What is trauma?

A common definition of trauma is that it’s what happens when our system cannot process what’s happening with us. It becomes overwhelmed and deals with it by creating trauma.

TRAUMA AS A COPING MECHANISM

That makes sense to me. Trauma is clearly a coping mechanism, as is any hangup or emotional issue. In the situation, it’s the best way our system knows how to survive and manage.

HOLDING A THOUGHT AS TRUE TO FIND A SENSE OF SAFETY

We can look at it through the lens of beliefs. Our system creates painful beliefs in order to find a sense of safety. A situation is overwhelming and scary, it creates some beliefs for iself to find a sense of safety, and those beliefs are often painful.

Why do beliefs seem safe? I assume it’s because they give us a sense of certainty. Our mind can tell itself it knows. It knows how something is. That may seem preferable to not knowing and being at the mercy of life.

THE REALITY OF IT

It seems a little silly when it’s laid out like this.

Holding a thought as true doesn’t provide any safety at all. If anything, it makes us less receptive and flexible. It creates a fixed view and identity which makes us rigid and less able to respond well to life and situations. In many ways, that’s less safe than knowing that we don’t know for certain.

Holding a thought as true is also inevitably uncomfortable. It creates friction, stress, and distress. Life will inevitably rub up against any belief and identity we have, and that’s stressful. Also, our mind needs to spend a lot of energy to maintain it. It needs to remind itself about it. It needs to prop it up. It needs to defend it. It often elaborates on it. It needs to look for evidence for its truth. And so on.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE TAKE A THOUGHT AS TRUE?

What happens when our mind holds a thought as true? It identifies with the viewpoint of the thought. It creates an identity for itself out of the thought. In a sense, it becomes the thought. It perceives and lives as if it is the thought.

EXAMINING WHAT’S GOING ON

All of this is hidden from the mind unless it takes a closer look and examines what’s really going on. We live it without realizing what’s going on. When we take a closer look, we can relate to all of this a little more intentionally. A thorough examination may even lead to some of these identifications to fall away. The thought is still here, and recognized as a thought and not true in the way our mind initially saw it.

DIFFERENT SUBPERSONALITIES OPERATE ON DIFFERENT BELIEFS

I should also mention that it’s not that straightforward. Different parts of our psyche tend to hold onto different thoughts as true. Several parts of me believe thoughts that I – as a whole – do not subscribe to, and they inevitably color my perception and life. That’s why a practice to identify these beliefs can be helpful. If I notice something triggered in me, it’s helpful to identify the thought or thoughts behind it, see if I can find related and underlying thoughts, and then investigate these.

EXPLORING THROUGH THE SENSE FIELDS

Of course, there are many other aspects to trauma and many other lenses we can use to understand it.

For instance, we can still explore beliefs and identifications, but we can examine it through our sense fields. We can look at how our mind associates certain thoughts with certain sensations, and how the sensations give a sense of solidity, reality, and truth to the thoughts, and the thoughts give a sense of meaning to the sensations. As we keep peeking behind the metaphorical wizard’s curtain, the illusion tends to lose it’s reality.

BODY TENSION

Exploring the sense fields in this way also gives us some hints about how traumas – and emotional issues in general – tend to create body tension. Our mind needs sensations to lend a sense of solidity and truth to thoughts, so to have those sensations available it seems to tense up certain muscles to create tension and sensations that go with certain thoughts. Each thought has its own tension pattern, and these seem to have a mix of universality and individuality. If a belief or set of beliefs is regularly activated and perceived from and lived on, it’s likely that it’s associated with a chronic tension pattern in the body.

RIGHT CONTAINER

If we are to explore this, and we have trauma in our system (as most of us do), it’s important to do it in a good setting: Guided by someone experienced, and someone we like and trust. Having enough time to explore, process, and settle after. Knowing we can stop it ourselves at any moment, and be encouraged to do so. Doing it in very small portions at a time. Doing it in an atmosphere of safety, understanding, and support. Avoid overwhelming our system again.

EXPLORE FOR OURSELVES

If we are drawn to it, this is something we can explore in different ways.

I find The Work of Byron Katie to be very helpful in identifying and examining stressful beliefs. The Kiloby Inquiries (KI) is excellent for exploring how it all unfolds in the sense fields. Tension and Trauma Release Exercises (TRE) is an excellent way to release chronic tension from the body. I also know that many love Somatic Experiencing (I have less experience with that approach although have found the books useful).

Personally, I have mostly used the three first approaches. I started with The Work of Byron Katie almost twenty years ago and did it daily for many years. I have been the client and facilitator for many KI sessions over the years, including with many clients. And I have used TRE regularly for several years, and still use it off and on.

Image by me and Midjourney


INITIAL DRAFT

TRAUMA

A common definition of trauma is that it’s what happens when our system cannot process what’s happening with us. It becomes overwhelmed, and deals with it by creating trauma.

That makes sense to me. Trauma is clearly a coping mechanism, as is any hangup or emotional issue. In the situation, it’s the best way our system knows how to survive and manage.

We can look at it through the lens of beliefs. Our system creates painful beliefs in order to find a sense of safety. A situation is overwhelming and scary, it creates some beliefs for iself to find a sense of safety, and those beliefs are often painful.

Why do beliefs seem safe? I assume it’s because they give us a sense of certainty. Our mind can tell itself it knows. It knows how something is. That may seem preferable to not knowing and being at the mercy of life.

It seems a little silly when it’s laid out like this.

Holding a thought as true doesn’t provide any safety at all. If anything, it makes us less receptive and flexible. It creates a fixed view and identity which makes us rigid and less able to respond well to life and situations. In many ways, that’s less safe than knowing that we don’t know for certain.

Holding a thought as true is also inevitably uncomfortable. It creates friction, stress, and distress. Life will inevitably rub up against any belief and identity we have, and that’s stressful. Also, our mind needs to spend a lot of energy to maintain it. It needs to remind itself about it. It needs to prop it up. It needs to defend it. It often elaborates on it. It needs to look for evidence for its truth. And so on.

What happens when our mind holds a thought as true? It identifies with the viewpoint of the thought. It creates an identity for itself out of the thought. In a sense, it becomes the thought. It perceives and lives as if it is the thought.

All of this is hidden to the mind unless it takes a closer look and examines what’s really going on. We live it without realizing what’s going on. When we take a closer look, we can relate to all of this a little more intentionally. A thorough examination may even lead to some of these identifications to fall away. The thought is still here, and recognized as a thought and not true in the way our mind initially saw it.

I should also mention that it’s not that straightforward. Different parts of our psyche tend to hold onto different thoughts as true. Several parts of me believe thoughts that I – as the whole – do not subscribe to, and they inevitably color my perception and life. That’s why a practice to identify these beliefs can be helpful. If I notice something triggered in me, it’s helpful to identify the thought or thoughts behind it, see if I can find related and underlying thoughts, and then investigate these.

Of course, there are many other aspects to trauma and many other lenses we can use to understand it.

For instance, we can still explore beliefs and identifications, but we can examine it through our sense fields. We can look at how our mind associates certain thoughts with certain sensations, and how the sensations give a sense of solidity, reality, and truth to the thoughts, and the thoughts give a sense of meaning to the sensations. As we keep peeking behind the metaphorical wizard’s curtain, the illusion tends to lose its reality.

Exploring the sense fields in this way also gives us some hints about how traumas – and emotional issues in general – tend to create body tension. Our mind needs sensations to lend a sense of solidity and truth to thoughts, so to have those sensations available it seems to tense up certain muscles to create tension and sensations that go with certain thoughts. Each thought has its own tension pattern, and these seem to have a mix of universality and individuality. If a belief or set of beliefs is regularly activated and perceived from and lived on, it’s likely that it’s associated with a chronic tension pattern in the body.

This is just how it looks to me, although it is based on my own explorations over several years and experience with guiding many clients through this process.

This is, of course, partly based on what others have explored and described.

It’s also how it looks to me these days, based on my own explorations over several years and my experience with guiding many clients through this process.

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