It’s common for people to underestimate their traumas. Some even shy away from using the word trauma. I simply use it to mean ‘something that the body is still holding on to.’ It could have come from something as extreme as years of ritual physical abuse, or something as seemingly innocuous a harsh word from a trusted parent. It doesn’t really matter how it compares to the lives of others. All that matters is that we honor our own experience and acknowledge where we’re stuck so that we can move forward as gracefully as possible.
This requires feeling the emotions fully.
This sounds simple… it isn’t for most.
A client had suffered much abuse at the hands of her father. He would charge into the room to beat her and her sister on an alcohol induced whim. Her whole body shuddered at the merest mention of his name. Her eyes roved around the room, scanning me up and down, desperate for any semblance of safety.
When I asked how she felt about her childhood, she clenched her teeth and didn't answer. When I asked her to express her feelings toward her father, her body slumped, as she confessed that she ‘understood where he was coming from.’ He had his own issues, she explained. So the rage that was ostensibly coursing through her system might have been laid to rest for another day, another year, another lifetime. I decided to give her an opportunity to spare herself much of that suffering.
Throw a fit, like the kind you might have thrown from the era of the incident, I suggested. Imagine you could say what you might have said then, if you had your full voice available. You were five then, right?
I had her close her eyes; see herself then. The untarnished innocence. The pure love. The fragile being she was. How could someone have done that to her? As she accessed that dormant facet of herself, a profound silence fell. She stood strong, and her mood darkened as she unleashed a torrent of rage. I had her kick and punch into my hand; pound a pillow. Anything to release the residual fight / flight energy stored in the system. That often allows us to access deeper layers of somatic emotion.
Sometimes, when I suggest an imagined dialogue with a challenging person, the words come so effortlessly, paired with the accurate emotion, that it's like opening a floodgate. In those cases, I work in the physicality around the words.
At other times, the emotions are hard to access, the tongue falters, due to the mind’s self deception mechanisms or the body's programmed fear, so I begin with the physical action, often a punch or kick, and see what arises as that energy courses through the body.
Sometimes, we orchestrate the 'trapped' feeling again, by recreating some component of the 'stuck' posture, and then facilitate the literal (and metaphorical) break through physically. Holding an arm, for instance, and then encouraging the client to push through where they are most frozen and powerless. That is how power is reclaimed.
After the share, she opened her eyes, and they were luminous; 10 shades brighter.
Later that week, she relayed to me that her and her father spoke vulnerably for the first time… ever, in a conversation where he admitted his shortcomings and fears, and apologized for his faults... which allowed her to soften even more. She finally got the father figure she’d always wanted, where she least expected it (in her own father).
The first sojourn into ‘softness’ wasn’t real; it was another facade; a variant of ‘this is how I think I should act.’ A.k.a. spiritual or emotional bypassing.
I know. We’re evolved beings. We understand the complexity of a situation. We can rationalize ourselves out of anger.
Still, that ocean of rage you’re simmering in hasn’t caught up yet. It may be at a a 5, 6, 7 year old level of consciousness. Access that to let that go. The only way out is through.
Love and flow,