Thursday, January 18, 2018


One of the most defining characteristics of being traumatised is feeling/being stuck. The frustration, powerlessness and helplessness that this causes can often retraumatise us, long after any traumatic experiences are over.

Feeling stuck feels awful, it is like being on a merry-go-round that you can’t get off. The harder you try to get off, the more stuck you feel. It’s excruciating.

It might sound counterintuitive, but the way to come unstuck is not to fight the stuckness and try to get rid of it, it’s to find out what has led to us being stuck so we can release those patterns.

In most cases, it’s because we haven’t learned how to process difficult emotions and complete any actions they inspired (if it were even possible). This overwhelms our capacity to cope and this is never more true than in developmental trauma. The developmental stage you are at when you experience something difficult is key to you being able to handle it. Babies in utero are extremely vulnerable to traumatic stress, as are infants and children in their early years.

Developmental trauma is repeated trauma, there’s rarely a let up. It changes how you develop (hence the name), your nervous system becomes wired to avoid even the slightest threat which in the long run exhausts your reserves and puts a massive strain on your health, both mental and physical.

Developmental trauma is quite different to single event traumatic experiences, which thankfully, are mostly one offs. This is not to minimise or maximise anyone’s experience, but if your very foundation is shaky, your resilience is compromised. If you’ve had a solid start, you’ll have more handling capacities for adversity even in really difficult circumstances. The importance of support cannot be overestimated when it comes to resolving trauma.

If you have the support of your caregivers, rather than they being the source of the trauma, traumatic experience might not even develop into trauma. If trauma does develop, your chances of overcoming it are very good.

It’s not that you can’t overcome developmental trauma, because you certainly can, but it’s usually a longer journey because you have to repair and/or build the foundations upon which you can stand and thrive.

Being kind and gentle with ourselves during this process is crucial. Watch out for any signs of desperation or urgency, this is not a sign to try/struggle more until you finally “fix” yourself. It is a sign to relax and take it easy, do nothing, rest, give your nervous system a well deserved break. You’re not broken, you’re learning a different way of being in the world, you’re finding out who you are and how to be true to that self, and that is a life journey, not a destination.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Evolving the flight, fight and freeze response

It doesn’t matter whether a threat is real or perceived, our nervous system will react in the same way. What we can do, is assess whether any danger or threat is immediate; that is, is it happening right now and does it require action on our part? (If we can act that is). This is the beauty of emotions, they are action requiring neurological programmes (from Antonio Damasio).

When we assess threat this way (as adults needless to say, this information does not apply to children), we don’t minimise or shame ourselves for being on high alert, especially when the danger is perceived or we don’t know where the sense of danger/threat is coming from (this usually happens when memories are implicit and from very early on in life).

This interview of the wonderful and exuberant Donna Eden by Tami Simon from Sounds True, gives an exercise that you can practice to evolve your flight, fight and freeze response. Listen in from 49 minutes onward, though the entire interview is worth listening to.

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

All emotions have their place

What’s worse? Being in a so-called low vibration state of being sad, suppressing sadness or feeling sad?

What do you think will make you happier and healthier? Shaming yourself or others for being in a low vibratory state? Or pushing things away so you don’t feel them? Though you know from experience that you’ll pay the price later.

Feeling sad is not crime, though you’d never know that in some circles. You don’t need any more shame heaped upon you for feeling the way you do. In the film Inside Out [spoiler alert], Riley is leaving home to go back to Minnesota and it is the sadness when she thinks of her parents that stops her. The message is that all emotions have their role and place, depending on the situation in which we find ourselves. The obsession with being happy at all costs, no matter what is going on in our lives, is a pressure we can all do without.

Emotions are dynamic, they change when we allow them to change by feeling them. It’s when emotions are at their crescendo that we’re most likely to resist feeling them, because they might feel really uncomfortable and overwhelming, but if we can just stick with it for 60 seconds or so to see if it starts ebbing, we’d have the felt experience of bobbing with our emotions instead of crashing against them.

This makes us more resilient by increasing our capacity to feel difficult emotions without becoming overwhelmed by them. In psychological jargon, it is called self/emotional regulation, and it is a really valuable skill to have in life. It makes such a difference to our well being to be able to feel difficult emotions so they can be processed instead of becoming stuck in our bodies and minds causing dis-ease and illness.