Definition of heal
1a : to make free from injury or disease : to make sound or whole
3: to restore to original purity or integrity
Definition of process
2a (1) : a natural phenomenon marked by gradual changes that lead toward a particular results (2) : a continuing natural or biological activity or function
2b : a series of actions or operations conducing to an end; especially : a continuous operation or treatment especially in manufacture
Merriam-Webster online dictionary, December 2017
I stopped using the word healing as related to trauma over a year ago. I did this mostly in response to what felt like an onslaught of trauma coaches and therapists talking about how by working with them you can heal your trauma and everything in your life will be all flowers and sausages because of it.
These messages impacted me in a very negative way. At first I didn’t understand why I found the message so irritating. I mean, I used the term “healing trauma” too. So why did it bother me so much that these other folks were using this very common term?
With some quiet and self-reflection I found my answer.
My own personal experience of trauma therapy didn’t seem to “heal” my trauma in the ways that I thought about healing. Using Merriam-Webster’s definition above, if we heal our trauma, we make it go away, disappear, no longer exist.
Working with my own therapists, this was not my experience. My trauma still existed, even after years of therapies. The events didn’t miraculous not happen. The ways that they impacted me didn’t disappear. I still had memories, I was still triggered, I still had certain behaviors-some innocuous, some relatively harmful-that grew from these experiences.
My trauma was not healed. My trauma is not healed. It still exists. It’s still in me in a myriad of ways, some of which I am conscious of and I am sure some I am not.
This may sound rather hopeless. If we can’t actually heal our trauma, if we can’t actually undo what was done to us, what is the point?
What has occurred for me, through years of talk therapy, EMDR, Sensory-Motor approach, and most recently CIMBS (a body-centered mindfulness/somatic approach), is that I can process and learn to mitigate the impact trauma has on me and my life.
The events still happened. I am still sometimes triggered. My physical health is still impacted.
I have learned how to become aware of some of my triggers. I have learned to listen to my body when a trigger is starting and then can slow down and calm my nervous system so I don’t move into a fully triggered (and out of body, back in reptile mind) state. I have learned how to actually feel comfortable in my own body, to enjoy pleasurable sensations and to tolerate uncomfortable ones.
I have not healed my trauma. And I have processed much of and learned and am learning so much more about myself as I do it.
The processing of my own personal and ancestral traumas has been progressive. It has been both incremental, with the tiniest, almost imperceptible, shifts and it has also in some ways happened all at once, with seemingly huge changes happening in very short periods of time.
It has been a process. It will likely be a process for the rest of my life. A process of coming home to my body, of reconnecting with my Self and the world, a process of self awareness, a process of learning and unlearning, a process of soothing my nervous system, connecting to my boundaries and resources, finding my center and ground, and creating new neuro-pathways. A process of shifting and transforming into new ways of being.
I have witnessed similar experiences with my clients, especially when we utilize my Trauma Informed Embodiment approach. The process is slow and gentle and also results can sometimes be seen rather quickly. This approach doesn’t make your trauma “go away,” it will not magically turn you back into the person you were before the traumatic events happened. And it will give you tools and new ways of entering into your Self and your life that are more mindful, pleasurable, and joyful.
I talk more about all of this in the 12-minute video below.
This essay is the fourth and final in a four-part series introducing the topics we will be exploring in my new six month program Trauma Focused Embodiment Level 1. We begin February 1. You can learn more here.
Additionally the main focus of my individual work is trauma and utilizing trauma informed embodiment with my clients. If you are looking for an individual therapist, you can learn more about me and my individual therapy work here.
And finally, I facilitate a free online group on Facebook where we explore trauma, grief, embodiment,and their intersections. It is called Trauma Informed Embodiment and you can join us right here.
Other Essays & Videos in this series ::
On Trauma :: Processing or Healing? (this essay)