Mindfulness Based on Trauma to Heal from the Past and Cope with the Present

This is Present Tense, a mindfulness series for busy people (read: all of us). Whether you’re at work, taking a stroll, or spending time with loved ones, mindfulness may help you stay connected and engaged — no matter what.

There are moments and memories that seem to last an eternity in our body.

Some recall pleasant sensory sensations, such as a brisk ocean swim, the fragrance of a loved one’s house, or the sound of festive music.

Others, such as the recollection of physical or mental agony, the scent of a hospital emergency room, or the overwhelming loudness of slamming doors and yelling, can be weighty and scary.

Many trauma survivors have difficult connections with their bodies. Instead of embracing life and moving forward, we may find ourselves sheltering from a sad past.

In “The Body Keeps the Score,” Bessel A. According to van der Kolk, “traumatized people are always uneasy inside their bodies.” “The past is alive in the garb of gnawing mental sorrow.”

It’s difficult to move on while the threat is still present, when you’re still emotionally attached to the wound.

Try to Be Aware of What Your Body Is Telling You.

“Trauma survivors may be overwhelmed by flashbacks and heightened emotional arousal when forced to pay intense, continuous attention to their internal experience,” Treleaven explains.

Sitting motionless and focusing on my body might be painful at times, as here is where much of my trauma occurred. Some of these events were caused by the outside world, while others were caused by self-harming activity.

When I perform a body scan, for example, my hyper-awareness of every sensation in my body might cause unpleasant symptoms, notably dissociation.

I’ve survived two overdoses in my life, both of which were life-threatening and very traumatizing.

Those traumas can occasionally return when my body is too motionless. I get agonizing stomach twists, a lack of muscular control, hazy vision, and an inability to talk.

The agony and embarrassment return, and I feel overwhelmed and want to flee.

“It’s possible that people with a trauma history will experience an increase in emotional arousal and symptoms of traumatic stress, including flashbacks and intrusive thoughts, when we ask them to be still, close their eyes, and pay close and continuous attention to an internal landscape that’s painful and overwhelming without adequate support,” says Alison James, a trauma-informed psychotherapist from Ontario, Canada.

This is why it’s critical to locate a therapist or guide who is knowledgeable with trauma, and specifically your sort of trauma, so you may approach mindfulness from a place of safety and security.

Make a Safe Haven.

Guided meditation teaching is possible with trauma-sensitive treatment, while breaks and flexibility are encouraged.

A trauma-informed approach to mindfulness employs strategies such as grounding and anchoring that employ the five senses to connect to the present moment. It was critical to find a therapist who understood this method and validated my experience.

The appropriate therapist prepares me for the experience, empowers me, and reminds me that I am in charge of the situation. They serve as a guide, emphasizing self-compassion and being educated to assist whenever emotional discomfort arises.

Because I’ve felt out of control in the past, having my agency validated by a trauma-sensitive individual is crucial. It allows me to accept responsibility for my current self and acts while also separating myself from the actions of others.

Attempt Thoughtful Action.

According to Treleaven, mindfulness can help trauma survivors control their emotions by increasing self-compassion and awareness.

He argues, “Mindfulness meditation isn’t bad: it’s strong.” “And those of us who provide it to others profit from continuing to explore its dangers and benefits.”

“Nonjudgmental attention to the present moment as it unfolds,” James explains. It’s an attitude and presence that can be applied to any mundane task, such as knitting, strolling, or even cleaning the dishes.”

She claims that for a trauma victim, an exterior emphasis rather than an interior one may be more approachable and less disruptive.

Given my proclivity to dysregulate, I normally keep my eyes open when practicing mindfulness. At home, I usually avoid body scans and hard breathwork, but I’m becoming more interested in mindful movement.

This looks like swimming, cooking, eating, bathing, and listening to music, all while practicing what mindfulness-based stress reduction founder Jon Kabat-Zinn refers to as “moment-to-moment nonjudgmental awareness.”

As I travel through life, I strive to appreciate the events and sensations that surround me, even if they aren’t always pleasant.

I become aware of how a sensory element affects me and strive not to avoid it. I try to accept it as much as possible.

While this will never be perfect, and I’m constantly distracted or restless, it’s nevertheless helped me control the emotions related with my trauma.