Truth is foundational to trust. You can’t trust someone who doesn’t tell you to the truth. When that someone is your body, shit gets scary. Not being able to trust yourself is the worst, because damn it, if you can’t trust yourself then who can you trust? When a body experiences panic and anxiety in the absence of imminent threat, life gets exhausting. It’s confusing to be terrified without knowing why. And it’s so common.
We aren’t always conscious of past traumas, some of our coping patterns are passed from one generation to the next. But we face these fears, even if we can’t name them
Trauma inhibits our ability to determine the truth in the present moment. Our bodies say there’s danger. An inventory of the facts around us says there isn’t. Which do you believe?
Trauma is stored in the body and triggering is part of a subconscious strategy to keep us safe. It’s like a fire alarm with an automatic sprinkler system. If there’s a fire, it warns you in time to get out and get safe. But sometimes the steam from the shower sets it off, and the sprinkler’s water can ruin the house and your health as surely as fire, just slower. Huge round of applause for our automatic trauma systems buying us some time—now we need to learn to shut the sprinkler system down before there’s a mold crisis. Many of us are living in bodies that have the emotional equivalent of a mold crises from trauma response systems constantly showering us in fear. The trauma response itself becomes the problem.
The beauty of the system is that it’s automated and subconscious. However, most of us go around thinking we know what we are doing all day and why. We don’t. We aren’t conscious of the vast majority of what’s going on in our bodies and subconscious mind. We are only conscious of the stories we tell ourselves about what we’re doing and why.
This becomes a big problem when we run up against the patterns we’re stuck in that resulted from trauma. Nice affirmational sayings aren’t enough to disable the sprinkler system of fear we experience on a physical level.
Powerlessness, inexplicable, voiceless, victim, small, weak. These are the words we feel in our bodies when we’re triggered. In this state we revert to our non-verbal selves. Affirmations are verbal. The two don’t mix. Saying nice shit to ourselves isn’t very effective because the biological state of fear we call trauma, is too strong for a verbal strategy alone.
That doesn’t mean affirmations aren’t useful, they just have to be written in language the subconscious can understand. Images and symbols are the language of the subconscious. If you don’t have words for the fear you’re working through, leave the words out of it.
During my divorce I’d be seized by anxiety so overwhelming I couldn’t tell where it was coming from. Was it the money, fear of loneliness, fear of standing before a judge? I had no idea how to move into emotional safety because I couldn’t identify the threat. My body was reliving the trauma of my parents’ violent divorce when I was three. My divorce was relatively uneventful, and yet I was seized with debilitating physical terror.
It was like a dark lake of terror so large I couldn’t see the other side.
When I stopped wishing I could verbalize these fears and figure them out, I started appreciating the power of the subconscious mind. The images our minds present to us are more powerful and better suited to describing our problems than any set of words. And following the wisdom presented by the subconscious mind is the most efficient way to crack your own personal code for healing. You want to know the code to turn of the alarm system of your trauma? Start reading the images of your fear, and asking your subconscious to transform them.
Asking your subconscious to show you an image that would make you feel safe is easy. Just ask. It might be immediate, or in a dream a few weeks later, but your subconscious is there to help you. That’s it’s job. Ask and then forget it, let your safety system do it’s thing. Some of my more memorable image transformations have included some pretty dramatic scenes. I used to feel like I was boiling alive in oil, that was the best way to describe the emotional pain that would descend. I asked my psyche what image could help heal and soothe my system when this terrifying feeling came up. Now when that pain arises I shrink me and the oil down to doll size. Then I swap the doll for a donut. This calms me greatly. It doesn’t have to make sense.
The old lake of terrifying darkness shifted as well when I started working with images at the prompting of my chiropractor. I pictured the darkness far away, about a football field length away. Then I visualized a figure eight of golden light circling energy through my chest. I came to peace with the darkness because I could consistently find a place where I was neither in emotional overwhelm or denial.
Don’t dismiss my playful tone as personal style. It’s so much more. There is no greater mindset for rapid learning and retention than earnest play. Our brains are wired to learn through play. While the terror I felt as I healed my trauma was scarier than anything I could remember feeling—that shit was suppressed for a reason—allowing playfulness in the healing process is incredibly powerful for restoring trust in our bodies. We play when we are safe, and playing makes us feel safe—close and connected.
Healing trauma is hard work, don’t do it alone. Find support, join a group, get a coach, meet with a counselor. Building relationships is part of making your body and your subconscious a part of you that you trust and treasure.