Integrating Trauma in Holistic Counselling
Today I'd love to invite you to get comfortable, take a few deep breaths, while I share about trauma. This is a very important concept to understanding as you seek out support of any kind, whether that is from a holistic counselling therapist, a medical doctor, a chiropractor, an energy worker or a coach.
I will share a personal story of a bear chase that could have potentially been traumatic, give you a brief overview concept of trauma and also share a new modality that I have been trained in called Trauma Regulation Integration Process (TRIP).
If you'd like to skip the story and science and want to learn more about TRIP scroll to the bottom. 😁 Or click the button to book a free 30 minute consult to learn more.
A Bear Chase
In my mid 20s, I worked in Forestry. One summer I was working north of Vernon, BC with a Forester named Janice, who was doing a health study on forested stands that had been logged 15 - 20 years earlier.
It had been an extremely dry summer and I had nearly ran head first into a couple wasp nests, and well, I'm a screamer when something scares me and my screaming had become par for the course.
One particular Friday, we were up an old forest service road, deep in balsam and spruce land, which meant bear country. I was the compass man, who forged the path and made sure we were headed in the right direction as we took our samples.
On this beautiful, hot day, I was only about 100 meters into the bush and Janice was about 50 meters behind me. I was standing on a fallen log taking a compass bearing, preparing myself to barrel forward through rhododendron shrubs when I suddenly heard a loud rustling. I froze for an instant.
“What was that sound?”
Suddenly a swath of of rhododendron began shaking hard and then moving toward me like a snake. I saw brown fur and heard heavy thuds against the ground. My heart started pounding and before I knew it I turned and ran, screaming, as fast as I could back to Janice.
Janice was not phased. Remember, I'd already been screaming that summer. As I stood there catching my breath, Janice wondering in the world was going on with me, there was the bear again barreling towards us.
Janice looked at me and yelled, “Back to the truck!”
I have never run so fast in my life. I hopped over logs, rocks, all the while pulling bear spray out of my bright red cruiser's vest. This was all happening in lightning speed.
I don't remember pulling the safety pin off the canister of spray but apparently I did. Because the next thing I knew, as I hopped over a huge downed tree, right at the base of the embankment which led to the truck, my bear spray went off and a cloud of peppery burning hot spray drifted into my eyes, blinding me!
Somehow I managed to scramble up the embankment with tearing, stinging eyes and away out of immediate threat. Janice was already at the top and I lay on the tailgate of the truck as she rinsed my eyes with water. As my eyes became clearer and our breathing normalized, we relaxed for a moment thinking we were ok and potentially could continue work that day. But the next thing we heard was like lighting striking a tree, crashing below us. Janice and I took one look at each other, jumped in the truck and sped off.
My body shook the whole way home. I went from feeling hot to cold and then finally my temperature regulated. I didn't know at the time but this was my body discharging the hormones released during the chase.
What is Trauma?
Scary right?! Probably the closest I've ever come to being in imminent danger. Upon reflection and education, I can now see how my nervous system kicked into gear to keep me safe.
Our bodies are designed to act like mine did. They are designed to move in and out of the fight, flight, freeze response state. I imagine if I hadn't been able to run from the bear (thank goodness, I did!), my body would have responded by fighting and then freezing. This is a survival mechanism built into our nervous system to respond without needing to think. This happens when we have to reach a burning pan off the stove. In fact, this instinct takes our entire pre-frontal cortex (the reasoning part of our brain) off line. This is what Dr. Dan Siegel termed Flipping the Lid.
Flipping the Lid is when the prefrontal cortex goes offline, the brain releases stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones have a direct impact on the brain's function, specifically their function is to halt the ability to process emotions, thoughts, memories and reason. When you are being chased by a bear or need to react quickly or protect yourself from a natural disaster or if you are in a war, your brain and nervous system will do everything to keep you safe. This is why when I spotted the bear, my bear safety training went out the window.
A traumatic event can be anything from, a car accident to abuse or neglect, bullying or being left alone as a child one too many times to cry. It is not necessarily the event that makes an experience traumatic but rather the body, brain and soul's response to the experience. After a potentially threatening event the body's function is to rid itself of the stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline through tears, trembling, movement and connection. Just like I experienced in the truck on the way home.
But what often happens, is the body doesn't have the opportunity to release the hormones and fear by shaking or tears or movement. This can happen because it may not be safe to do so or feelings of shame or guilt override and prevent the body from doing what it needs to. The cortisol, adrenaline, emotions and trauma then remain ‘stuck’ in the memory of the brain and the nervous system.
If my body had not been allowed to shake and tremble or share the terror of the bear chase or perhaps even if I had been alone and hadn't been believed, the trauma could have remained stuck in my body.
When we do not have the opportunity to release, shake out or connect in the space of a traumatic event, our systems become overwhelmed and our ability to cope lessens. This is often followed by feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, guilt, shame, fear or terror whereby the emotions, beliefs and experiences become locked in the brain and body. This can impact us throughout our lives as we do our best to cope with the traumatic experience in our bodies which leads to us cutting off authentic aspects of ourselves, resulting in people pleasing, acting out, acting in and many other adaptive coping strategies.
Trauma Regulation Integration Process (TRIP)
So now what? You know you've experienced something traumatic, you know you want to change. Thankfully, our current outlook on the human experience is one that is trauma informed. There are more and more modalities, professionals and care providers who are offering support to people who carry trauma. I would hazard a guess that most of world carries some form of traumatic experience to some degree or another.
I was recently trained in a new integrative modality called the Trauma Regulation Integrative Process. What I love about this process is it combines:
Somatic Therapy (body awareness)
Attachment Therapy (how we connect to ourselves and others)
Parts work (recognizing and giving voice to different aspects of ourselves)
Eye Brain Techniques (we use the eyes to work with the brain and how we see the world)
Emotion Focused Therapy (expression of emotions)
From my personal experience of processing my own traumas with this modality it is a gentle yet powerful and effective form of trauma integration.
In a TRIP session, we process anything that is present for you by covering one eye at a time to connect to the different aspects of yourself. By working one eye at a time you will notice that each side may experience different physical sensations, emotional responses, thoughts or beliefs. The intention is to have both sides have the chance to express and feel while beginning to integrate and reattach to one another so they are both working together as you live your life.
And the best part is you don't have to relive the traumatic event.
I would love to offer you a chance to hear more about this modality through holistic counselling. You can click the button below to book a free 30 minute consult, if you have questions or what to learn more!
Thoughts from Holistic Counselling Clients
“I had no idea what to expect until I tried and just, wow!”
“I feel I can now make more informed decisions because I know what different parts are are making decisions.”
“I have never been able to understand before why I act the way I do. I now understand myself even more and feel empowered.”