What I Have Learnt Growing Up in a War Zone
How can one erase the trauma that the nervous system has experienced, to make the seen, unseen, what the eyes have witnessed? Can it be erased? After all, everything has been stored in our deepest memories, and brought up to the surface at every opportunity that triggers it.
Even long after the trauma has passed, we find those triggers in newspapers, social media, and witness others living it, not forgetting the role our subconscious mind plays in it too.
We hear therapists say, you are not your story! But...how can they say that when we have lived it, saw things, experienced it, felt things until we became numb and yet highly sensitive? It doesn’t make sense. How’s that not my story? It wasn’t someone else who lived it! It was ME! right?
After a trauma, the nervous system functions differently because it is trying to constantly regulate the inner chaos that is going on.
How does this happen?
In short, sensory information enters the body through our five senses - eyes, mouth, ears, nose and skin. The thalamus which is the central hub for relaying the sensory messages tests these sensations whether they are safe to the system. From here on these sensations go through either:
To the frontal cortex for conscious awareness or,
To the unconscious awareness via the amygdala, where the messages gets assessed.
When there is danger to the system the stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline, and the autonomic nervous system gets involved, in order to produce a whole body reaction to either fight, flight or freeze. This is useful to us for short term but when it is for prolonged time and not addressed, it results in miscommunication and dysfunction thus creating chaos in the system - such as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or complex PTSD when the trauma is ongoing.
You see, everything is a vibration - thoughts, beliefs, stories, and anything that is not happening right now, is a story, and if we keep remembering things that happened to us in the past, then we are creating more of the same because the nervous system will make sure of that, it is in chaos already. Like a hamster on a wheel, nowhere to go, the subconscious thinks there’s danger.
In order to calm the chaos within, we begin to rely on external factors for support. Some people become religious, weaving our belief into our story as a crutch to support us in order to get through the trauma, and others turn against God, believing he abandoned us.
Changing our vibration, does not mean that we have to pretend it did not happen or push the memories further down into the subconscious. This will have its domino effect on our lives and relationships, our children inherit our nervous system, until we realise one day, like waking up from a deep sleep that the chaos around us is because of the chaos within us.
What we can do is unravel those stories layer by layer, change our vibration step at a time, by questioning, by naming the emotion - how did that experience make us feel at the time - is it fear of safety, feeling alone, angry, frustrated? Also recognising where in our body we store those feelings, where do we feel it most? When we bring these to our awareness and understand that we are safe right now. This will help us heal layer by layer, a step at a time. Little by little we will have a felt sense of our body, we will combine mind, body and soul, and start having a good relationship with ourselves.
It does not mean that those memories or the images that the eyes witnessed are going to go away. It does not mean it is an easy journey - it means that every time we process it, the reaction to the trauma will last a little shorter, until those reactions become “I know what happened then, I am safe now” , “I am not my story”, “I can help others overcome their own trauma”.
We are carving new pathways in our nervous system, building more resources in a safe environment and developing more resilience. We are changing our narrative of what happened.
This will be helpful when it is done by a professional facilitator that you trust. If you feel you are called to work with me, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org