Can trauma sit inside our bodies?

It’s in the air…can you feel it?  The tension…chaotic energy.  Yes, there was a full moon this week.  Yes, in Southern Ontario the weather is changing so quickly…we can experience all seasons in one hour!  It is something more than that.  

As I write this, I am sitting in a busy coffee shop…drinking a decaf caramel something or other…my phone is buzzing…I focus on the feel of my paper and fountain pen…I love the handwritten experience.  It helps to keep me focused and grounded in the busy-ness of this space.

Many of the people who come to my classes have been feeling not quite themselves.  Which leads me to contemplate that is may be something else. 

Three years ago, we were entering the unknown.  I had to look up what defined a pandemic.  There was global fear…unknown…isolation…division…chaos…loss…collective trauma.

Here we are three years later.  Whether you have consciously considered it or not, the past is not as easy to let go of as one may think.

I have been interested in body and/or cellular memory for many years.  The hypothesis is that memory can be stored in tissue and cells located outside the brain.  There has been a lot of scientific research in this field.  This hypothesis has neither been proven or disproven.  

Our body’s reaction to trauma has been studied for a long time.  Phantom pain is a great example of this.  Phantom pain is pain or sensation in a part of the body that has been removed.  Yes, I have phantom sight!  My left eye is artificial.  Let me explain what I sometimes “see”.  When you close your eyes, do you see a pattern of light and shapes?  Or when you look at a bright light, then close your eyes, you see a version of the light you were just looking at?  Sometimes I get that sensation in my left eye.  I also sense movement in my left side peripheral vision.  It is a weird sensation!  I used to experience pain in my left eye…similar to an eye lash in the eye…that doesn’t happen as much anymore.  It has been over 40 years with an artificial eye and those sensations have subsided.

Is it possible that the chaotic feelings that seem so common right now is a sign of our collective trauma from three years ago?  We have been through many “new normals” over the last three years.

What can we do about it?

The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk has been on the New York Times best seller list for 136 weeks (as of April 16, 2023) 

“He explores innovative treatments – from neurofeedback and meditation to sports, drama and yoga – that offer new paths to recovery by activating the brain’s natural neuroplasticity.”

The Body Keeps the Score

Can trauma sit inside our bodies?  Perhaps even in our cells?  van der Kolk thinks so.  In an interview with Kirpalu, he says, “Trauma is actually the residue from the past as it settles in your body.  It’s located inside your own skin.”  Eighty percent of the population has experienced trauma according to van der Kolk.  

He recommends yoga as a treatment for trauma because “…it (yoga) goes directly to sensing and befriending the body.”

Read more of the article here.

If you are feeling this collective response during this time, take some time to sit in a place that is beautiful, take some slow, gentle deep breaths and experience the safety of this present moment.  Or play your favourite music and dance.  Or focus on a creative art, like painting.  Practice yoga!  Whatever you love to do that increases your calm feelings.  I like to meditate on my swing!

As always, give your self grace!  Practice self care!  Hug someone you love!

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