The Wisdom of Trauma
Author – Kate Alderman – August 2021
Underneath every addiction is trauma. Generally our society doesn’t understand addiction. Addiction is not a choice. If you were any other person cell for cell, with the exact same awareness, life experiences and resources available, you would be making the exact same choices in life. In the same way if anyone else were you, they’d be making the same choices you’re making.
“There are two types of people – those who have been traumatised and those who don’t know they’ve been traumatised.” – Gabor Maté
We’re all addicted. We all have behaviours, habits and tendencies we resort to as a way of distracting, avoiding and coping when life gets uncomfortable. Some of these involve the use of drugs and substances. Some are less obvious like sex, shopping, eating, exercising, and trying to control others to avoid our own feelings and experience.
Trauma is not what happened to you, it’s how your body responded to what happened to you. The strong feelings and emotions that you weren’t able to process at the time get stuck in the body. As children we are not taught how to process the strong emotions.
Emotional freedom is not about being happy all the time and never getting upset. We are emotionally free when we’re able to feel and experience the full spectrum of emotions, both the negative and positive. Most of us didn’t have parents who were modelling emotional freedom. We learnt quite the opposite. By being punished for being sad, angry, upset etc, we learnt to bypass our emotions, toughen up, put on a happy face and get on with it.
I’m not blaming parents because they too were not taught how to process strong emotions. How would you go teaching the French language if you couldn’t speak French yourself? Integrating emotions and regulating our nervous system is something we need to learn as an adult, it’s like learning a new language.
Trauma is a very broad term. There’s dire trauma and there’s trauma from simply not having your attachment needs met as a child. Having physically or emotionally unavailable parents and being forced to repair on your own is traumatic.
Our attachment needs are pre-cognitive. Your attachment style begins when you’re a baby and your parent or caregiver leaves the room. Your response creates your first attachment style. We’re either, anxious and clingy, avoidant and pissed off, a combination of both, or secure. Anxious or avoidant can become secure when there’s awareness, feeling all your feelings and lots of communication.
When attachment needs are unresolved, we attract partners who trigger our core attachment wounds as an opportunity to integrate and sequence the emotion as an adult. We can’t blame our partner or our parents. Trauma is intergenerational. Unresolved emotions and thoughts about traumatic events including beliefs about poor parenting can be passed on and repeated.
Being in the womb can be traumatic for some individuals, depending on the emotional state of the parents. People have shared with me stories of integrating stuck emotions as adults that they experienced in the womb. One person shared that through the use of psychedelics they were taken back to the womb state where emotionally and energetically they could feel and hear their parents talking about and considering abortion. Without even entering the physical world the unborn child is unsure whether they’re wanted, accepted or loved. When they did enter the world and during their developmental years they continued observing and gathering evidence to support their story of being unwanted, undesired and unlovable.
There is no such thing as perfect parenting. If as children we’re not exposed to some level of trauma this creates a very shocking experience when we’re exposed to trauma for the first time as an adult. Our nervous system is not accustomed to handling trauma. You can see the paradox. Perfect parenting is the worst thing you can do for your children.
Trauma is un-sequenced emotion. Anyone can be traumatised. Learning how to integrate emotions and regulate our nervous system is something we need to learn as an adult.
The symptoms of trauma include: insomnia, depression, anxiety, night terrors, inability to love, shame, addictive behaviour, compulsive tendencies, feeling worthless and many more.
Suppressed rage, shame, sadness, anger, and grief affect the physiology of the body. Stored emotions manifest themselves as physical conditions.
When the physical body is up regulated, stuck in fight/flight mode, and perceived threat, our autonomic nervous system is not serving homeostasis. This then creates inflammation and autoimmune disorders.
When the physical body is down regulated or “co-regulated”, we’re relaxed, at ease, comfortable, playful and creative. The perceived safety while we’re in this state supports homeostasis and thriving health.
Our nervous system either resists or integrates trauma. While resisting we close ourselves off from our true self. When we integrate this takes us closer to our true self.
Doctors prescribe steroids for almost every condition. If you have asthma you’re prescribed a steroid inhaler, if you have a skin condition you’re prescribed a steroid cream, if you have a digestive condition more steroids are prescribed. Steroids are cortisol and cortisol is the stress hormone. Treating stress with more stress makes absolutely no sense.
The problem is that research is driven by the profits of pharmaceutical companies therefore the education of doctors is driven by the profits of pharmaceutical companies. Most people know that Pharmaceuticals is big business. It’s extremely obvious that the pharmaceutical companies are keeping people stressed and sick. This is a cycle that is challenging to break free from because there’s so much money and distorted power involved. Creating awareness is paramount at this point in time.
Medication should only be used as band-aid until the patient can be supported in processing the trauma (un-sequenced emotions) and exploring new pathways.
Psychiatrists are trained in the biology of the brain, they don’t know how to get to the heart of the problem. They have very little time with each patient, only enough to monitor the patient’s medication and write another prescription.
“Most people get more out of one journey with Ayahuasca than they do with a lifetime of psychoanalyses.” – Gabor Maté
Ayahuasca teaches people about their trauma. She shows you what happened, shows you where you decided that life was unbearable, where you decided you were unlovable, shows you how you had to soothe yourself from the outside because there was no peace inside.
The deep therapeutic benefits of psychedelics is that they get the conditioned mind out of the way so you have access to aspects of reality that you’re usually not in touch with. Psychedelics help with the processing of trauma by helping you experience troubled mindsets and emotions without being driven into insanity, or without feeling like you have to escape. It’s here where the emotions sequence through the body and freedom returns.
Ayahuasca has been beneficial for me in many ways, and I wouldn’t describe my life as being extremely traumatic, but like most people I didn’t have my attachment needs met as a child.
I love my parents, and they did the best they could, while unknowingly also in trauma from not having their attachment needs met as children. At a young age both of my parents lost a parent, one of their primary role models. This is traumatic for a young child. Strong emotions that they weren’t able to be process at the time and forced to close off on an emotional level because it was painful and unbearable. Both of my parents were forced to “toughen up”, get on with it, and step into adulthood at a very young age. Their parents (my grand parents) that were still here were certainly not capable of modelling emotional freedom because they too had closed themselves off emotionally in their developmental years due to trauma from not having their attachment needs met. You can see how the cycle of emotional unavailability continues until we learn how to feel and integrate our emotions.
Among many other benefits, Ayahuasca has helped me with integrating emotions and also has given me the ability to see events in life from a kaleidoscopic perspective. Always in life there are multiple interpretations of events and circumstances, and out of all them we so frequently choose the worst one. We don’t respond to what happens, we respond to our perception of what happens.
“It’s with our minds we create our world.” – Buddha
I’m not saying that everyone needs to drink Ayahuasca, like every medicine, she’s not for everyone. My point is that there’s a teaching in every disease and physical condition. The truth is inside every one of us, we just need to ask the right questions. You are the Source.
– What is the teaching of this physical condition?
– What does this part of the body want to say to you?
– What does it need from you?
– What emotions were once too strong and have not yet sequenced through the body?
– When was the first time in your life you experienced these feelings?
– What are you making it mean?
We need trauma informed medication, education and Somatic therapy.
My work as a Somatic Sexologist, Sexological Bodyworker, Intimacy and Relationships Coach is about empowering people. This often involves helping clients sequence emotions and explore new pathways, most often at the same time.
Embodiment is the highest understanding.
When we work Somatically (physically) the body brings to the present moment unresolved emotion that the client is ready to sequence and integrate. This is a liberating, uplifting and revelatory experience, similar to discovering something in a blind spot while feeling safe at the same time. The physical body is very intelligent and reveals only what the client has the capacity to process in that moment. Sometimes it’s useful to go to the past, not to stay there, but for the client’s mind to comprehend the trauma in order for their physical body to feel at greater ease in releasing the emotions. It’s far more beneficial to focus on the recovery of trauma through exploring new pathways than it is to focus on the trauma itself.
Emotions such as grief, shame, depression, anxiety, and unworthiness that have been held within the body for 5, 10, 20, and sometimes 50+ years finally sequencing through the body in a very safe environment. This happens much more gracefully and swiftly than most people would believe. Liberation is an understatement!
Under the trauma is a healthy person.
Understanding and compassion changes individuals and society. Our wounds are to be tended to in community. You are not alone. Keep going.
If you’d like to find our more please be in touch to schedule a free phone conversation.
The Wisdom of Trauma featuring Dr. Gabor Maté
Broken Connections: Healing Strategies for Trauma & Attachment with Dr. Gabor Maté & Diane Poole Heller
Relationships as Mirrors of Trauma with Dr. Gabor Maté & Esther Perel
Trauma & The Nervous System from Polyvagal Theory Perspective with Dr. Gabor Maté & Stephen W. Porges
Somatic Sex Educator’s Handbook
TRAUMA: A Practical Guide to Working with Body & Soul – Christine Pelmas