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Finding Safety Within


Traumatic experiences are stored in the body. Rational thinking is not enough to deal with trauma so what are the best strategies for feeling safe, feeling calm, and feeling in control of your own body? How do you release trauma from your body and feel safe? Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk is a Boston-based psychiatrist and The New York Times best-selling author of The Body Keeps the Score. He was previously the President of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, Professor of Psychiatry at Boston University Medical School, and Medical Director of the Trauma Center. He has taught at universities around the world and his work has been featured in TIME, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, and more. What else about trauma?

  • It makes you want to forget, it makes you want to push it away, it makes you want to erase it.

  • Trauma is something that is so horrendous that you can’t cope with it, it’s too much to deal with

  • Trauma renders you helpless and makes you feel like there is no way out

  • Helplessness is an absolute precondition for a traumatic experience

  • Our society continuously ignores how trauma is formed and created - pushing it under the rug and hiding from it

  • Trauma is not a story - trauma is not a memory about the past. Trauma changes the brain. Trauma sits within you and within your body.

  • People experiencing trauma keep behaving and reacting as if they were stuck in that experience

  • When we are traumatised - the brain often cannot process it and the body “stores it” - the body gets stuck in a state of hyper alertness, the mind gets stuck in a state of hyper-alertness

  • The perceptual situation in the brain becomes rewired to be on “high alert"

  • Your body, your mind, your entire system gets frozen or stuck in “fight or flight” mode

  • When you’re traumatised, it’s very hard to learn or integrate new experiences - thats what makes treating trauma so difficult

  • Trauma is not typically rationally processed, it goes into the irrational part of the brain and your body gets locked into a place of constantly reacting as if you’re in a sense of danger

  • Your body starts generating stress hormones at inappropriate times and you begin to feel out of control and helpless

  • One of the most tragic results of trauma is people try to shut the feeling down and end up shutting down their ability to feel - or they turn to drugs, alcohol, and pharmaceuticals

  • Studies show that yoga is more effective than any drug that has been studied for solving trauma

  • There is promising research around psychotropics (psylocbin and MDMA) for trauma relief

  • Neurofeedback is another promising solution for trauma

  • "Playing computer games with your brain waves” to solve trauma

  • Trying to remove delta or theta waves in the frontal lobe

  • Self regulation - learning to control your own physiology using ancient Chinese and Indian methods - research is starting to show these solutions help as mind body interventions to solve trauma in the body

  • Our mainstream western culture is “if you feel bad, take a drug”

  • Practically what does it looks like to use something like yoga to regulate your own physiology?

  • Chanting is also a very good mind body intervention - singing in unison with others

  • One of the biggest struggles of trauma is that you feel isolated or lonely or by yourself

  • Exposure treatment misunderstands how to treat real trauma

  • It’s not the memory, it's that your brain/body - entire system - is locked in a state of being “high alert” - and that these mind body interventions are some of the best ways to help people feel “Safe” inside their own bodies

  • How do you feel 'feeling safe, calm, and in control over y our own physiology'?

  • What are the best strategies for feeling safe, feeling calm, and feeling in control of your own body?

  • Trauma is a bodily experience of experiencing intolerable physical sensations - people can’t stand the way their bodies feel

  • Breathing, moving, chanting, yoga, qigong, massage, dancing - these are all ways that you can make your body feel safe.

  • Once your body feels safe, you can allow yourself to slowly go to the experiences from the past that caused the body to be put into a traumatic state

  • Your body has to feel safe and be present to heal trauma

  • Sitting still and meditating is often a challenge when you’re experiencing trauma

  • None of this has to do with understanding or explaining why you’re experiencing trauma - understanding WHY your’e experiencing trauma doesn’t make you resolve it

  • The rational brain has nothing to do with solving trauma in the body - it has to do with your “animal brain”

  • This is NOT a rational problem - you can’t solve it rationally

  • What are some of the best solutions?

    • EMDR is another effective technique or strategy for processing trauma

    • Somatic experiencing

    • Sensory motor psychotherapy

    • Traumatic sensitive yoga

    • Sidran Foundation

    • Trauma Research Foundation


  • This work is 30 years old - people are just discovering the best treatments for trauma and it is a cutting edge field - many of the solutions don’t have a lot of evidence yet because its so new - it's all work in progress - it’s not definitive yet

  • What is EMDR? A strange technique involving eye movement or sound that is revolutionary for solving trauma according to new research and brain scans.

  • Does cardio help or hurt when trying to connect with the body? Not necessarily - it’s all about trying to make your mind and body connect more deeply.

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