Trauma in the Body
Trauma is more than just an incident or series of painful exposures in childhood or adulthood. Trauma lives in your body and navigates the lens of which you perceive the world. We unconsciously interact, react, and respond to others carrying stored trauma and pain in our body. Our bodies don’t lie. We can force ourselves to forgive and force ourselves to put aside our own emotions and experiences to tend to the needs and wounding of others (including our perpetrator’s needs) but our bodies will always carry and convey the truth about our internal suffering. There are lingering effects of childhood abuse, when a child is exposed to sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse and is expected to then honor and forgive their parents that were violating, abusive, and abandoning. While many adults exposed to hurtful parenting or trauma can attempt to forgive and forget- the body does not forget and carries the internalized hurtful objects and experiences until we begin to identify our own inner wounding, advocate for ourselves, and practice self-care.
Trauma in the body affects the mind-body connection. Our psychological and mental well-being can be experienced somatically in our body. When life is going great, we may feel more energetic or motivated- our immune system has a boost and we are operating at our best. However, when challenges introduce themselves into our lives- we may feel more discouraged, lowering our immune system, and physical symptoms manifest in the form of physical illness (ever get sick often during times of stress?). This is how our body communicates with us.
When people have experienced sexual abuse/sexual trauma, domestic violence, abusive, neglectful, overbearing, or overly strict parents, they carry within them unresolved issues in childhood and/or adulthood, many times unconsciously. Many people can recall a time in childhood where they were ridiculed or discouraged from identifying and communicating a painful emotion by good-intention adults. Parents encourage young boys to maintain a tough/hyper-masculine persona and to fear being vulnerable, while women are encouraged and socialized to be selfless. Our bodies internalize what happens with our emotions, even when we think we have moved on or “gotten over it”. The physical and emotional impact of unexpressed pain continues to dwell within us until it is brought to the surface, addressed, and dealt with. As they say, Pain that is not transformed is transferred.
In adulthood, as in childhood, we want nothing more than to be accepted and loved (especially by central figures such as parents or partners). So, many times, we ignore the rage, the indignation, the fear, and the terror/confusion of our childhood sexual abuse, our sexual trauma, our physical abuse, and the deep pain pulsating through our veins pleading for our attention and nurturance. We continue to choose to expose ourselves to abusive parental figures or abusive partners out of guilt or shame, religious, social, or moral expectations to be selfless- forcing us to deny the very parts of ourselves that want to advocate for self care and say No. Our body; however, says No: and born are the physiological manifestations of how our body tries to override our choices (many times through anger, anxiety, depression). It is our body’s way of saying No to us- “enough is enough”.
“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” ~Carl Jung
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