Monday, May 3, 2021

Trauma, safety, and companionship

Trauma occurs when our capacity to process emotional and somatic experience is overwhelmed.

One of the things we’ve learned about trauma is that it’s not so much what happens that causes an experience to be embodied as trauma, but how it comes to be organized in the nervous system.

What is most impactful is whether there is an empathic other who can help us to hold and metabolize what would otherwise be fragmenting. The nature of this “other” is of the mystery and can take inner and outer forms.

The journey is inside the neural network which is holding the unprocessed soul-material, and to infuse it with qualities and experiences not previously available: trust, courage, companionship, validation, love.

But more than anything, the network is updated by way of an embodied, felt sense of safety.

We might see trauma as involving two core components: overwhelming experience, on the one hand, and the felt experience of aloneness on the other. Not only do we have these very unworkable, terrifying flooding images, feelings, and sensations, but at some very basic level we’re alone with all that.

Perhaps it is the aloneness, in the end, that is so devastating to us as sensitive, relational human beings.

As an act of mercy and compassion, we are asked to take care of that frozen, confused one who has become stuck in the time machine of trauma and implicit memory, to ensure that he or she is not alone.

That we’ll listen to them, be there for them, and hold them so they’re able to feel felt and understood, and more than anything to know that they are safe now, perhaps for the first time ever. To invite the shattered one into a safe field where he or she can be seen and known.

To bear witness to their untold story as it unfolds across verbal, somatic, and autonomic narratives:

“Yes, I hear you, I see you, I want to know you, hold you, care for you, listen to you. I will not forget you. I will not forsake you. You are no longer alone. You are safe now.”

Photo by serenestarts