Healing Trauma/PTSD: What Happened to You, (Not What’s Wrong With You)

How to Survive Shock and Emotional Overwhelm blog image“Time heals nothing” is one of the trade secrets therapists don’t want you to know. 

If you’ve been in “counseling” for trauma/PTSD for a reasonable period of time and you aren’t healing or changing, either you have blocking internal beliefs I call “stoppers,” or maybe your therapist has emptied their conventional toolbox and quietly labeled you “treatment resistant.”

That’s a common practice among some licensed mental health professionals — I’m not one, but I’ve been teaching them how to heal trauma holistically since 2004. Sometimes they blame the client for not healing instead of acknowledging the limitations of many aspects of conventional therapy, especially for trauma. Therapy is supposed to bestow healing and empowerment. Too often, therapy clients end up with insights, coping skills and symptom suppressing medications instead.

With the exceptions of some serious mental illnesses only a psychiatrist should manage plus a batch of intractable personality disorders such as borderlines and narcissists, most people who seek counseling first need to know what happened to them and how to heal — from the root(s).

Here’s the short “how to” list that I cover with every new client:

1) Your life isn’t the way it is because of what is wrong with you, the issue is always A) what happened to you and B) what did you decide. Maybe someone abused, betrayed, or abandoned you, so you decided consciously or subconsciously “love = pain,” or “It’s not safe to trust.” You didn’t get “this way” in a vacuum, so stop collecting dime-a-dozen self-help books that promise you their secret formula to the perfect body, endless love and financial security in just minutes a day. Heal the trauma on your inner hard drive instead.

2) Self-diagnosis is a lot like the advice Dorothy got when she crashed the party in Munchkinland: “It’s always best to start at the beginning.” The beginning is your childhood, unless you had a traumatic birth, were unwanted in the womb and/or have a past-life “bleed through” causing problems under the radar in present time. **If you can’t remember some or all of your childhood, that’s probably a sign that what happened to you was overwhelming.

3) Where to start: write your trauma timeline:

  • Event (what happened)
  • Age (at the time)
  • List emotion(s) attached to the memory NOW
  • Rate the emotional charge on the memory as you feel it NOW, from 0–10 (10 being most intense)
  • Where in the body do you feel any tension/pressure connected to the memory?

For example, dog died, age 7, sadness, emotional “sting” 8/10, pressure in chest/throat. The trauma timeline is your blueprint for healing.

4) Panic attacks, phobias, as well as feeling you’ve “always been this way” are indications that the root of your problem is like an iceberg — the most dangerous parts are under the water. You’ll have to dive deep, preferably with a skilled and experienced guide. Parts of your consciousness, energy, soul, whatever you want to call the essence that is YOU, might be dissociated. **You can google “dissociation,” but I see it intuitively as when part(s) of us are not in present time and are stuck, still traumatized, one dimension away, like a DVD on “pause.” Those parts need to be rescued, recovered and integrated back into present time for healing change to be complete.

5) Being ensnared in emotional patterns are just what they sound like — they auto-repeat, like wallpaper. Everywhere you look, the pattern stares back at you. What our parents did to us, intentionally or not, we tend to do to ourselves and sometimes to others. If we were abused, we probably abuse ourselves in some fashion. If we were neglected, we tend to neglect ourselves.

6) Procrastination and self-sabotage are rooted in an anxiety/avoidance pattern. List: what are you afraid will happen or not happen if you just do it? The list of “stoppers” is almost endless: fear of being judged, shamed, rejected, abandoned, etc. After you make the list, ask yourself, “what, when or whom does this remind me of?” Connect the dots.

7) Everyone is born with a survival level sense of intuition, that’s why it’s called the “sixth sense.” The problem is that when we get that subtle inner knowing, that “gut feeling,” sometimes we don’t want to know that we know. Listen to your intuition, it’s there to protect and serve you.

8) The body speaks to us in metaphor language. When we interpret body-talk we are “reading energy” and that is a skill, not a gift. Minus a physical injury, back pain is notorious for being emotionally based: “get off my back, stabbed in the back, (betrayed) feeling unsupported, you feel nobody has your back, backed into a corner,” etc.

If you are close to someone and you know they won’t take offense, you might say, “Wait — do you realize what you just said? Maybe that’s why your back has been hurting and chiropractic isn’t helping.” Begin to notice when you and others speak metaphor language. Read the energy, then take appropriate action. Others might not like it. But you won’t die from that.

For a free handout, “Introduction to Metaphor Language” culled from intuitive assessments on thousands of clients, click here.

Sue Hannibal is the author of “Spiritual Compass: Practical Strategies for When You Feel Lost, Alone and God Seems Far Away” on Amazon, here.