Knowing yourself is first step towards self reclamation. ~Amit Gupta
We have all a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be. ~Jane Austen, Mansfield Park
When we self-regulate well, we are better able to control the trajectory of our emotional lives and resulting actions based on our values and sense of purpose. ~Amy Leigh Mercree, A Little Bit of Meditation: An Introduction to Mindfulness
Living with unprocessed complex trauma means living with a dysregulated nervous system. It means living in a state of dissociation. It means not being able to trust ourselves, our reactions, or others and our surroundings.
Living with complex trauma, living in that activated state, in that anxious state, more hours of the day than not, is exhausting. Emotionally, psychologically, and physically/physiologically.
It impacts our health. Physical, emotional, psychological.
The impacts of living with unprocessed trauma is exacerbated by the world we live in. A world where womxn, people of color, trans and non-binary persons, are oppressed and murdered for simply having the audacity to breathe.
A world where being poor is essentially a death sentence.
A world where billionaires can buy their way into the presidency.
A world where victims are blamed and survivors aren’t believed.
A world that is ultimately unsafe.
Knowing this, knowing our world is unsafe, fundamentally so, that this reality activates and exacerbates our complex trauma, how to do we find ways of regulating our nervous systems, reclaim our body, and learn to trust our Self and not be at the mercy of our fight/flight and freeze/fawn reactions?
First, I believe it is so important that we don’t gaslight ourselves. That we don’t tell our Self that the world is perfectly safe when it’s not. Yes, there are spaces where we are more or even mostly safe. In those spaces, we can tell our systems, body, and Self that we are safe enough.
That said we can also go out and function in the world without being controlled by our limbic system. We can learn to lower our baseline anxiety, to self regulate, to reclaim our body as OURS and ours only, and even to trust ourselves without lying to ourselves about the reality of the world we live in.
In fact, we need to be able to go out into the world and function. We need to be able to learn to relate to others in ways that aren’t activating, that don’t escalate already tense situations. To relate to others from a place of compassion, curiosity, community. To actually relate to other humans, and ourselves, instead of constantly being on the defense or offense.
I believe in order for us to learn to relate to others, in any and all spaces, we need to bring our baseline anxiety down. To regulate our autnomic nervous system. To reclaim our body as our own and to come home into it. To trust our deeper knowing, our body, our perceptions, while also being curious and open to check in with ourselves and see if what is happening is a response to a past trauma or the present moment.
We need to know if what is happening within is a response to the present moment or that our past trauma experience(s) is being activated in some way, in order to relate to people and situations in ways that are beneficial for all involved, and for the greater collective.
Ultimately, I’m saying it is important for us to do our work. To learn to self regulate. To reclaim our body and come home to it. To know our self well enough so we know when we can trust and when we need to dig a little deeper.
It is important for us to do our work not only so we can enjoy our lives more and have deeper and more fulfilling relationships, but also so the the new ways we are in the world start to make a greater shift for our communities and the greater collective.
We aren’t required to do this work. It wasn’t our fault that we were harmed and what we do or don’t do with our processing or healing is wholly up to us.
We are required to not cause harm to others. To not perpetuate abuse and trauma.
I honestly don’t know another way to not cause harm, to ourselves, to other individuals, to the collective, to the planet, than to continue doing our own personal trauma work and breaking the generations old patterns and cycles that have brought us, individually and collectively, where we are today.
This is not simple work. I don’t believe it’s ever done. We have layers and layers, lifetimes worth of patterns and cycles to unravel and untangle.
Learning to regulate our nervous system takes practice and time.
Reclaiming our body as ours takes practice, compassion, and an understanding that this part of our work will ebb and flow.
Coming to a place of both trusting our inner knowing and being self-aware enough to know the difference between this knowing and an activated past trauma response takes knowing how to self-regulate, coming into our bodies, and practice, time, compassion, and patience.
This trifecta, self-regulation, body reclaiming, and trusting our Self, is so key to being able to change all our relationships and changing the world. It is how we shift from our own individual survival to having a life that is fulfilling and thriving. It is a vital part of the revolution and evolution of our species. It is an important piece of how we will burn down our authoritarian, white supremacist, oppressive systems and come together to build something different, where all persons are free, loved, and liberated.
This essay was originally written for my weeklyish newsletter on March 1, 2020. It has been edited for publication here. If you would like to read my recent essays you can subscribe here.
In Trauma Informed Embodiment™ for Sexual Trauma Survivors we will explore this trifecta, learning tools to self regulate our nervous system, practicing exercises of reclaiming and coming back into our body, and exploring ways to deeper self-awareness, starting to know the difference between our inner knowing and an activated past trauma and seeing the ways we can begin to actually trust our Self. We will begin on Monday March 16 and registration will close on Sunday, March 15 at 10pm PST. There are nine spaces total and six are currently still available. To learn more about this six month group program, you can click right here.