In last week’s blog, What is Trauma, we defined what trauma is, the three categories of trauma, and some symptoms to watch for that may indicate some unresolved pain that is humming in the background of your life, stealing your physical health, peace, and pleasure. As you read these blogs, I should warn you this month’s series on trauma as a root cause of autoimmunity is a bit challenging because we explore the shadow moments in people’s lives, and maybe you can relate. I should also remind you that you are not alone; a substantial number of human beings are walking around wounded with their unresolved trauma.
#TRUTH about Trauma, a cause of Autoimmunity
No matter how one addresses it, trauma is a heavy topic.
We have become masters at ignoring our unresolved pain and overwhelming experiences (aka trauma) and convincing ourselves that we have moved on when we really haven’t. We tend to forget trauma even happened, which means “it,” the trauma, is put out of sight and out of mind. After all, we aren’t taught about it, we don’t want to talk about it, and on the surface, it seems easier to believe in fairytales and perfect families rather than address our own stories of loss, neglect, violence, assault, bullying, abandonment, illness, and a whole laundry list of experiences that leave their imprint on the mind, body, and brain.
The problem is that we often keep repeating the same dysfunctional and destructive patterns until we decide to traverse the trauma terrain and heal it.
Healing Trauma Begins With A New Awareness
You aren’t broken; it’s trauma.
In diverse ways and to varying degrees, trauma is everywhere. For that reason alone, it can often be trivialized, overlooked, and always throws us off our center. BUT that center is still there. Your quest is to find your way back to it.
The mind-body connection is real.
Your nervous system is the bridge between your mind and your body. It operates in two states:
- Parasympathetic controls our rest and digest response; it regulates digestion and elimination processes, energy recovery, and relaxation.
- Sympathetic controls our fight, flight, or freeze response during a perceived stressful event or dangerous experience. Think of this as your survival or defense system.
You cannot be in both places at the same time. Your body switches into the fight, flight, or freeze mode when the amygdala senses danger, and it sits in this part of the brain responsible for processing emotion, remembered and attached to associations – everything from sights to sounds to smells. When it senses a threat, it sounds the alarm and sends the danger message to your nervous system, which flips you into a sympathetic state. The hormones cortisol and adrenaline flood your system, your heart races, you sweat more, pupils dilate, your digestive system slows, so that blood flow from specific organs gets redirected to your extremities, so you are prepared to fight, flee, or freeze. This is natural and normal. Your body is doing exactly what it is designed to do.
Here is where the story goes sideways. In a perfect world, as soon as the threat passes, you would release all the created excess energy. You would process your frightening experience, letting the energy move all the way through your body so you can return to your parasympathetic state. You would complete the stress response cycle. If you have ever watched National Geographic, we see this process demonstrated in the wild – the gazelle runs for its life from the hungry lion, adrenaline coursing through its legs, senses heightened, it escapes. Once it reaches safety the gazelle will start shaking, convulsions and contorting its body. What appears to be a seizure is the gazelle discharging and shaking off its extra energy so that it can move from fight, flight, freeze to rest and digest. This is also known as completing the stress response cycle. When something frightening and overwhelming happens, we don’t complete the stress response cycle and process the experience in our modern world. Instead, we step over it. And by that, I mean we bury it, behave as if it did not happen, and tell ourselves we are over it.
When considering the truth about trauma as a cause of autoimmune, here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Where does all that disordered energy go?
- What if stepping over trauma, denying the shadowy moments, plays an instrumental role in the onset and progression of autoimmune disease?
- What if we are ultimately being strong to our detriment?
- What if we are at risk of passing our unresolved hurt and trauma mind onto our children?
- What if the light on the other side of healing unresolved trauma is where our most extraordinary giftedness, energy, and health lies?
Sparing you full-on science-speak, I will do my best to summarize the answers science has validated to these five questions.
- The disordered energy, it does not go away. What we call the shadow moments, the parts of our own experience that we have disowned and haven’t been able to integrate, is put into the background of our subconscious mind. And what’s in the background, well, it tends to come back and stab us when it hasn’t been named (identified), attended to (addressed), and balanced.
- Stepping over the truth about our trauma, all that shock and pain gets internalized. It is our body-brain wisdom attempting to protect us from something awful. As is often the case with the onset and progression of autoimmune conditions, it may not be tomorrow, next week, or even next year. Still, eventually, the burden of carrying the hidden weight of trauma will become too heavy to bear, and it will manifest in unexplainable, undiagnosable aches and pains, untreatable ailments, and disease.
- Being strong to our detriment means that somewhere in the body, the trauma is being stored. It expresses itself in the body differently for everyone. Still, we now know that there are very real physiological explanations for whatever physical and/or mental health challenges you face.
- Children have the most challenging job of all – they are learning everything all the time from us, their primary caretakers. One’s own unresolved trauma mind may show up in daily life as anxiety or numbness, finding it hard to get grounded and be connected to life and the people in it, impatience, or a kind of hair-trigger anger with children, a spouse, or partner.
- Where there is a shadow side, there is a light side. It is what many of us come to know as the hero or the heroine’s journey. Thanks to courageous humans like Dr. Edith Eva Eger, in her mind-blowing memoir of surviving Auschwitz, The Choice, she shares her incredible story as a young aspiring ballerina who is imprisoned when she was just a teenager and surviving the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust. She also walks us through a journey of healing her broken body, freeing her mind, and unleashing her higher Self to go on and help countless others heal and free themselves from the imprisoned place of unresolved trauma.
Seek a Trauma-Informed Healing Path
Be the heroine/hero of your own story. When exploring trauma is done in the name of healing, it can really propel people forward, transforming one’s whole life and the lives of countless others.
You are well aware, and reversing your autoimmune condition continues as you continue your healing journey, re-framing trauma as you have come to know it.
#ACTION: Normalizing trauma, a cause of Autoimmunity
Please join us at our upcoming Tea & Talk on March 16 at 7PM CT where we will be discussing what Trauma is, how it’s a root cause of autoimmunity, and the steps you can take to heal, move forward, and regain much-needed happiness and energy.
Register here: https://emergewellco.com/upcoming-events/