Healing Your Trauma
To heal trauma, you will need to re-establish the biological and psychological balance that has been disrupted. When traumatized, you will react with “fight-or-flight,” and/or “freeze” responses. These are emergency lifesaving responses meant to be turned on quickly and turned off quickly. Trauma responses, however, can get stuck in the body and can remain long after a traumatic event is over.
Ongoing fight/flight raises heart rate and blood pressure, tenses your muscles, and depresses digestion. Fight/flight stimulates fear and anger in your emotional brain, and decreases activity in the frontal part of your cerebral cortex which is responsible for thoughtful decision-making, self-awareness, and compassion. Staying stuck in fight/flight also interferes with your ability to connect easily with other people.
In post-traumatic stress, the freeze response can also persist long after an adverse event is over. In the freeze state, your body will go rigid or will collapse and feel limp. In the freeze response, endorphins are released to numb your pain, and you will withdraw emotionally.
Concentrative Meditation: How to Breathe
The best way to deal with a prolonged fight-or-flight response is to develop a "concentrative" meditation practice.
1. Practice slow deep breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth.
2. Concentrate on the breath and on the words “soft” as you breathe in and “belly” as you breathe out.
Soft Belly breathing stimulates the vagus nerve and provides an antidote to the fight/flight state.
Expressive Meditation: How to Shake
The best techniques for shifting the freeze response are active, body-moving, tension-releasing “expressive” exercises like shaking and dancing.
Psychiatrist James Gordon recommends the following shaking exercise to break up the fixed, inhibitory physical and emotional patterns that come with the freeze response. This shaking exercise can bring feeling back into your body and can release emotions that have been suppressed.
1. Stand up, knees bent, and shake from your feet up through your knees, chest, shoulders, and head–as hard as you can, for about five minutes.
2. Stand still for two minutes with a relaxed awareness of your breath and body. The two minutes of silent standing allows you to become aware of what’s happening in your body.
3. For 3-5 minutes let your body move to music that inspires and energizes you. The movement to music invites your body to experience a feeling of freedom from stuck patterns.
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