Imagine the members of Congress brainstorming, inventing, rethinking, laughing, researching, discussing, agreeing and truly caring for the well-being of one another. Envision a world that gets along and makes decisions with expansive possibility thinking from the creative and rational part of the brain. This part of our psycho-spiritual human evolution (hopefully sooner than later!). Trauma therapists are making that change person-by-person, family-by-family.
What stands in the way?
What stands in the way of possibility thinking is how “triggerable” you are. How easily you get triggered lies on a spectrum and that depends on how traumatized you have been. Trauma is not just being physically or sexually abused. Adults yelling at you, neglecting, ignoring and shaming you compounds to equal trauma.
Trauma causes hypervigilance, which means that your nervous system and physiology get wound up easily and that you react to things far worse more intensely than necessary (because they seem worse or scarier than they actually are). Most people are suffering from hypervigilance and trauma and don’t even know it.
Fight Flight and Freeze in Action
If you were forced to resort to fight flight or freeze repeatedly as a child then the odds are you live in hypervigilance. Fight is indicated when people snap quickly and punch a wall or say cruel things, or they say passive aggressive things like: “You’re right, it’s all my fault.” Flight is indicated when people run from conflict. They try to always be nice and not stir the pot, but then they explode and then feel guilty for exploding. They often appear nervous and fidgety. Freeze is the option when you can’t fight or flee. People who freeze check out and dissociate. Kids do it when parents are screaming at them. It’s a notch above “playing dead.” The freeze response shuts a person down and, later, can cause depression. All three cause physical ailments usually attributed to physical sources.
What is Completion?
Completion means that when memories rise to consciousness during Brainspotting (or in other trauma therapy), you feel, do and/or say what you wanted and needed to feel/do or say during these moments. If you never experience a completion then the emotions get stuck in the body and a part of you gets held back at that age. People who think in polar terms: black and white, good and bad – have an aspect of them that is developmentally frozen at age 10 or younger – before abstract thinking kicked in.
What Does Completion Look Like in Action
For example, a client might tell me that her husband yells at her to back her off during an argument. (This is a fabricated case.) Her husband’s perceived attack triggers her, and she shuts down and shuts up (possibly for days). When we begin the Brainspotting related to this incident, the client might notice feeling trapped and her stomach might hurt.
Consequently, this leads to the memory of a teacher (or caregiver) repeatedly yelling at her and shaming her. Now her head might hurt, and she feels angry at the teacher. Speaking out loud now to the imagined teacher, she tells her to “back off.” Furthermore, she consoles herself as a child, saying that she was lovable; that the teacher was wrong to yell. The therapist permits her to feel the repressed emotions that she wanted to feel as a child. The physical pain eases and she feels more relaxed and calmer.
This release or “completion” not only releases the inner child’s physical tension, but the client will be more likely to calmly advocate for herself – in present time – with her husband rather than just shutting down or screaming back at him.
The Magic Bullet
Primal brain is less likely to hijack you as you release held trauma. Maybe this is the magic bullet or cure all we’ve been seeking. Learning to process emotion allows it to release, which enables our creative, rational possibility thinking brain to stay online. Imagine politicians staying out of primal brain!
“Why don’t you just get over it.”
This is a thoughtless and mean statement sure to drive friends and family into further trauma or a rage. That’s the trouble that got us here in the first place: repression. But repression was a survival tactic. We repress in order to avoid: 1. being vulnerable and 2. getting hurt. But if people learn to hold compassionate space for a child’s emotions; if they learn how to have firm boundaries while acknowledging the child’s emotional frustration, the child will not take their grievances and trauma into adulthood. Those adults with less trauma are capable of thinking more creatively and clearly and they know how to hold compassionately acknowledge big emotions rather than shaming or intimidating others out of those feelings.
Break the Cycle!
Maybe your parents didn’t have the knowledge and tools, but you are empowered and the information is more available. Teachers, counselors and mentors will help you to make the change. Initially, getting angry at caregivers and transgressors is part of the natural progression, but continuing to blame them disempowers you.
It wasn’t that long ago that we were eating with our hands and making cave paintings. Each generation has the opportunity to move humanity forward.
Clear your trauma – if not for your sake – for your kids’ sakes. It’s worth every dollar and our evolution depends on it!
To read more about complex trauma or CPTSD, Click HERE.
Recommended reading list:
- The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Dr. Bessel van der Kolk
- Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child: The Heart of Parenting by John M. Gottman and Joan Declaire
- Homecoming: Reclaiming and Championing Your Inner Child by John Bradshaw
- Language of Emotions: What Your Feelings are Trying to Tell You by Karla McLaren
- Books by Peter A. Levine, founder of Somatic Experiencing