I’ve been doing a YouTube series called “tint trauma’s” looking at some of the everyday occurances which might lead some people to have a traumatised reaction.
When I posted on Social Media last week to let my followers know I was starting this series, I was pleased to hear from Rosie who wanted to tell me her story. Rosie and I had a chat during the week and I invited her to record her story in her own words to include in the video.
Trauma as a defining moment
I was interested to hear Rosie talk about being Dyspraxic, sometimes called Developmental co-ordination disorder (DCD). Dyspraxia can affect the person’s spacial awareness, coordination and balance. I wonder if for Rosie, there is a message about herself which this experience has reinforced about what she can and can not do. Human’s love to search for meanings and patterns; “thing’s don’t just happen”. Except sometimes things do just happen. In Rosie’s story, there are several times when she can ride a bike, before the first fall she is riding with friends and she believes she got back on the bike straight after. In Vietnam, Rosie is able to swing onto the back of the bike with confidence and is also able to carry a puppy on a motorbike while gripping with her legs. These skills require co-ordination, balance and spacial awareness and Rosie is able to complete them all. In otherwords, having DCD probably has had an impact on Rosie’s bike riding but it is not necessarily a defining reason for why she can not ride a bike now.
Sometimes it is a good idea to reframe trauma, to look at what lesson’s you learnt about yourself and the world through the experience and to be curious about how true that is, are there facts which prove the opposite.
Trauma in the Body
Rosie and I talked a lot about trauma in the body. There are some stressful situations which may be mostly cognitive but often with trauma it is the body which holds the muscle memory and which recreates the tension or numbing out (dissociation) sensations when ever there is a similar situation or reminder of the traumatic event.
When faced with danger, the body can go into a fight, flight or freeze response. Fight might be shouting after the person who collided with you “don’t say sorry then”, flight might be running towards comfort, perhaps a hug from mum. If the body decided it can not fight off or fly away from the situation, it may then respond with a freeze response. This might be shock with wide eyes or perhaps a distant stare.
Rosie talks about muscle tension as her shoulders hunch and her thighs grip. Peter Levine created a therapeutic approach called Somatic Experiencing which looks at muscles in trauma. In the moments between the bike colliding and Rosie hitting the floor it is likely that the body started to try to protect itself. Perhaps the shoulders came in as a shield for the heart and chest area, perhaps there was an attempt to curl into a protective ball either just before or just after the collision. If this attempt at protection was not completed or did not succeed in the way the body intended, perhaps this will be repeted as the person tries to make sense of what happened.
We can see this in the games children play where they may repeat the same game or action again and again as they try to integrate the experience into their learning. If the event has a highly charged energy, the body may struggle to integrate the experience through repetition as sometimes any re-experiencing can feed into the same shock reaction and cause the body to freeze or numb from experiencing the pain.
One possible way to work with trauma in the body is to slow the experience down and allow yourselves to slowly get closer to the experience. There is an NLP therapeutic approach around a fear of spiders, first imagine the spider then change the image you are imaging – make the spider smaller or change the colour or imagine it further away until the image is less scary and your body starts to relax. Or perhaps keep the focus on the body rather than the though, as you notice the shoulder tense can you breath deeply and help that shoulder to relax a tiny bit. For Rosie, this could be an imagined exercise or she could use a real bike and practice just holding it and tuning in to how her body responds.
Relationships in trauma
It is sometimes worth considering how the trauma relates to relationships. Rosie talks about the younger boy who collides with her and rides away without saying sorry. She also mentions receiving comfort from a friend of her brothers. There may be a wish that things might have been different, perhaps if the boy had said sorry, perhaps if it had been a loving parent who had offered the comfort.
There is a model of dramatherapy where you recreate an event that happened to you and change it to how you wish it could have been. This recreation might be changing thwe whole event to imagine the crash did not happen, but may also re-write the ending so that we receive what we need to come out of the shock response.