Profound and traumatic experiences change us. Often we want to change back to be our old normal self again and we cannot. We find adrenalin pumping through us in response to the slightest event if it reminds us of a trauma. We are swept away and often feel helpless as we ride out the inner turmoil.
I believe there is a way out of the pain, shame and guilt of trauma. You can combine important insights with skillful practices to release yourself from the grip of automatic traumatic reactivity.
Prepare Your Mind for Change
1) It is important to start with an appreciation for how the mind is operating. Speed, mental speed, is a primary factor in creating the sense of powerlessness and being out of control. Learn to breathe deeply, inhaling and exhaling with awareness, to slow the mind down and feel yourself in your body.
2) Recognize that all your crazy choices make perfect sense when you understand the mindset you are in when you make them. This is the "Duck Mind" syndrome. Ducks are hardwired such that when they emerge from the egg they bond to the first thing that moves as mother. In experiments, the mother duck is removed just before ducklings hatch and is replaced by a rolling beach ball. The ducklings bond to the beach ball and ignore the mother when she is re-introduced. The ducklings keep following the ball!
We have a duck mind. As little children we are wired to bond to the presence of our parents as a source of love and protection. If they act in abusive and neglectful ways, we imprint those behaviors (the rolling beach ball) as the signal that the source of love and protection is present. And we follow them, even though the behaviors give us no love or support. We conclude there must be something wrong with us! It makes "perfect" sense.
Become aware of the conditioning of your youth. What behaviors, beliefs, and appearances (hairstyle, posture, body part similarities) are imprints from your parents that you are now drawn to in others as a duck mind sign that they will be providers of love and support? Contemplate the actual behaviors that go with love and support. Get rid of crazy thinking - "he hits me but I know he loves me." Seeing clearly enables you to change your habits of attraction.
3) How you do one thing is how you do everything. (Old Zen Buddhist teaching) Pay attention to how you act in your life, especially the small things. End habits of careless inattention to "unimportant" things. Practice giving loving attention to ordinary activities and even to inanimate objects like your sheets and your silverware. Do this even if your self-talk is telling you to rush along - you don't have time for this silliness. (Remember, mental speed is the enemy.) When you extend outward acts of kindness, the kindness is communicated back into your own being at the same time!
4) We think we live in the world, but we all live in our imagination. Trauma is a demonstration of the power and creativity of our minds unnecessarily enlivening the memory of negative events. We are not traumatized by the events - they are over with. We are traumatized by the way in which our mind has created facsimiles of the events (memories) and determined our relationship to them.
Exercise for Change
Pick a negative event you can deal with without too much distress. Notice how you know you are thinking about it. Silly question? Most people say, "Well, I'm just thinking about it." But how are you thinking about it! Usually people mean they are seeing a snapshot or a movie of an event when they say they are thinking about it.
Now that you notice the snapshot or movie, notice where it is in relationship to you. Is it right in front of you, to the right, the left, up, down, behind you? If it's distressing, it is probably a color movie right in front of you - in your face!
Once you have located it, make it black and white and move it 100 feet out in front of you. Notice if this changes your feeling state. It typically makes the distress go away.
Play with it some more. Move it 1000 feet away. Move it 1000 feet behind you. Put a border of rainbows around it. With every change you play with, notice how it affects your feeling state. Keep the changes that make you feel better.
Practice makes perfect. As you practice changing your relationship to your memory movies as in these examples, your subconscious mind gets the message that you are not obligated to recall negative memories in such a way that they distress you. As you get better and better at this, and more and more familiar with your creative flexibility, you can apply these techniques to traumatic memories and literally unhook your nervous system from them so that they stop triggering the trauma response. You can have your life back!
May we all prosper with enhanced compassion and wisdom! Let's make a difference together. Good luck.
Jack Elias, author of Finding True Magic Hypno Tips, offers hypnotherapy and neurolinguistic programming in greater Seattle Washington. He can be reached at 206-783-1838.