synaptic connections and neuronal networks. This is because your brain thrives with a steady stream of blood flow. It is an important part of brain recovery following a traumatic brain injury.

Burns Adrenaline and Releases Endorphins

When you experience a traumatic event or injury, your brain and body get “stuck” in a heightened sensory state or hyper-arousal. After the event has passed and you’ve entered a recovery period, your body may still remain in this disturbed state.

Exercise helps your nervous system restore balance by burning off adrenaline and releasing endorphins through movement. Endorphins help combat situational depression that may develop as a result of the traumatic event.

In other words, lowering your adrenaline levels helps balance and clarify communications to your body and endorphins boost energy, stamina, and a “feel good” mood so that you’re no longer feeling and acting like you are in a life-threatening situation.

Serves As A Distraction

After a traumatic experience, healing can often be the watched pot that never seems to boil. Feeling frustrated about the speed of healing is common enough. If you’re experiencing this uneasiness, take comfort in the distraction of exercise.

While it may seem too simple an idea, exercise is undoubtedly successful in terms of a healing aid. The art of distraction is woven into mindful awareness of your body.

Pay special attention to the way exercise feels. Listen to your breathing as you focus on the inhale and exhale or your muscles as they glide and stretch.

As you attend to the interaction between your mind and body, you will begin to experience healing. While exercise is undeniably good for the body, it’s also beneficial to your brain recovery and sense of well-being.

Restoring Resilience to your Nervous System

After trauma, your nervous system is completely out of whack and your sense of resilience is compromised. Exercise can help you and your nervous system restore or develop for the first time a sense of “I can”.

An “I can” attitude is one in which you know you can manage situations that may have felt overwhelming, or triggering, immediately following the traumatic incident.  Regular exercise teaches your nervous system how to be more flexible and rebound from activation sooner.

What kind and how much exercise is the right amount?

A good rule of thumb is to start out slow, with low intensity and gradually build up to your full capacity. Aerobic exercise is especially good for restoring health. Low impact activities are preferable to high impact, unless you were engaged in regular high impact activities prior to the incident.

Strength training, balance training, flexibility exercises, and mindfulness activities are all important for different reasons. Starting out 2-3 times a week is a good place to start, with the intention to slowly work up to 5 times a week.

Reach out for the support of a professional who can help you with all of the exercise you need to recovery from trauma.

 

How to Tune into Your Body’s Distress Signals and Finally Get Some Sleep

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Your body is sending you messages on a daily basis. Whether or not you choose to tune into them is up to you. Listening to your body is more than admitting you feel “off” or unlike your usual self. Interestingly enough, listening to your body requires interaction and response.

If you’re finding it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep, it may be time to pay close attention. Your body is most likely sending you distress signals. However, tuning into these signals can be slightly confusing.

What exactly is a distress signal?

How can you tell what it means?

Understanding how your body communicates is vital to developing a positive self-care routine. Here are a few tips on how to tune into your body’s distress signals and finally get some sleep.

Understanding Your Body’s Distress Signals

First off, your body’s distress signals are physical manifestations of a mental or emotional issue.

For instance, during a conflict with your spouse, you may experience an upset stomach. The adrenalin rush of your “fight or flight” response system triggers this sick feeling. It’s basically your body’s way of alerting you that something is out of balance. Typically, once you and your spouse reach a resolution, the sick feeling disappears.

It’s evident that both mental and emotional issues can cause intense physical reactions. Less significant reactions can easily get ignored, though. While it’s easier to pop a painkiller than to execute mindfulness, this will only mask the true problem.

Also, today’s society encourages “toughing it out.” Unfortunately, this strategy often invites stress to stealthily enter your life. Unknowingly, you “tough it out” to the point where your stress level is taking a toll on your body.

When this happens, your body often begins to exhibit abnormal symptoms. These symptoms are your body’s distress signals.

How to Tune In

Noticing an upset stomach during conflict is fairly obvious. What about weekend headaches, unusually itchy skin, or even an achy mouth? You can often trace these physical signs back to a deeper underlying problem. Regrettably, sleepless nights usually follow days that are filled with stress signals.

How do you tune into these signals to know what they mean?

One very effective way to understanding your body’s distress signals is simply to be mindful.  Begin by bringing attention to the sensations. Use an attitude of curiosity, and avoid judging yourself. By befriending your distress symptoms, rather than ignoring or rejecting them, you can begin to learn more about what your body needs to regain the balance it needs.

Make it a point to notice how you feel rather than going through the motions. Take inventory of the times you experience discomfort in your body for no apparent physical reason.

Purposefully gauge circumstances according to how you feel physically. If the daily morning staff meeting leaves you with a headache, take note. There is a reason for this discomfort. Sadly, these issues often plague your night, stealing valuable rest from you.

Most of all,  keep in mind that your body does best with regularity. Go to bed and wake up at the same time of day, regardless of weekends. Use your bed for sleeping or intimacy only. Watch TV in another room. Limit your exposure to screen time, especially your phone, for an hour before bedtime to avoid activating your pineal gland with the “blue” light. Eat and exercise regularly to promote balance. Avoid alcohol right before bed. Although it may help you fall asleep, it can promote wakefulness a few hours later.

Decoding Your Body’s Stress Signals

The point in decoding anything is to unveil a hidden message. In fact, your body could be waving red flags your direction. Without knowing what the red flag represents, it’s useless.

This is where your mindfulness efforts will pay off.

Once you’ve taken stock of how your outward situations make you feel physically, you can then move on to the next step. This step is connecting the dots from physical discomfort to a mental or emotional issue.

For instance, perhaps you have headaches after your morning staff meeting. You realize that they are consistent, no matter what physical changes you make. After digging a little deeper, you might admit to feeling inferior to the other staff. Perhaps you address this problem by validating your position. And, shortly after, the pesky headaches stop. Not only does it offer a reprieve in your day, but tuning in leaves you with a restful night’s sleep.

Your body is talking to you. Its distress signals offer you a lot of information, but you have to listen.

Remember that you are more than just a body. Rather, you are a complete system- mind and body- with interacting dimensions. To heal one dimension, you must tune into them all.

 

Car, Bike or Motorcycle Crash: How It Can Turn Your Life Upside Down in the Blink of An Eye

Have you been in a crash recently? Are you struggling to “get over” it and get your life back on track?

Crashes happen all the time. Some people recovery with little or no residual impact. Unfortunately, millions of other people suffer bewildering symptoms following even minor accidents.

All too often, these symptoms seem elusive, meandering, showing up one day and not the next. This is confusing and frustrating for the sufferer as well as the treating medical team. Thus, many people begin to feel desperate and increasingly helpless, wondering:

“Why is it taking so long to get over this?”

“Is it all in my head?”

“What’s wrong with me?”

Accidents and the ANS: Understanding what Happens to your Nervous System

Accidents are characterized as traumatic and often perceived as life threatening. When a perceived threat is experienced, the autonomic nervous system (ANS) is instantly aroused in preparation for survival. The first lines of defense are the fight or flight impulses.

First of all, a threatening situation invokes a primitive survival response that allows us to either fight our offender or flee from the threat. When we can complete those impulses, and successfully protect ourselves by either fighting or fleeing to safety, our ANS expends the energy associated with the initial arousal. Then, the nervous system is able to down regulate, leaving us in a calm state.

Similarly, when we are threatened by an impending crash while driving in a car, riding a bike, or traveling by motorcycle, the same amount of protective energy is mobilized in our nervous systems. However, because we are unable to escape an accident, that energy is unused and becomes frozen in our bodies.

This happens even when we don’t see the accident coming! When the shock of an accident occurs, our nervous systems frequently remain in that high state of alert. Often, this leads to symptoms consistent with posttraumatic stress.

Time may pass and some healing may occur. However, if you find yourself struggling to restore your pre-accident status, you may be suffering from the residual after-effects of trauma. The following is a partial list of symptoms that are often associated with posttraumatic stress following an accident.

Post-accident Post-traumatic Stress Symptoms include the following indicators:

  • Physical pain

  • Brain fog

  • Flashbacks or nightmares

  • Feeling disconnected or disoriented

  • Driving anxiety, either as the driver or as a passenger

  • Cognitive difficulty, especially processing, memory, problem-solving, calculating

  • Overwhelm

  • Fear or helplessness

  • Irritability

  • Anger

  • Insomnia

  • Exaggerated startle response

  • Hypervigilance, especially in traffi

  • Balance and equilibrium problems

  • Vertigo, nausea, dizziness or a feeling of unsteadiness

  • Feeling triggered by sights, sounds, smells or memories of the acciden

Trauma is anything that overwhelms a person’s capacity to cope. As a result, it can render them terrified and helpless. The reason physical symptoms show up is associated with the fact that “trauma is not in the incident, it is in the nervous system”. (Peter Levine, Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma)

Common reactions to a traumatic experience are Flooding and Freezing, described as follows:

  • Flooding is an exaggerated or overwhelming response. You may feel anxiety or experience angry outbursts, flashbacks, or a generalized feeling of overwhelm.

  • Freezing feels like numbness, disconnection, dissociation, and immobility. Crash Course A Self-Healing Guide to Auto Accident Trauma and Recovery by Diane Poole Heller, PhD and Laurence S. Heller, PhD provide useful lists of symptoms related to trauma. Included are several questions that can help guide self-healing.

Common vestibular symptoms that might arise from a crash include the following problems:

  • Trouble looking up

  • Difficulty walking down aisles of a supermarket

  • Difficulty rolling over to get out of bed

  • Dizziness when bending over

  • Unusual challenges performing ambitious activities like sports or housework

    • Additionally, Concussive and Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) frequently occur as a result of a crash, often going undiagnosed. This can happen even without directly hitting your head or losing consciousness. Furthermore, just exposure to the forces of acceleration/deceleration can shear and damage brain tissue.

      Symptoms of Possible Concussive and Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) include:

      • Sleep disturbances

      • Headaches

      • Dizziness

      • Fatigue

      • Irritability

      • Anxiety

      • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)

      Cognitive changes can occur as well. Here are just a few of the alterations that may become noticeable:

      • Memory difficulties

      • Problems reading

      • Word recall

      • Short term memory difficulties

      • Sequencing steps of familiar tasks

      • The onset of unfamiliar depression

      • Withdrawal from friends and family members

      • Unusual difficulty on the job

      • “Not feeling like yourself”

      • Difficulty filtering, particularly conversations from background noises

      Recovery: The Importance of Trauma Therapy

      A multi-discipline approach to recovery is important. First of all, physical therapy or chiropractic treatment for musculoskeletal symptoms associated with whiplash and other related accident injuries can help. Also, vestibular therapy, with vestibular-trained physical therapists, will address and correct symptoms related to dizziness, nausea, feeling lightheaded, vertigo, overall unsteadiness, sensitivity to light, and an overall feeling of disconnectedness. In addition, trauma therapy, by a qualified trauma specialist, is important for resolving trauma-related symptoms associated with an accident.

      The effects of trauma are held and experienced in the body. Thus, the most effective way to deal with the trauma response is through a mind-body approach. Somatically based approaches address altered neurobiology. Moreover, they facilitate restoration of the nervous system’s natural rhythms. As a result, the energy generated by the fight/flight/freeze response at the time of the accident is dislodged. Thereby, you are returned to your pre-accident state.

      If you or a loved one have some of these residual posttraumatic symptoms it is important to get the healing help you need. Furthermore, a multi-discipline approach is a very effective way to get comprehensive assistance. I can help you coordinate physical therapy, cognitive therapy, vestibular therapy and trauma psychotherapy, by consulting with your existing team or referring you to competent and qualified therapists.

      To conclude, driving anxiety disrupts our natural flow, interferes with our freedom, and robs us of feeling like we are relaxed, safe, and in control. Our lives revolve around cars, bikes, and motorcycles. Thus, without freedom of movement, our lives become more and more limited.

      Most important, you owe it to yourself to recover fully from accident-related trauma. Reach out and find the support you need and deserve.

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    Find your freedom

    7 Ways to Transition from Trauma to Trust and Transformation

    We are all born with a deep, basic trust. It is wired into the very fabric of who we are. Babies need to trust to survive. They have no reason not to. 

    But even small children can be traumatized. They can lose faith in the people who are supposed to care for them through abuse or neglect. They can have difficult births or remain isolated in intensive care units for extended periods of time. These situations can lead to undue stress and dysregulation of their immature nervous systems, disrupting their bonding experiences.

    When early trauma remains unresolved, it is often reactivated later in life, as other traumatic events are encountered.

    Trauma destroys trust

    Traumatic events erode our trust in the world and in other people. They also challenge our trust in ourselves, our ability to be agents in our own lives and to create positive relationships and achieve what we hope for.

    But trauma can also be resolved. While the initial, innocent trust in the world and ourselves may be disrupted, we can transition to a deeper, more realistic connection with the world around us and within us.


    Here are 7 ways to transition from trauma to trust and transformation:

    1. The healing (therapeutic) relationship

    One of the most powerful ways to transition from trauma to trust and transform your life is through psychotherapy. Therapists are trained to create a safe, perhaps even sacred, space for you. They can help you feel ‘understood’ and accepted.

    Psychotherapy is transformational on many different levels as you explore the deep layers of your unconscious mind. There, trauma can have long after-effects that are difficult to shift. Science supports the fact that healing happens within a caring relationship, not alone.

    2. Understand the dynamics between recent trauma and earlier trauma

    Because a more recent traumatic experience can reactivate earlier trauma, it is important to investigate what is actually going on.

    Again, this works best with a trained counselor or psychotherapist, but you can also try to find out on your own. Ask yourself what frightens, activates or disorients you most. Then, ask yourself if this feeling reminds you of anything you experienced earlier in your life.

    Images, memories, body sensations, and emotions will likely pop up.

    The goal here is to bring awareness to your body-felt experience and understand why and how you lost your trust. That understanding will support the changes necessary for transitioning to a new, more positive way of life.

    3. Living in the moment

    Bring your attention and awareness to the present moment. Orienting to the present moment and space is an effective way to start a “settling process”, slowing everything down and distancing you from worry. By living in the moment, you minimize thoughts of distrust.

    Mindfulness and mindfulness meditation are good practices to help you live in the moment. Begin by focusing on your breath. Allow it to slow down and deepen into your belly.  The more you practice living in the moment, the closer you are to transitioning out of trauma to trust and transformation.

    4. Reconnecting with the world in a new way

    Sensory experience, such as sound, smell, taste, the feeling in your body, colors, shapes, and movement are all part of mindfulness practice. They are also the most fundamental way of reconnecting with the world without the constant, intrusive memories and the painful thoughts. Spend time in nature, go for a walk, listen to your favorite music, and reach out to a trusted friend.

    The world around us is always there and always ready to connect. And as you reconnect, you are well on your way to transformation.

    5. Finding support and understanding

    When you suffer the after effects of trauma, you sometimes feel as if you are alone.

    Look for people who understand you. Often, you will find that they, too, have been through trauma and transition themselves. There are support groups online and quite probably even in your city. The support of fellow survivors is a huge help in transitioning to a new experience of trust.

    6. Creative expression

    Creative expression is a way of transforming your internal experience into an external expression. It can prove to be very fertile ground for moving trapped energy, expressing challenging emotions, and providing valuable insight. Choose whatever creative art or activity speaks to you right now. Painting, writing, dancing, or singing, it doesn’t matter what you create. What counts is the creative process.

    As you tap into your creative flow, you will experience a state of mind that happens completely in the present moment. You will end up with something you created. Something that you can then use to better understand yourself and remember as part of your transformation.

    7. Finding a new foundation for trust

    The ultimate transformation comes through a transition back to trust again. But it is a new kind of trust. You can’t wish the trauma away. Your new trust begins and ends deep within yourself.

    The world around you may disappoint or deceive you again. You may experience more traumatic events. But you will have more innate resilience and a more realistic view of the world. You will have a deeper connection to yourself that you can count on. And the knowledge that you can shape your life again.

    Healing from trauma takes time and energy. But it will happen if you take the right steps. It is best done in relationship, not in isolation. Some people are transformed by trauma into a much more meaningful and soul directed way of life. You too can transition from trauma to trust and reclaim the life you were intended to live.

    Trauma to Tranquility: When Trauma and Triumph are Two Sides of the Same Experience

    Trauma disrupts life and can bring suffering. It can bring you face-to-face with your own mortality, sometimes in the blink of an eye!

    It can also be a catalyst for transformation, like the symbolic death and rebirth of the phoenix rising.

    This flip-side of trauma carries the potential for growth and expansion. It can pave the way for unimaginable strength and a sense of triumph. Furthermore, a traumatic experience may redirect you towards the path to a more fulfilling life. It can reconnect you to your soul directed values, and your loved ones.

    Richard Tedeschi, Ph.D. and Lawrence Calhoun, Ph.D. first coined the term, post-traumatic growth, in 1995. The term evolved over time to emphasize ideas of growth, expansion, and the development of greater resilience as a potential consequence of struggling with trauma.

    According to Tedeschi and Calhoun, post-traumatic growth tends to occur in five areas. New opportunities emerge from the struggle, opening up possibilities that were not present, or apparent to you, prior to the incident.

    Changes in your relationships with others may occur as well. Empathy for others who have suffered might emerge and develop within you. Specifically, more heartfelt, deeper relationships may come to the foreground for you.

    An authentic sense of strength and resilience can spring forth from a source deep within, inspiring a feeling of “if I can live through that, I can handle anything.”

    In addition, a greater appreciation for life, in general, may surface. You may begin to be aware of the preciousness and time-limited aspect of life.

    Many sense something deeper; something more meaningful existing in their lives. Previously held belief systems may be challenged and changed, putting you more into alignment with who you really are. You may experience this as a deepening of your spiritual life.

    “Getting over” a traumatic event is not enough

    Recovery is critical. Post-traumatic growth emerges as you recover yourself, your sense of meaning, and your feeling of safety in the world. This is best done in relationship, not in isolation.

    You are intended to thrive, not just survive a trauma.

    Developing posttraumatic growth and resilience is crucial to your well-being and your ability to thrive in the life intended for you. You and your loved ones deserve this.

    You probably know that somehow your most challenging experiences have made you who you are. Especially your traumatic experiences. You probably also know that ignoring, denying, or keeping the experience a secret is not leading you to the other side of the trauma.

    There are many ways to get through this experience. Reach out to a qualified trauma therapist who understands the importance of post-traumatic recovery, resilience, and growth. Accurate validation of your experience is essential. You deserve guidance, support, and empowerment as you begin to put the pieces back together.

    Restoring your natural body rhythms of balance and harmony are essential

    Developing an embodied sense of trust and safety are key. Both may have been ripped away from you in the event. Your body needs to know that the event is over. You survived. And now, your natural protective mechanism of fight/flight/freeze can “stand down”.

    Taking the time to remember, process, and mourn the event helps you reassemble and reorganize the event. It allows you time to re-digest the memories in present time, within the safety of a qualified trauma therapeutic relationship. Essentially, the therapist shares the emotional burden of the event, replacing isolation, terror, and disempowerment with accurate validation. Self-empowerment then emerges, leading the way to reconnection with your ordinary life, loved ones, and purpose.

    There is light at the end of your tunnel. Many survivors find new direction, revived vigor, and commitment to a life greater than the one they knew before the trauma.

    You can too!

     

    Medical Trauma: Is This What You Have?

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    You go into a surgery or a medical procedure with one set of problems, expecting a certain outcome. Instead, you are faced with an entirely different set of problems when the procedure is complete.

    What is medical trauma? It is trauma resulting from medical procedures, illnesses, and hospital stays involving unexpected complications.

    Did you receive medication that was not good for you? Perhaps you developed unexpected time-related complications because you were under anesthesia longer than expected. Whatever the circumstances, these traumas can have lasting effects on you, your family, your relationships, and your livelihood.

    Some people even develop clinically significant reactions such as post-traumatic stress disorders, anxiety, depression, and physical limitations. Pain, both physical and emotional, grief, bewilderment, anger, frustration, and helplessness can arise. This may leave you feeling hopeless, maybe even suicidal.

    This is serious.

    If you or a loved one is suffering from the effects of medical trauma, please reach out for help. A qualified, medically based trauma therapist can help alleviate the symptoms and help you restore calm, comfort, and function to your life.

    Medical trauma, what is it and where do you go from here?

    So, you’ve had your surgery or medical procedure and you are left with a complication.

    Now, what? Have you’ve even been told to just cope, move on, and adjust?

    But, how? What are the steps? Is there a plan?

    First, understand what has happened. Is there a prognosis for improvement? Will it take time or is it something you need to learn to accommodate?  Successful treatment of post-traumatic stress is possible with the help of a trauma therapist. Trauma therapy alleviates many symptoms.

    Post-traumatic growth is possible, as often reported by my patients. Personal strength, resilience, and esteem can arise from the ashes of the trauma, often leading a person to places and qualities in their lives they would never have expected. You can experience the transformative powers of your own post-traumatic growth too. Please read my blog on Post-traumatic Growth and Resilience for more information.

    Second, identify your feelings. Find ways to calm yourself as you are sorting all of this out. Start with a few, simple body-centered techniques:

    Name it to Tame it”

    Daniel Siegel, MD coined this phrase. It draws upon the principle of awareness and mindfulness. Thus, bringing attention and identification to your emotions and body-felt sensation. Everyone knows about emotions.  The “new kids on the block” are body-felt sensations. Body-based self-care techniques rely on identifying and understanding them. Body-felt sensations include

    • a pounding heart
    • shallow breathing
    • dizziness
    • pain
    • tightness in your chest or other places in your body
    • or feeling like you are out of control

    Be curious, not judgmental.

    Just start by noticing these sensations, and with practice, you can learn to watch them come and go like waves on the ocean. Reach out to me for further help in this if you’d like: Jeri Innis at jeri@innisintegrativetherapy.com.

    Acknowledge emotions come and go like the wind.

    Sometimes emotions bring warmth and comfort; sometimes they blow in like a tornado causing a sense of chaos. When this happens, you may feel out of control, disoriented, and unable to manage your feelings. However, you can start combating troubling emotions with the “Name it to Tame it” technique. Then, follow up by slowing down your breathing and waiting for the storm to pass.

    Stormy emotions always pass. Remember, emotions are not equipped to be “the helm of your ship” or in charge of the direction you go. Your thoughts, instead, are better equipped to manage the direction of your life.

    The more you are able to manage overwhelming body sensations and troubling emotions, the easier it will be to direct your thoughts and behaviors. This leads to a better sense of control.

    Third, create a positive circle of support that you can share this disappointing experience with. You and your family members will need support. So, find people for everyone involved. It may be helpful to look for an organized support group with others learning how to cope with similar conditions. Furthermore, it may be useful to reach out to a reliable clergy member, a trusted friend, or a qualified trauma therapist.

    Don’t go it alone. You are too important.

    When Your Life Turns Sideways: 5 Ways to Prevent Vestibular Discomfort During Hectic Holidays

    Dizziness, migraines, hearing disturbances, distorted vision, loss of balance and vertigo, a sensation that either you or the room around you is spinning – these are all symptoms of vestibular discomfort. If they are more severe, vestibular discomfort can lead to vestibular disorder. This is a physical illness of the vestibular system – the inner ear and certain locations in the brain that are responsible for balance, eye movement and perception of the space around you.

    Stress, anxiety and rushing around can trigger symptoms of vestibular discomfort and make them worse. The symptoms can then, in turn, trigger more anxiety, low self-worth and even panic attacks.

    Here are 5 ways to prevent vestibular discomfort during hectic holidays.

    1. Understand your illness

    Vestibular disorders are difficult to diagnose and difficult to live with.Vertigo can strike at any time, dizziness comes and goes. In order to manage your symptoms, you need to understand it as much as possible.

    Get the most specific diagnosis you can from your doctor or qualified physical therapist specializing in vestibular disorders. Don’t hesitate to ask for details. Ask your doctor to recommend books and look up forums for fellow sufferers from vestibular discomfort. The more you know, the earlier you can recognize your symptoms and intervene so that they don’t get out of control.

    Many vestibular symptoms develop slowly, from a vague feeling to discomfort to full-blown vertigo that prevents you from standing up straight. Become familiar with the different stages and develop strategies. The most powerful and reliable strategy is to disconnect from your worries as much as possible and focus on your breath. Slowing your breathing and bringing your awareness to your body-felt sensations can facilitate your nervous system to settle into a healthier pace, allowing you to relax and feel more in control.

    At first, just observe it, don’t force anything. Your breath knows what to do.Then, if you feel comfortable, try to slow down your exhalation, very gently. Then your inhalation. As you get familiar with this method, see if you can apply the 5/5/7 method. Breathe in for a count of 5, hold for a count of 5 and breathe out for a count of 7. This will help reset your natural breathing patterns.

    Deep breathing can soothe your stress. Vestibular discomfort is associated with elevated stress levels. Being in touch with your breath will also give you back a little bit of control.

    Use this method whenever the holiday stress starts to get to you. Don’t wait until it is really bad.

    Then, bring your attention to your body-felt sensations. Your body-felt sensations could be: a pounding heart, short, shallow breathing, tightness in your chest or other places in your body, or feeling like you are out of control. Be curious, not judgmental. Just start by noticing them, and with practice, you can learn to watch them come and go like waves on the ocean. Reach out to me for further help in this if you’d like, Jeri Innis at jeri@innisintegrativetherapy.com.  

    2. Overcome self-doubts and doubts by other

    Vestibular discomfort is invisible to others. Unfortunately, that can mean that others may need to be ‘convinced’ that you are really struggling, and what it’s like for you. You may need to help them understand that your symptoms are serious. This struggle adds psychological suffering on top of physical discomfort. And it can also lead to a low sense of self-worth.

    While you know you are suffering considerable discomfort, you may question if you have a ‘right’ to look after yourself and your illness. During the holidays, you will be confronted with family members who may not have the information or the personal respect for you to be sensitive to your symptoms. Prepare yourself by clearly understanding the condition yourself. Understand that you may need more “downtime” than others during the hectic holiday season. Care for yourself. Don’t take on other people’s negative opinions.

    3. Manage stress and fatigue

    Stress and fatigue are major triggers of vestibular discomfort. Organize your time and your tasks well ahead of the holiday season. Plan plenty of rest periods and cut back on your extra holiday workload. Your health is more important than decorations and food.

    Enlist other people’s help in preparing for the celebrations – that can also be fun! Create new, streamlined traditions. You may find that less stress and more rest is welcomed by friends and family, too.

    4. Manage anxiety and panic attacks

    Pay attention to the first signs of your symptoms, before they snowball out of control.

    Vestibular discomfort can be triggered by anxiety, but it can also cause anxiety. Vertigo is extremely disorienting and frightening. Dizziness can make you feel weak and useless. Remind yourself that you are not crazy. This is a physical symptom. A temporary symptom, that will get better if you breathe and relax now.

    Pay attention when you feel the beginnings of a panic attack. You have about 20 minutes to try to calm yourself down and allow your relaxation system to kick in. Stop your stressful activity immediately and focus on looking after yourself. Also, take as many naps as you need.

    5. Have a ‘plan B’ if it happens anyway

    Prevention is always best. But it is equally important to know that you have a plan, in case your discomfort cannot be prevented.

    Create a safe space for yourself wherever you are, at home or with relatives. This is the space you can retire to when things get too to be too much. If you are unable to ‘wind down’ a panic attack, or if you feel too overwhelmed by the chaos and confusion around you, retreat to your safe space.

    Focus on your breath. Focus on your body-felt sensation. Close your eyes (that can often help with balance issues). Make sure you are not disturbed by loud noises.

    Remind yourself it won’t last forever. You will come out on the other side.

    Vestibular discomfort can be a chronic condition. This means that it will quite likely occur again and again. Chronic illness creates a lot of psychological and emotional stress. You deserve care and respect from others and from yourself! Reach out for help to a qualified physical therapist, and or somatic psychotherapist. This condition is treatable.

    Ask your loved ones for one important holiday gift: less stress and more relaxation for all of you.
     You can find the balance you need.

    Anxious or Worried Sick? What's Autonomic Nervous System Dysregulation?

    The election season was full of vitriol and mudslinging. Every day you were inundated with media commentary, alarmist claims, and doomsday headlines. Fear seemed to be everywhere. You spent a year worrying about the country and the quality of its leadership. And now it’s over, and you’re still so anxious that any discussion of politics causes your mind to race, your head to ache, and your stomach to roil…

    What’s going on?

    Your body is telling you that your autonomic nervous system (ANS) is on high alert and showing signs of dysregulation.

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    What’s your ANS? It is the internal bodily system that controls most of your involuntary reflexive actions. It is constantly busy inside you, working and regulating your automatic, unconsciously run bodily functions such as your heart rate, respiratory rate, pupil dilation, and digestion. Your ANS assists in all aspects of your body via the release or uptake of biological chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters.

    Your autonomic nervous system contains two essential parts:

    • the sympathetic nervous system readies your body for stressful events or emergencies. Here is where the “fight or flight” response originates during dangerous circumstances. Under normal conditions, your heart rate and blood pressure elevate, your digestive system is disrupted, and your pupils dilate.
    • the parasympathetic system assists your body’s attempts to calm down and to return to normal.

    Therefore, autonomic nervous system dysregulation indicates an imbalance between these two systems. This is usually related to an over-activation of the fight/flight response and the under-activation of the settling down system. This is very stressful for your body. The areas of the body most affected are neural networks in the brain, muscles, and organs housed in your chest, abdomen and pelvis.

    How does ANS dysregulation  happen?

    The sympathetic and parasympathetic parts of the autonomic nervous system are meant to be seamless, cooperative, and harmonious. Disruption to the natural way the parasympathetic system functions has serious implications. When the body’s harmony is disturbed and your sympathetic system is activated too often, something must be done to restore balance soon. Otherwise, the dysregulation of the system creates more and more bodily deterioration.  

    In effect, too much anxiety, worry, negative thinking, and arousal of the body’s natural threat detection systems adversely affects the ability of the body to settle down effectively. The resting state happens less and less. Whenever the resting state is compromised, stress and overwhelm arises, and can lead to various health problems.

    How ANS dysregulation and worry and anxiety intersect

    Worry and anxiety should not be constant. When they are, the fight or flight response of the sympathetic nervous system is pricked repeatedly. Thereby, making you prone to biological overreaction, internal inflammation, and inappropriate sympathetic activation.

    As you worry persistently or succumb to the chronic stress and overstimulation of a busy life, you are too frequently flooded with stress hormones. These hormones can impact nervous system reactions in ways that wear down your body’s ability to self-correct and settle down. These chemicals should occur occasionally in the body, not every day. Thus, they are damaging in ample supply. 

    What are the specific results of too much “fight or flight” and not enough “rest and digest?” Unfortunately, you enter into a cycle of mental and physical illness, ranging from chronic muscle tension and pain, low mood, disinterest in activities, insomnia, digestive disturbance, and more. All are serious dysfunctions of the autonomic nervous system.   

    Consider these additional symptoms of ANS dysregulation:

    • Blood pressure complications
    • Cardiac distress
    • Problems breathing and swallowing
    • Erectile dysfunction

    So, what do you do?

    Whatever your worries: political drama, family problems, or a troubled past, anxiety needn’t have it’s way with your health.

    Therefore, if you suspect you are worrying yourself sick and into a state of autonomic nervous system dysregulation, please seek help. You needn’t continue on this way. In fact, doing so may only do more damage.

    Reach out to an experienced body-centered therapist soon for help and tools to restore peace to your mind and rest to your body.

    I invite you to click on my Chronic Stress Management and download the free report page to learn more about how you can begin to help yourself.

    When Trauma Hits Hard and Takes So Much: How to Cope with Loss

    Traumatic experiences have a huge impact on our minds. And on our bodies. Sometimes, the responses happen immediately. Sometimes, it takes time for trauma symptoms to appear.

    Trauma can take so much away from us, including our joy in life and our concept of the world as a friendly place. Trauma can destroy our relationships and steal the purpose from the work we do.

    trauma loss

    Furthermore, trauma can cause persistent physical discomfort and severely disturb the internal nervous system. Rapid heart rates, nightmares, flashbacks, insomnia, panic attacks, and even digestive problems can all stem from unresolved trauma.

    Left untreated, those symptoms can be triggered by smaller, seemingly unrelated events later. Triggers often link somehow to the original traumatic experience. Sometimes trigger events are hard to identify. Perhaps they are related sounds, smells, or colors. Symptoms often arise when trauma anniversaries or memories and similar situations occur.

    Loss can be a deeply traumatic event. When you lose a loved one, a relationship, your sense of independence, or a job you love, the world you knew is shattered. It can be hard to overcome.

     Loss and trauma can cause changes in your body, where the trauma can be held for a long time. You need to grieve the loss and construct a new version of the world, inside and out.

    To that end, somatic therapy offers a very effective tool for releasing and healing trauma after a loss. It is an effective tool for making life changes in addition to a cognitive approach.

    • Understanding  trauma

    Traumatic events are outside our control. The impact of trauma on the body and mind varies between individuals. It has a lot to do with your personal history, the individual condition of your stress response system, as well as many other factors.

    Post-traumatic stress symptoms are not a sign of weakness. You cannot just switch them off.

    • Interplay between body and mind

    The experience of trauma and loss is both psychological and physiological. Your response to grief and loss is an intricate interplay between body and mind.

    Talking therapies allow you insight into what happened to you. They also offer management strategies for trauma symptoms, helping you work through your thoughts, memories and behaviors.

    • How trauma gets ‘locked’ in your body

    Somatic therapy also addresses the long-term effects of trauma in your body.

    Traumatic experiences evoke the human stress response, an instinctive response to danger that increases your chances of survival. This is the so-called ‘Fight/Flight/Freeze’ response.

    Normally, the stress response powers down and the relaxation response kicks in when danger ends. Sometimes, ‘stress energy’, is ‘locked’ into your system and held in your body for a long time, particularly in your muscles and gut. You may or may not feel it, but it affects your well-being.

    • How to release ‘locked’ energy

    Somatic therapy offers tools to release that locked energy from your muscles and your body in general. You don’t have to carry the extreme survival response anymore.

    • Fight or flight (and freeze) response and its resolution.

    The fight or flight response (and the more extreme freeze response) usually resolve naturally. However, in the case of trauma, that natural process is disturbed. Somatic therapy can release it.

    This is especially true for loss and grief. You will no longer feel ‘stuck’ in the traumatic past. You won’t feel forced to relive the traumatic memories. Your body is the agent of change.

    • Rituals

    Along with therapy, behavioral tools help in the treatment of trauma.

    When it comes to grieving death, many cultures already have elaborate rituals that support the transition. For other losses, you may need to develop more personal rituals.

    • Trauma resolution

    Trauma steals your enjoyment of life, peace of mind, the ability to cope with minor stress, and your hope and trust for the future. Fortunately, they aren’t lost forever. Not if you take steps to seek treatment.  An experienced somatic therapist helps restore a nervous system stuck in a trauma response. Ultimately, you can recover from trauma and an elevated stress response.

    Trauma resolution is possible and will change your life for the better.

    Anger and Trauma: What’s the Connection? Is There Hope for Recovery?

    Has anger left you feeling tense, out of control and exhausted?

    Anger is an unpleasant emotion. Some people feel like they’re constantly angry because of the trauma they’ve experienced. But, despite how scary anger can feel, it’s actually an important part of trauma recovery.

    anger trauma

    Whether trauma has its origins in early childhood, is associated with a loss, or is a part of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),  it is often a major side effect of the trauma itself and the process of recovering from it. Anger and trauma are deeply linked, but anger can provide the path to freedom from trauma.

    Anger as a Survival Mechanism

    Experiencing trauma is overwhelming. Regardless of the trauma source, most people feel like they did not deserve what happened to them. Someone they trusted should have protected them and failed to do so. Or the car crash or medical complications shouldn’t have happened. When that trust is broken, anger is a natural outcome. It is both psychologically normal and self-protective.

    After trauma, we try to protect ourselves in any way possible from experiencing a similar event in the future. The problem is, many people get stuck in “fight or flight” mode. This state of high alert is what we call arousal: we are always watching for the next big threat.

    Symptoms of Anger after Experiencing Trauma

    Anger changes the way the body feels. You can tell because all your muscles tense, your heart beats faster, and you may feel constantly on edge. For some people, anger becomes chronic and takes a significant toll on their physical and mental health. You may get in more fights and it may damage your relationships.

    It is exhausting to feel like you’re constantly on high alert, watching out for the next potential threat. It’s hard on the people around you, too, because you’re often reacting to perceived threats that may not actually be there.

    The Issue of Personal Boundaries

    Most survivors of trauma experience violations of their personal boundaries. Whether they were victims of childhood abuse, sexual abuse, or domestic violence, the right to personal safety was not respected. A similar violation of boundaries occurs when a car unexpectedly crashes into yours. As a result, many people who experienced trauma find it difficult to set boundaries that allow them to feel appropriately safe and respected.

    This occurs even when victims are trying to establish boundaries with people other than those who originally hurt them. Victims of car accidents lose their ability to feel safe on the road again. This inability to feel safe leads to more anger. This feeds the cycle of anger and trauma.

    Hope for Healing

    Even though anger and trauma are linked in many cases, it doesn’t have to be this way. Anger is the first step toward healing, if you use it to acknowledge that something bad happened to you. The important thing is not to remain stuck there.

    Fortunately, recovery from trauma is possible once you work through the anger and learn to manage your triggers. Here are some of key ways you can recover from anger and trauma:

    • Learn to relax. Particularly for people who have experienced significant trauma, relaxation may not come easily. It’s a skill that has to be learned. Meditation, exercise, and deep breathing, spending time in nature, as well as learning ways to gain a broader perspective on your situation, can all help you learn to calm that fight-or-flight reaction.

    • Find new ways to deal with stress. Most people who have experienced trauma need help to find strategies for coping with the difficult experiences they faced. Taking a break when you’re stressed, writing about your feelings in a journal or talking to a friend or loved one about your feelings can all help.

    • Change your thought patterns. There’s no question that trauma changes the brain. Depending on how early in life these traumatic experiences occurred, they may be strongly imprinted on your thought processes. You can train yourself to react differently to situations in which you feel out of control. A qualified therapist can help to role-play scenarios in which you respond in a new way.  example, you might be able to say, “I’m still safe even if others don’t react the way I want.”

    Working through anger and trauma is an important and difficult task. But healing is possible when you make the effort to get better and find someone to help you through the process.