Putting The Pieces Together After Trauma

Gosh, trauma is a bitch. One of the hardest thing about dealing with trauma is that we don’t always realize its impact in our lives. Sometimes we lose function quickly - the rug is pulled out from under us and we’re unable to go to work or be in a certain situation or what have you. Sometimes we lose function slowly, over time. We start to stay in more, we reach out to people less, we feel just a little bit less excited about life…and a year or two later, we’ve found ourselves in a state of depression or on the verge of a health crisis or in the middle of a divorce that we don’t really want.

Life moves fast, doesn’t it? When is there time to process the fact that your dad died? When is there time to be with your grief over the loss of your fur baby? When is there time to take in the good - a new move, a wedding, a new job, the birth of a child? Surely I can’t be the only one whose life has felt like a series of changes without time to take any of them in. The body keeps moving, but the heart and soul stay behind.

I don’t know about you, but the my experience of life often has felt like a series of knock out punches, and with each one the demand to get up faster and faster. Maternity leave is short in America; mom and dad hardly get to be with baby before they’re back at work. A friend of mine who’s going through cancer treatment is also still working. My friend’s son died suddenly; she was back at work the next week. Granted, sometimes it’s doing “normal” things that helps us keep going, almost as a defense against the emotional response. And other times it’s that defense that stands in the way of our deepest healing and transformation.

What happens to our hearts, to our emotional bodies, and to our physical bodies when we don’t take time
to process our experiences?

We build up “emotional debt,” stuff that has to be processed later. And how does this impact us? For some it’s a little bit more irritability than usual. It might be a little less interest in family life and a little more interest in gaming; one more glass of wine; a lack of interest in sex; an inability to find passion or purpose; increased or decreased appetite; trouble sleeping; sleeping too much; isolating… this list could go on. The theme is that a sense of joy and lightness is missing. You’re not quite yourself, and you’re definitely not comfortable in your skin - sometimes always, sometimes in particular situations.

Some might not call this “trauma,” but I do. Anything that comes through us and seems to split apart our mind-body-spirit being, leaving us holding our pieces and unsure how to move forward is traumatic. And sometimes we don’t even know we have other pieces to gather! We just know that something isn’t right, we’re not responding in a way that makes sense to a situation, and we keep repeating the same patterns over and over again.

How do you put the pieces back together?

These are three simple steps you can follow to start to bring yourself back to center. Doing this won’t magically take away your pain, but it will give you a tool that could help you to process it. Your feelings are valid. Your pain is real. And your healing is certain, if that’s what you continue to seek.

When you’re feeling funky, try these three steps. Take note of how you feel at the start, and take note of how you feel after this process.

The first step is awareness. Becoming aware that you’re not functioning in the way you know you could is a clue that something is asking for your attention.

The second step is notice. It sounds odd… Some people might think, “All I do is notice this pain or situation.” Yes, I get that. I’m suggesting to notice in a way that doesn’t come with any requests for things to change or be different. It’s more like a fact-finding mission. I see that I do this. I notice that I feel that. I sense this in my arm. All of those things you notice are information, and that information is what you can use to re-integrate your broken apart being.

The third step is to feel the rhythm of your heart. Sometimes people tell me they can’t feel their own rhythm. We can work with that. Simply place your attention and awareness on your heart center. If it helps, put your hand there. And just do what you can to feel your natural rhythm. If you don’t feel it, that’s OK. (It won’t feel OK to you, and you still can’t do this wrong.) Not feeling it is information. We just need to bring you a little more into your body. Look at your feet. Try to feel your feet on the floor. As you inhale and exhale deeply, a little slower than usual, notice your feet. Look at them. Feel them in your shoes. … That’s it. Keep working on that, and you’ll build the ability to sense more and more in your body.

Putting the pieces together happens far more slowly than the actual trauma did. Every step you take is working to build your capacity to process the highs and the lows of your experience. If you can be gentle and kind with yourself as you start putting together the pieces of your life, you’ll have a far more peaceful journey.

If you’d like more information about healing trauma through yoga, please connect with me.