I recently read one in five Americans have experienced some degree of sexual abuse as a child. Even as a therapist, that statistic shocked me. Yet, even though sexual abuse is more common than we want to realize, it is by far only one of many forms of trauma individuals endure.
My main message; trauma comes in many forms and with that, varying degrees of intensity. In fact, I like to reserve the word trauma for what we all once believed the word trauma to mean. War, genocide, terrorist attacks, and natural disasters. Events that are extremely sudden and unpredictable. To be honest, I am not even sure if I would include the pandemic in this category. Afterall, none of us starved, saw mutilation in front of our eyes, or experienced other simultaneous instant loss. We could still order Amazon Prime for goodness’ sake.
I would instead describe these events, and other long periods, both intermittent but consistent at the same time, comprising of insidious strain and angst, as stress. Some therapists call this ‘tiny’ traumas or trauma with a small ‘t’. To me this is just simply stress. Children are experiencing stress when a parent can’t get out of bed because they are hungover. Their little minds are perplexed as to why mommy or daddy doesn’t want to play with them. Can’t feed me, wash my clothes, or clean my face? The parent that is not available because of ‘needing to work’. The mom that isn’t interested in my drawing because she seems more interested in her phone, the ‘weapon of mass distraction’.
Children and teenagers experience stress when they are ridiculed by their ‘friends’, or not invited to the event everyone else is talking about on Snapchat. When their photo or post is not liked, or when they dress differently. Young adults experience stress when their peers all seem to know exactly what they want to do in life, while others remain stuck in ‘I don’t even know who I am or what I am supposed to be doing’ or ‘I don’t feel smart enough to do what I truly want to be doing’ instead of following one’s gut instinct. Relationships are inherently stressful at times.
Many of us feel stuck in life and don’t know why, while others seem aware of why they are stuck, but have no idea how to move ahead.
For this reason, over the years of practising psychotherapy, I felt the need to not only use a hammer from my toolbox, but several interesting tools. Afterall, not everyone that walks into my office is a nail.
“Over the years of practising psychotherapy, I felt the need to not only use a hammer from my toolbox, but several interesting tools. Afterall, not everyone that walks into my office is a nail.”
So how do I help people heal? I treat every client as a system. There simply is no better way to heal unless you treat the person as a whole. To treat the mind and rid self-limiting beliefs, I practise psychotherapy – but this is just one tool. I also use hypnotherapy for trapped emotions, but the main purpose of my FYI program is to build new neuronal pathways. This, along with continued psychotherapy, builds new habits of thought, which results in new habits of action or behaviours. Clients become more accepting of themselves and can start living a life free of uncomfortable thoughts.
For others however, the ongoing stress or trauma is stuck deep in their tissues. These individuals seem to have difficulty expressing their feelings and emotions openly in front of others or those they trust. Vulnerability is difficult. After years of suppressing feelings, the negative energy becomes stuck. For this I like to refer out to body work, such as massage, osteopathy, acupuncture, etc. to release the muscle tension. However, for those whose central nervous system is constantly ‘turned on’ as if they need to protect themselves from danger, I work at lowering the inflammation in their body. As I mentioned in previous posts, thoughts cause inflammation just as much as a viral infection or a sprained muscle would. Our entire system slows down to compensate for this low vagal tone read by our central nervous system (CNS). As one example of ‘system breakdown’, the liver becomes stagnant and can no longer produce enough adequate bile, which is secreted by the gall bladder to digest food, thus depleting us of nutrients. The stagnant liver can no longer do the job of detoxifying hormones and toxins in our body. We become constipated and our blood becomes thick because of decreased ability to clear and breakdown the fats. This leads to plaque build-up in our arteries and high cholesterol. Our blood pressure rises because of constriction of the arteries, in hopes of adequately delivering blood supply to tissues.
I could go on and on explaining how stress affects all organs of the body. Chronic stress will lead to physical breakdown; it is just a matter of finding the weakest link within the system, which is normally determined through environment and genetics.
A few more tools I commonly use are high grade nutritional supplements, such as Vitamin B, D, and C to replenish and nourish an overtaxed adrenal system. Calming herbs, such as ginseng, rhodiola, and ashwagandha are also used short term to help calm and stabilize the system. It is important to regain a natural rhythmic cycle of cortisol production, otherwise the CNS will continue to remain in low vagal tone. However, one needs to work with a trained practitioner to do this correctly. Do not think you can just take a trip to your local pharmacy and pick up some generic brand of a multivitamin. It is more delicate and intricate than this.
Finally, another tool I have recently discovered is the use of homeopathy. For now, I am referring out, but I hope to gain further training in this area. Combined with psychotherapy, revamping lifestyle factors, such as healing the gut through diet, optimizing liver function, replenishing the lost nutrients, and renourishing a taxed adrenal system with herbal formulations, one can see incredible changes in a relatively short time.
In summary, healing the mind and body should be done concurrently for maximum results in the shortest amount of time. I want my clients to be open to the use of various tools when it comes to feeling better. Once you open your mind to all the possible ways of regaining the happiness you once had – even if those memories are as far back as childhood, I think you will be very pleasantly surprised at how good you will feel.
You deserve a healthy fulfilling life. Start taking control of it today.