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Healing traumas with mindfulness practice and somatic experiencing

Healing traumas with mindfulness practice and somatic experiencing

We all have wounds from childhood.

Whether we had a wonderful childhood or a more challenging one, there will always have been things that we were not able to either understand or handle when we were children. These ‘things’ are behaviours of usually our close family members; how attentive they were to you, how present they were, how much they were available to you emotionally and allowed and encouraged your own emotional expression.

Because of the behaviours of our caregivers, we developed:

  1. coping mechanisms to deal with behaviours where we felt unseen, unheard, unacknowledged or unloved, which, if they are still active in adulthood, can end up seriously impacting your experience of life.
  2. beliefs about ‘how life is’ and ‘how people are’ based on these experiences.

We learned about love and what it is and life and and how to manage it during our childhood from our primary caregivers.

We learned whether we were conditionally or unconditionally loved. We learned whether we were inherently worthy or whether we had to prove ourselves. And we learned all of these things from flawed human people who also learned them from other flawed human people. And so this is how wounding is carried through the generations.

The oldest and deepest wounds carried at different levels in most humans are:

  • I am not good enough how I am
  • I am not worthy (of love, attention)
  • I need to prove my worth in order to get love
  • I am not loved

Depending on how deep these wounds are in you, you will likely have some work to do to heal them. There are many different ways of healing these wounds so that you can eventually turn them around, and instead of these beliefs which correspond to visceral felt realities in the body-mind system, you can seed and grow new beliefs such as:

  • I am perfect as I am
  • I am infinitely worthy of love
  • I am worthy of love just because I am me
  • I don’t need to do anything to validate or prove my worth
  • I am loved

If you don’t believe full healing is possible, just look at the example of the amazing Louise Hay. She was abused as a child, and eventually become a very powerful healer who healed herself and in the process founded a publishing house which produces books that help millions worldwide.

Often the negative belief systems we have were adopted as coping mechanisms for difficult situations in childhood; either with parents who were not very present, not very emotionally available, or even to the point of abuse, to difficult experiences with other children such as being bullied at school.

How do we know if we hold any of these negative belief systems that are like the imprints in our subconscious left from childhood wounds?

One way is to look at events that play out in your life – especially difficult or traumatic events, and see if you can identify the core beliefs in operation behind the play of manifestation in the physical universe.

If you have a belief system that says that ‘people don’t love or appreciate me and don’t want me’ which is essentially a worthiness program (the feeling that I am unworthy), then you may unconsciously create a situation – say at your work – where this plays out.

How to recognise when traumas are being played out

When something very traumatic happens that sets off a series of emotional reactions that have perhaps been set off many times before, this is a great opportunity to investigate.

By practising mindfulness, and staying with your feelings, you will be able to get to the core beliefs behind them. Note: this is difficult and challenging work; it’s the path of the warrior.

The process: unravelling trauma through mindful witnessing

Start by if possible in the middle of the trauma, try to be as present as you can.

Feel the very strong feelings arising and really breathe deep into them. This is difficult, but with practice, you will be able to do it.

If you succeed for a while, but then you go into auto-pilot and react in fight or flight mode like you have thousands of times before, be gentle and kind with yourself. Remind yourself; this is difficult work, and it’s the work of a spiritual warrior. Congratulate yourself for committing to doing the work, not matter how hard it is or how long it takes.

When the trauma has played out and you are looking at it from a slight distance, go into meditation and ask yourself:

  1. When have I felt this way before and with whom?
  2. How did this situation feel similar to any past traumatic situations?
  3. Did any of the people involved resemble the energetic vibration of anyone in my past?
  4. If so, who felt like who?

You can actually get out a piece of paper and start drawing your situation. Draw each person and the role that they were embodying (from your past) in this present trauma.

Then:

  1. Look at the interactions between all of the people involved and particularly yours. This might look like: When A said X and looked at me in this certain way, I felt Z and I just wanted to run away..
  2. Write down what you were feeling right in that moment: terrified, scared, unsafe, threatened, harassed.

Then take some time to go back to your meditation practice.

Go inside, breathe deeply, and remember the feelings and sensations from the traumatic moment.

And ask yourself, what was my underlying belief right at that moment? What we the belief that was active in your system and causing you so much pain?

It will usually be one of the negative beliefs outlined above:

  • I am unworthy (of love, attention, acceptance)
  • I am unwanted
  • I am not good enough just as I am
  • I have to prove myself

When you have this belief, go back into meditation and breathe deeply, and ask yourself: when did this belief first form?

What happened to me that I should formulate this belief? And let your mind wander as it searches your records and files. It may take a few minutes, or it may take a few days, but usually, a memory or a series of memories will arise from childhood when you felt: unloved, unseen, unaccepted or that you had to prove your worth before receiving love. Or that love was erratic and not to be trusted; sometimes it was present, and sometimes it wasn’t.

When you have found the memories, sit again with them and ask yourself; what was going on for the other person when these belief systems formed in me?

See if you can understand that your parent or caregiver was doing the best that they could at that time, with their own limited knowledge and experience of life and with their own programming. See if you can have compassion for this person or people (if this experience was very traumatic like physical or emotional abuse, it’s recommended that you do this process with a therapist).

Changing core negative beliefs and replacing them with their opposites

1: The Work of Byron Katie

So this is when we get down to the deep and sticky work of true transformation and growth.

Ask yourself: is it (the negative core belief) really true? Is there any truth in it at all? Or is it just completely made-up (as of course, all beliefs are).

To really go deep into this process you can use the Work of Byron Katie. She asks her four questions:

  1. Is it true?
  2. Can you absolutely know it is true?
  3. How do you react, what happens, how do you feel, when you think that belief is true?
  4. Who would you be without the belief?

So if we use the negative belief of: ‘they don’t love me’ with this process, and ask the questions:

  1. Is it true? Look for evidence that they do actually love you
  2. Based on this evidence, can you absolutely know they don’t love you?
  3. What happens when you think they don’t love you?
  4. Who would you be without this belief?

Then you can practice what she calls the turn-arounds:

Turn it around: to the self, to the other and to the opposite.

  1. (to the self): I don’t love me
  2. (to the other): I don’t love them
  3. (to the opposite): They do love me.

And find examples for each of the turn arounds.

2. Somatic Experiencing

Somatic experiencing is the name given to the theraputic process of feeling into the bodily sensations that arise from emotional pain. This emotional pain may be deeply embedded in your body somewhere, and when you think of a past traumatic experience, it is activated, and you feel it. The Somatic Experiencing process is process whereby through the feeling of these feelings, we are able to feel and therefor release them. We may not even have to delve into the story behind how they got lodged there in the first place.

PRACTICING SOMATIC EXPERIENCING

  • Identify a negative belief system / energy pattern in your body that you would like to work on through this process.
  • Then start by go into your meditation practice and focus on the sensations that arise through the activation of this energy pattern.
  • What are you feeling when you believe the belief? What are you feeling as a result of the experience/s that caused / seeded that belief? Stay with the body and the sensations.
  • Notice very intently what is happening.
  • Are the feelings and sensations transmuting and changing in any way?
  • Describe the feelings.
  • Does it feel like there is heaviness in your heart?
  • Does your throat feel constricted?
  • It’s very important here to get out of your head, so if you have many thoughts going around in your head causing a headache, see if you can get your energy to move down into your body.
  • Stay with these feelings and breathe.

Continue noticing the changes in the sensations, as you practice asking yourself whether that belief that is the root of the stuck feeling is really still true for you now.

Investigate whether you are able to shift the attachment to that belief as truth, and notice what happens to the sensations in your body.

Know that your body is wise and it is processing the experience in the best way, and moving the energy for you.

Rinse and repeat this process until you are feeling a shift or a change energetically around the belief / pattern.

All emotion is energy in motion – everything, including the negative and positive beliefs, is energy. And it needs to move and change in order for you to grow and transform.

3. EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique)

There are many different ways to work with changing the energetic frequencies in our bodies that are literally the energetic crystallization of our belief systems.

EFT is a healing tool that works with the meridian system in the body combined with psychological techniques to dissolve limiting beliefs and then create new empowering beliefs. It is based on the idea that an ingrained belief becomes a feeling in the body, and then this feeling actually lodges in the body and you are then literally living out your particular beliefs in your physical experience in the world. So in order to change the beliefs that are not serving you you need to change the energetic frequencies that have crystallized around them.

Getting help from a Therapist

Of course if you have deep traumas, it is very helpful to work with a therapist to slowly unravel them. I also offer Mindfulness based Spiritual Mentoring sessions where we can also do this work together.