In a previous article about REBALANCING THE BODY AND NERVOUS SYSTEM: HEALING UNRESOLVED EMOTIONAL WOUNDS, we discussed that people who had a stable primary foundation in childhood, without experiencing early trauma, tend to regulate their nervous systems effectively when exposed to acute stress. They can bounce back to a state of well-being more easily than those who lacked such a foundation.
However, problems arise when an attuned connection was lacking during someone’s childhood, leading to difficulties in regulation or adaptive shutdown in response to stress.
In such cases, it’s useful to understand how our memory functions and how childhood trauma is stored in our systems.
As mentioned in the article on trauma, we don’t just store memories consciously in explicit memory; we also store emotions and experiences unconsciously in our body tissues through implicit memory. Implicit memory is survival-based, and animals illustrate how they instinctively shake off and release memories to move forward.
The issue arises when some implicit memories remain trapped. Certain emotions, when abruptly halted, or incomplete survival-based actions can become trapped or chaotic, resulting in unhealed trauma – a form of stagnation, where actions were not fully executed.
Unconscious memories reside in our autonomic nervous system (ANS), and that’s why we practice embodiment and various reconnecting “activities.”
Sometimes, for generations, we may not have processed or deactivated our self-protective threat responses, as explained by Dr. Robert Scaer in his book The Body Bears the Burden: Trauma, Dissociation, and Disease.
Dysregulation in our system doesn’t only stem from potential developmental trauma but also conditioning, accumulated stresses, and deactivated self-protective threat responses.
For example, we may have been programmed not to express anger, similar to how animals defend their boundaries – a natural protective threat response.
We’ve learned to suppress these autonomic unconscious survival needs, with our higher brain repressing them, in addition to conditioning.
As mentioned above, implicit memory includes trapped body memories, emotions held within the body as somatic experiences (the trapped survival stresses), and procedural memory.
TRAPPED PROCEDURAL MEMORY
Procedural memory (PM) operates reflexively. PM is remembering the physical process of how to do something like drive a car, brush teeth and etc. So we do not to re learn the process over and over every day.
Trapped procedural memory might manifest as restlessness in the legs when a fleeing response was not processed; we were prevented from escaping a situation, and procedural memory seeks a way to release this tension from our system.
Alternatively, we might experience jaw pain, often connected to repressed anger from the past, or it can be linked to old injuries and surgeries.
Frozen shoulders are sometimes related to emotional protection or an attempt to push away a perpetrator. They can also be associated with memories of being immobilized by force, as in a medical procedure.
In essence, what becomes traumatic, meaning stored survival stress in the body, isn’t just adverse events or frightening occurrences.
By moving our bodies, we activate patterns and muscles, bringing our attention to them. This can be unconscious work or a conscious effort to focus on these areas while moving them.
These are embodied practices that connect us more deeply with our somatic selves.
Creating more space and capacity is essential, allowing us to tune into our memory. We can now fulfil what was needed when we were young, enabling our system to release it now.
This approach aligns with Compassionate Inquiry (CI), where we offer clients a lot of space to feel and do what was necessary during their childhood. We allow the implicit memory of their body to come online, releasing what was previously “stuck” in their system. But CI also work with explicit memory.
Explicit memory pertains to declarative memory, where we remember events, their details, and nuances.
Tapping into declarative memory can sometimes lead to the retrieval of old trauma experiences stored in our system. Thus, through declarative memory, we can access implicit memory (procedural and emotional memory).
By allowing our system to feel and release old stuck reactions, fulfilling unmet needs from our past, we are essentially re parenting ourselves. This process creates a “healthy attachment” and a self-regulated parent within us.
In CI sessions, we engage in somatic work, but we always revisit what these experiences meant for us and how we coped with them. This allows us to connect the dots, as mentioned at the beginning of this article, explaining why some of us often become overachievers or people-pleasers or choose another that time survival based adaptation.
Ultimately, all our behaviors and addictions seek connection and love.
Through CI sessions and somatic work with your nervous system, you become more regulated, and that is where healing occurs.
To effectively process stress and delve deeper into our healing journey, it’s crucial to understand both types of memory – implicit and explicit – so we can complete stored traumatic stress responses. This involves allowing ourselves to feel the sensations, the emotions that were suppressed, and the forgotten images that need processing.
We must complete and deactivate certain survival procedures to fully connect with our bodies. This enables us to maintain a healthy, well-regulated nervous system with smooth waves. This, in turn, fosters creativity, abundance, and personal growth.
Understanding our nervous system and how it functions is key to self-awareness. Ultimately, it’s all about safety – understanding when and whom we say “yes” to in life and when to say a clear “no.”
We may have limited control over life events, but we can control how we respond to them. We aim to process everything that arises in a safe and contained manner, considering its utility for our bodies.
DEVELOPMENTAL / PREVERBAL TRAUMA HEALING
Trauma and adversity experienced before the age of three often fall into the category of preverbal trauma. Declarative memories generally begin forming around this age, and until then, a child lives fully immersed in implicit feelings, storing everything somatically.
This type of trauma cannot be resolved through conversation; it is embodied and typically results in beliefs like “I am not safe” or “Life is a dangerous place.” Consequently, individuals with preverbal trauma often struggle to ask for help, feeling they must handle everything on their own.
This tendency to become overachievers often stems from early experiences where there was no one to offer assistance, leading to an inability to seek help.
People who have experienced preverbal trauma often have a perception of not being safe. This can be triggered by instances such as being left to sleep alone (which can set off a high-stress activation of the nervous system) or having to shut down when no one was there when they needed support.
This trauma is rooted in the body, typically leading to intense fear and terror becoming imprinted in the system. Consequently, there is a profound visceral survival response that often manifests as a feeling of “I am going to die.”
In this type of trauma, it is important to establish internal safety, which requires a significant amount of time and practice.
Through the process of CI, I guide clients through these experiences so they can fully restore regulation to their system. However, it does take time. It’s similar to learning a second language; we must begin with the basics.
As I mentioned in the article about stress, restoring our nervous system necessitates all components of our autonomic nervous system functioning harmoniously. This is what facilitates regulation.
We require a well-functioning “vagal brake” (as discussed in above article) to allow us to fully return to the baseline of the sinusoid and genuinely experience the “Rest and Digest” state. This entails incorporating the soothing influence of the ventral vagal system, along with a slight sympathetic activation and room for true relaxation.
DAILY PRACTICES FOR HEALING ACCUMULATED STRESS
Honoring your body and tuning into your felt sense is crucial for healing.
You can experience this process with me during CI sessions. Here, we address developmental trauma as well as accumulated stresses.
However, if you prefer other methods, you can explore art therapy sessions, trauma conscious yoga work, including Kundalini yoga private sessions with me. You can also download my Inner Child & Self-Love Kundalini Yoga workshop to start strengthening your nervous system and releasing stress from your body.
The key is to engage in daily practices of releasing and not overwhelming your body with excessive activity. I strongly recommend connecting with your somatic felt senses and respecting your need for protection. Do not suppress your emotions or hold back tears, and ask for help when needed.
Early shock trauma or developmental trauma may have prevented you from fully experiencing your body, pushing you into a life of busyness and constant “doing,” causing stress to accumulate within you.
Now is the time to teach your system that YOU NO LONGER NEED TO HOLD IT IN. Let’s attune more to your body, build your capacity to feel fully, and allow your true self, creativity, and authenticity to shine.
I am here to help you through CI sessions, art, imagination, or yoga.
KUNDALINI YOGA, SELF LOVE& INNER CHILD WORKSHOP
I have created an online 2-hour workshop that is entirely self-paced. In this workshop, you will find explanations in PDF format and 5 videos demonstrating the practice. We will also explore why we include and practice certain activities in Kundalini yoga, often referred to as the yoga of awareness.
Please consider this an invitation to connect with yourself and your body’s felt sense. Begin with these simple activities from the workshop. Take from it what resonates with you, and please do not forget that healing is about experiencing and taking small, accountable steps every day. Create a routine where you can truly feel and embody your journey.