Category Archives: Trauma

You are an energy field: a key to understanding and healing trauma

“Everything is energy” is an aphorism; what does this mean, practically, for you, for us, and for our emotional and physical wellbeing? The body is an energy field. You are an energy field. This holds the key to understanding our experience, and the key to understanding and healing trauma.

The good.

Most of your charge seems to come from the heart, which generates 60 to 1000 times more energy than the brain. The magnetic field of the heart, measured by a cardio magnetogram, extends about 12 ft around the body. An interesting study by the Institute of HeartMath showed that when a person was thinking loving thoughts about another, the heart rhythm of the “thinker” showed up in the brainwaves of the “thought of.” In another study, when two people consciously focus on thinking positive thoughts about each other, their heart rhythms synchronize. And the same magic happens with our pets. For example, a study found the heart rhythms of a boy and his dog synchronized when they were together. You can read about these studies here.

So we see that our loving thoughts affect others, and we connect to each other in subtle, energetic ways which have real impacts. But what happens when there is a disruption in our energy field?

The bad and the ugly.

Not surprisingly, physical and emotional disruptions will follow. The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study was conducted by Kaiser Health and the CDC. It examined the childhood traumas of 17,000 (mostly white, middle- and upper-middle class, college educated) people. Researchers found a big correlation between traumas and both mental health and physical health issues. In fact, people who scored 4 or more on the ACE quiz are several times more likely to develop chronic disease and depression. They are ten times more likely to commit suicide. (If you are interested in taking the ACE quiz, you can do so here.)

When we talk about traumatic experiences, it is important to note that it is not only the big traumas, such as the ones measured on the ACE study, which stay with us. Even small “traumas”, like being laughed at by our classmates or yelled at by our parents, can have a lasting impact. When situations similar to the original trauma come up, it is easy for us to resonate with and even re-experience the trauma.

Key to understanding and healing trauma

Knowing that childhood traumas, and indeed all traumatic experiences, seem to become trapped in the body leads us to an important question: What can we do about it?

Thankfully we have tools to heal. But the way to heal is not based on insight, understanding, or figuring things out.  This is because the rational mind is not where trauma exists. Trauma is emotional/energetic, so effective therapies need to work on the emotional/energetic levels. Peter Levine discusses this concept in this video.

Energy psychology techniques are a group of therapies which includes the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), Thought Field Therapy (TFT), the Tapas Acupressure Technique (TAT), and the Emotion Code/Body Code. Each of these approaches utilize the meridian system to release energy blockages caused by traumatic experiences: tapping or holding meridian points (EFT, TFT, TAT) or tracing the Governing Vessel (Emotion/Body Code). Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP), and its offshoot, EMDR, use eye patterns and imagery to release trauma. In every case, the focus is not on understanding what happened, but on getting to the emotional/energetic pattern that we need to release in order for us to heal.

A case in point

I was working with a client who has a high ACE score – he experienced a lot of trauma when he was growing up. Several months ago, he came to session extremely upset. He had recovered a memory of a particularly ugly, traumatic incident from his childhood. We used an EFT protocol to heal the trauma impact from this memory. Understand and heal trauma

At the beginning of our session, I asked him to rate his experience on a 0-10 scale, and it was “more than a 10.” By the end of the hour, he was able to recall what had happened without feeling upset. When I asked him to rate the incident on the same 0-10 scale, it was a 0. He and I were both grateful for this amazing tool of healing.

A few months later, he came to session upset about other things. I asked him how he felt about the incident. He stopped and looked surprised for a moment, and then replied that he had not even thought about it. Interestingly, he still felt calm and detached when he remembered it.

He, and many others, still have a lot of trauma to resolve. But they can, and I am determined to help. Not just working with my clients, but spreading the word about the impact of trauma and ways to work through it. We, I, you are an energy field: a key to understanding and healing trauma.

We have ways to heal. People need to know this stuff.

Healing Trauma

Many of my clients have experienced trauma, whether it is losing a loved one, getting divorced, or being diagnosed with a serious illness. Traumatic experiences are part-and-parcel of our human experience. They can be the defining moments of our lives, and how we deal with them – or don’t – has a tremendous impact on what happens next. We used to think that PTSD was “incurable;” now we know that healing trauma is possible, and relatively straightforward.

Short term and long term impacts

In the short term, surviving a traumatic experience changes how we see ourselves. We are not as safe, and the world is not as trustworthy, as before, leaving us feeling powerless, isolated, and afraid. The haunting memories of trauma can come up unbidden and disturb our peace, leaving us to wonder if we will ever be at ease.

The longer term impact of a trauma is determined by how significant the trauma was, how many stressors and traumas we have previously experienced, and whether we have resources to help us release the trauma.

Hot memories

There is some evidence that small pieces of a traumatic episode live in our memory in a “hot”, emotion-laden way; they have split off from the rest of the trauma story. These pieces of trauma memory are the grist for flashbacks and re-experiencing. Knitting the hot pieces back into the story as a whole seems to cool them down and helps reduce flashbacks and other trauma responses.

Wishing we could forget

Most people who have experienced trauma try to forget that it ever happened. The problem is that trying to forget is ineffective; forgetting is impossible. Fortunately, there are some very effective techniques to help with healing trauma. They all involve purposefully remembering the traumatic incident in detail from beginning to end.

Here are some strategies that are effective in healing from trauma:

The first three strategies are out-of-the-box approaches to healing trauma that are gaining traction. I have used them in practice and my clients are finding them to be super helpful:

Narrative exposure therapy

NETis a storytelling technique that was created to help people in war-torn countries recover from trauma. In this simple approach, people tell their trauma story in detail, over and over again, until they can tell the story without feeling upset. When I use a version of this with my clients, they become calm and the memory loses its “hotness,” usually in one sitting.

Neurolinguistic Programming’s Trauma Cure

The NLP trauma cure involves some form of watching the memory as if it were a movie, starting before the trauma and ending after the trauma, in fast-forward and rewind. They way that I use it in my practice includes adding a funny element to the memory. This is a brief technique, and my clients find it super helpful. Clients might start out being barely able to tell me what happened, and end up smiling about it. And that is something to smile about!

Meridian Tapping Therapies

Techniques like EFT help to put the trauma highlights into a cool context. In EFT, we tap on meridian points while talking about our emotion. (To learn more about EFT, check out my posts here.) Clients start by telling their story, and as soon as they get to a hot spot, we stop and tap. They move on to tell the next part of the story, and again we tap when they get to a hot spot. I always ask my clients to rate their trauma on a 10-scale, and even if they start out by saying, “it’s a 100”, by the end of our session, they are usually at a “0.”

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy: A mainstream approach to healing trauma

The CBT approach to healing from trauma is similar to the narrative exposure therapy described above. With CBT, you the story to a compassionate listener, starting at the beginning and ending at the end. It is an evidence-based approach to treating trauma.

Many paths, same mountain

There are many effective approaches to healing trauma, and they are so simple and effective, it is a real shame that people continue to suffer. Together, maybe we can create a shift. If you know of someone who is suffering, please tell them that help is available. There is a database of EFT and energy psychology practitioners here; there is a list of NLP practitioners here; and Psychology Today has a list of practitioners that is searchable by type of therapy and issues addressed.

Healing trauma is possible. Let’s spread the word.