The start of the school year is pretty much the start of The Year for a parent. And here we are, another school year is beginning for our son in a few days. With all the arrangements and engagements around it, come all the stressors and negative emotions associated with it. Past experiences paint in black what’s to come in the future.
It’s how trauma works.
Trauma keeps you stuck in the past. Unresolved experiences and emotions from the past prevent you from moving forward and focusing on the here and now. Your nervous system is stuck in a threat response and focused purely on ensuring survival. It’s biologically not possible to experience joy and look forward to future events with excitement.
The nervous system is simply designed to keep you safe.
And when it perceives a situation to be threatening i.e. it brings negative associations with unpleasant occurrences in the past, it becomes dysregulated. If you go into a situation that is perceived as threatening by your system, without the knowledge and tools to self-regulate, you’re likely to re-traumatise yourself.
The nervous system response cannot complete its cycle – you become stuck.
When your life is a thread of such situations, without realising it, the traumatic stress just accumulates in the body. If this goes on for years, it leads to physical symptoms which often can’t be explained medically. It can lead to conditions such as chronic pain, chronic fatigue, autoimmune disorders, and others.
These conditions often speak of a nervous system that is exhausted from being in a state of threat and not being able to come back to a normal, safe place.
It’s where trauma lives.
Understanding how the nervous system works is the other arm of trauma healing besides working with beliefs, thought patterns, parts, etc. The first is called “bottom-up” approach and the second – “top-down”, which refer to the different parts of the brain as well. When we apply the two together, we can talk about true healing from trauma.
Naturally, my healing journey steered this way after learning and working as much as possible with the first approach. Working with the body and its physiology comes as necessary when you’ve worked with your mind. You need to apply in life what you’ve learned with your head through your body, experientially. You put yourself in these threatening situations again but this time with the knowledge and tools you have about your nervous system and how to stay regulated and not go into a threat response.
This is rewiring your nervous system – it’s literally building new neural pathways in your brain. This is true healing from trauma.
This is where I am in my healing journey these days. And there are enough opportunities for practising. Truly, there isn’t another way but to challenge ourselves to leave our comfort zone. If we don’t, we don’t grow and we stay stuck in trauma. We cope and merely survive our lives. But we don’t really live authentically.
My plan is to focus more on the experiential part of things while continuing with my learning and research about trauma. I will continue working with the top-down approach while practising the bottom-up one. This way the picture will be full and hopefully, I will feel more complete and more myself. I also want to carve out more time to do this work which means reducing my translation work.
So that’s the plan for now – healing my nervous system as a part of healing trauma and creating more balance in my days – more time for “me” activities. And hopefully, we’re not going to only survive this school year, but truly enjoy it this time.
Love, V. <31