Traumatic memories are stored in our bodies. When we remember a traumatic experience it is less of an experience of the mind but more so of the body; the memory is in fact re-lived at the somatic level. The experience has a tendency to take over our body through our nervous system and our 'emotional brain' resulting in various sensations (trauma symptoms). These sensations may be so distressing that mind may ‘disconnect’ from the body (dissociation) in an effort to protect itself from harm. The sensations may also challenge our sense of safety (both inward & within relationships) and ability to move forward.
Therefore, deepening the understanding and awareness of our body plays a key role in cultivating comfort and safety within our body. A consistent inward practice of contemplative and body-based therapies can empower us with resilience building tools which strengthen the mind-body relationship and contribute to emotional regulation.
INDIVIDUAL: DEVELOPMENTAL / SHOCK TRAUMA
Trauma can be described as the emotional, physical, spiritual and behavioral consequences that arise from experiencing or witnessing events which threaten our sense of safety. It can be a single event or the accumulation of distressing experiences which continuously overwhelm the nervous system over time. Trauma can take the form of physical, sexual and verbal abuse; grief; neglect/abandonment, and so forth. With just the “right amount” of support through healthy interpersonal relationships the individual may cultivate enough resiliency to establish healthy coping tools. However, when trauma is not addressed it has a tendency to seep into our everyday life, creating discomfort and mistrust of our bodies and of the world around us. This may lead to the development of unhealthy coping tools.
Through introspective writing, group sharing, and the integration of breath with purposeful movement, the healing circles create a space that cultivates connection between the mind and body while developing tools for inner and outer body-awareness and emotion regulation.
COLLECTIVE: SYSTEMIC TRAUMA
A complex and multifaceted category without a clear definition, collective trauma is a shared psychological impact experienced at the community level. Often the result of systemic inequity and oppression; forced displacement; social/health inequities; poverty; violence; war or political violence, and so forth. With barriers to basic necessities such as community safety and policing, healthcare, nutritious food, education and political representation, an entire community/population will experience victimization/helplessness/extreme loss.
Similar to the mind-body interplay of trauma at the individual level, collective trauma manifest within the collective consciousness. Often establishing a lack of mistrust between the community and the systems involved. As a coping mechanism, crime, interpersonal conflict, and unemployment are heightened, making them even more vulnerable to cycles of violence and oppression.
Although this issue that far surpasses the scope of my work, my primary intention when working with any marginalized population is to offer a space to empower communities with tools for self-regulation, resilience-building and self-care practices which aim to strengthen their communities.
CAREGIVERS: SECONDARY TRAUMA
Compassion fatigue, often experienced by caregivers (ex: mental health and social workers, school teachers, hospice workers, humanitarian aid workers, emergency responders, family, and so forth) has a profound effect on the individual, wearing down the mind, body and spirit. When this is not identified, secondary trauma (aka vicarious trauma) can result. The caregiver begins to identify with the survivor, depression and feelings of powerlessness may manifest as the caregiver realizes that their survivor’s condition is linked to conditions beyond their control (ex: illness, natural disaster, socio-political turmoil, and so on). The caregiver begins to shoulder the emotional burden and responsibility and experience moral distress and shifting worldviews.
Research shows that despite symptoms being disruptive and emotionally challenging, with deepened understanding and self-care practices one can initiate newfound resilience and positive change. Educating trauma stewards on the risk factors, signs and preventative self-care practices can provide essential relief and foster resilience for all involved. Paired with yoga healing circles we can access new modalities which mitigate compassion fatigue and secondary trauma.