Something beautiful happened. Several hundred people showed up online from around the world to focus on building resilience during Covid-19. From Slovenia, Turkey, Dubai, New Zealand, UK, Sweden, France, Germany, Canada, and across the US.
It just blew my mind…all of us connecting around our shared experience. The fear, the loneliness, and the profound resilience that is within us as we come together as a collective, with an intention to support each other with compassion.
If you would like you can watch the recording. You’ll find it below.
Polyvagal theory in psychotherapy offers co-regulation as an interactive process that engages the social nervous systems of both therapist and client. Social engagement provides experiences of mutuality and reciprocity in which we are open to receiving another person, as they are. For the client who was rejected in childhood, this moment of being received can be profoundly reparative.
Before offering any interventions aimed toward regulation, develop your understanding of the client’s current experience within the context of their developmental, social, and cultural history. For example, if they are angry, firmly validate why this anger makes sense in the context of their experiences in the world. Explore how it feels to nonjudgmentally accept them and yourself just as you are.
“The goal of regulating emotions is not to make feelings go away. Rather, the aim is to help clients build their capacity to ride the waves of big emotions and sensations. Initially, this occurs because they know that we are willing to join them in these difficult moments. In time, this process helps them learn that temporary experiences of contraction can resolve into a natural expansion of positive emotions such as relief, gratitude, empowerment, or joy.”
As you may be aware, I offer webinars that provide tools for trauma recovery using mind-body therapies. These webinars occur in an interactive and engaging format. Webinars are also recorded and available for purchase after they have taken place. I invite you to explore these special resources for an in-depth understanding of important concepts related to healing PTSD and Complex PTSD.
These offerings are rooted in a strength-based approach to healing that fosters resilience and post traumatic growth. Resilience is defined as an ability to flexibly adapt to challenging, adverse, or traumatic life events. This ability to “bounce back” from traumatic events is deeply connected to having the opportunity to work through difficult life experiences. Resilience is not a trait that you either have or do not have; it is a set of strategies that can be learned and practiced.
Each webinar is designed to provide opportunities for learning how mind-body therapies can be applied for personal growth. Previous topics have included:
The pain of unresolved relational trauma from childhood often presents as self-critical thoughts, feeling intolerant of our mistakes, or engaging in self-harming behaviors. Self-compassion as applied to trauma recovery allows us to transform our pain. The word compassion literally means to “feel moved by” or “feel with” another person’s experience. Usually, compassion arises in response to another person’s suffering and evokes a desire to understand their pain and be of service by offering help or kindness. This same intention of warmth and caring can be offered to ourselves in the form of self-compassion. Here, we set an intention to respond to our own suffering with warmth and gentleness.
Trauma recovery involvesdeveloping positive coping resources and focusing your attention on your strengths. Healing also asks you to attend to difficult memories from your past and your emotional pain. Self-compassion helps to support both of these intentions.
“Self-compassion involves two key actions. First, we must set limits with ourselves to reduce habitual negative thoughts and behaviors that perpetuate harm. Second, we must repeatedly practice new kind and loving thoughts and behaviors. Self-compassion becomes easier and more accessible when we revisit this practice on a regular basis.”
Complex PTSD (C-PTSD) refers to traumatic events that were ongoing or repeated. In the context of childhood trauma, these events occurred within your earliest relationships with parents or caregivers who were unpredictable, unavailable, or a source of terror.
One of the greatest challenges associated with long-term trauma is that it can impact your sense of hope for a positive future. A looming sense of despair might dominate your awareness. Given that child abuse and neglect are relational traumas, you may have lost faith in other people’s trustworthiness or capacity for goodness.
“If you relate to these symptoms of C-PTSD, please know that you are not alone. More importantly, you can overcome overwhelming feelings of hopelessness and despair. Complex PTSD recovery involves working through the pain of your past and reclaiming a sense of meaning and purpose for your life.” -Dr. Arielle Schwartz
Practical Mind-Body Tools to Heal Trauma, Foster Resilience, and Awaken your Potential
Within the pages of The Post-Traumatic Growth Guidebook, you will be guided through 60 practices that illuminate a path to trauma recovery with effective, research based strategies that facilitate resilience and enhance post-traumatic growth. Initially, you will find practices that encourage you to build resources that help you feel grounded, safe, and calm. Once you feel ready, you can begin to explore the practices that focus on releasing the painful impact of losses or traumatic events. You will also find practices that guide you to move beyond the pain of your past by helping you discover a sense of meaning and purpose to your life. You become the alchemist who is capable of turning the lead of difficult life experiences into the gold of self-awareness.
Through the lens of resilience and post-traumatic growth, I invite you to see yourself as the hero or heroine of your own life journey.
Resilience is defined as an ability to flexibly adapt to challenging, adverse, or traumatic life events. This ability to “bounce back” from traumatic events is deeply connected to having the opportunity to work through difficult life experiences. Resilience is not a trait that you either have or do not have; it is a set of strategies that can be learned and practiced.
Resilience is both a process and an outcome that involves practices help you to build a sense of strength and self-confidence. The deep, inner work of healing from trauma eventually allows you to emerge back into the world with your gifts—your unique contributions to the world. You might feel a yearning or longing to fulfill your potential by expressing more of your heart, sharing the knowledge you have gained, and bringing your gifts out to the world.
“Within this book, you will be guided to explore the intersection between your personal transformation and your relationships within family, community, and the planet. This allows your growth and wisdom to serve the wellbeing of others.”
Complex PTSD occurs as a result of repeated or ongoing traumatic events. While complex trauma can happen at any time in life, this post focuses on attachment trauma related to childhood abuse or neglect. Most often there is a combined wound, in which you experience deficient nurturance from loving caregivers coupled with inadequate protection from dangerous situations or people. Growing up within an environment of fear, chaos, or rejection, and abandonment has significant and long-lasting repercussions on physical and emotional health.
As a result of attachment trauma, you might carry beliefs that you are damaged, not lovable, or that you cannot trust anyone. You might have feelings of shame, unworthiness, or helplessness. Perhaps, you feel plagued by anxiety or believe that you don’t belong in this world.
“Attachment trauma can lead you to withdraw from relationships in order to avoid further rejection or hurt. Or, you might feel overly dependent upon others and fearful of rejection. If you relate to these symptoms, it is important to know that you are not alone. These painful emotions are remnants of your past.” ~Dr. Arielle Schwartz
Many mental health practitioners are trained in the treatment of single traumatic events. However, in the case of complex trauma and dissociative symptoms, clients come to therapy with an extensive history of trauma that often begins in childhood and continues into adulthood with layers of personal, relational, societal, or cultural losses. Clients arrive at the door with profoundly painful histories and well-constructed defense structures to protect themselves from the pain.
Complex PTSD and dissociative symptoms can arise as a result of repeated developmental trauma or neglect and the ongoing social stress such as bullying, discrimination, political violence, or the distress of being a refugee separated from family and country.
“A compassionate approach to treatment understands that dissociation is a learned behavior that once helped the client survive and cope with a threatening environment. Dissociation is a both a built-in physiological survival mechanism and a psychological defense structure. It helps the individual to disconnect from the reality of threatening experiences. However, over time, dissociation can become a well-maintained, dysfunctional division between the part of the self that is trying to live a “normal life” and the part of self that is holding trauma related material.”
Many distressing symptoms of post-traumatic stress are felt in the body—a tightness in the chest, a sinking feeling in the stomach, a familiar knot in the throat, or as a chronic feeling of exhaustion. We now recognize that we must turn toward the body as part of the healing process and as a result we have seen a surge in the use of yoga, mindfulness, tai chi, Qigong, Feldinkreis, massage, craniosacral, nutritional counseling, and acupuncture for the treatment post traumatic stress.
These mind-body therapies help us to be less vulnerable to stress, less reactive, and less impulsive. We increase our awareness of the choices that we have to help us feel grounded and calm. We feel more in control. One way that mind-body therapies work is by stimulating the vagus nerve. Knowledge about how this nerve works provides a fundamental understanding of traumatic stress and facilitates our ability to heal. As a result, the vagus nerve has taken central stage in trauma treatment.
“Mind-body therapies work with the vagus nerve to help you find balance. In this post, you will find a variety of breath and movement practices aimed to stimulate and reset the vagus nerve. Through a process of self-study and mindful body awareness, you can start to learn strategies that help you restore a sense of safety and heal from trauma.”
Healing from trauma does not only involve changes in your brain. Rather, it is equally important to attend to the impact of traumatic events on the body. When it comes to healing from any trauma, it is important to recognize that the body holds memories of what happened. Your body provides tremendous feedback about the impact that traumatic events. You might notice how you carry tension in your body or how your posture might be a reflection of your emotions.
As a result of challenging life experiences, you might notice that you close off your chest to protect your heart from events that occurred years ago. Perhaps, you continue to freeze or collapse in response current events that trigger feelings related to your traumatic past. Or, you might notice how trauma from your past obstructs your willingness to look someone in the eyes, stand up tall, or speak with confidence.
Importantly, yourbody does not just hold the memory of what happened—your body also holds the memory of what wanted to happen. This is an important key to healing from trauma. For example, if you weren’t able to run away from a dangerous situation, you might feel the impulse to move your legs when you think about that situation now. Or, if you weren’t able to protect yourself from an abuser, you might feel an impulse to push through your arms.
“Somatic therapy in trauma treatment allows you to release long-held tension from your body. As a result, you have an opportunity to discover a greater sense of freedom in your body and mind. Your body gives you feedback about when the events of the past no longer define your life in the present. As a result, you reclaim your resilience.”—Dr. Arielle Schwartz