“Mel…in the world of therapy and mental health, we call that molestation.”
Her words hit me like a sandbag to the gut and yet, I felt incredibly free all at the same time. For years, I continued to have these disturbing, childhood memories emerge without having a name to call it. Although I’m not a fan of labels, having a word to describe my experience gave me a newfound sense of hope. It was one of the first times I felt fully seen and heard within my experience. With this hope, I felt called to dive deeper into this work not only for myself, but all the people I care for every single day.
I discovered that on average, 1 in 4 American adults have experienced some form of childhood molestation. 25% - I was shocked when I read this statistic. But this shock and rage only made me more determined to understand the complexity that is trauma within the human experience.
If you are part of this statistic, I want you to know that you are not alone. I know it can feel scary, disturbing, and confusing. I get it more than you know. And I want you to know everything you might be feeling is 100% normal given how the nerve system responds to trauma.
The nerve system and trauma?
Oh yes…it all comes back to this and what I’ve found is this perspective on trauma is newly emerging in our culture, thankfully. But it still isn’t discussed as much as I feel is necessary to support those who are processing past, dysfunctional patterns.
Before we explore how to overcome trauma in our own bodymind, first we must understand what trauma truly is and how it shows up in our body. The first steps in any healing journey are awareness, acknowledgement, and acceptance.
So what is trauma exactly?
Trauma is any experience in life that one perceives has more negatives than positives. More importantly, trauma occurs when we feel we lack internal resources to overcome one or many experiences of life. Anytime we perceive an event has more drawbacks, consequences, and negative’s in our life, we will classify and perceive it as trauma (or a threat to our survival).
How does trauma impact my bodymind (or Nerve System) physically and emotionally?
In the world of chiropractic, we categorize trauma into the 4 T’s - physical trauma, chemical toxins (what we ingest), thought or mental/emotional trauma, and technology. When our body becomes overloaded with more demands than it can handle, it begins to disengage and shut down.
We shift from a balanced state internally to overdrive in our central nerve system. Picture going 120 mph in a 55 speed limit zone OR stopping, freezing, and disassociating completely while the world zooms around you. The end isn’t pretty either way.
When our central nerve system is imbalanced, it will manifest in a myriad of ways depending on the individual - headaches, insomnia, indigestion, constipation, moodiness, dysfunctional menstrual cycles, hormonal imbalances, chronic pain, lack of recovery from injuries, and more.
Remember, not all stress manifests physically simply because you are more than just flesh and bones. You are an emotional being as well. For many, it shows up as depression, OCD, people pleasing, anxiety, disassociation, anger, bipolar disorder, etc.
Additionally, because our body is so resilient, we may not notice the impact of trauma until further down the road. Every single experience in your life either adds to this stress cascade or supports you coming back into balance and alignment. For example, I didn’t realize the impact of my childhood experiences until I was in my adolescent years. I started gaining weight, dealt with excruciatingly painful periods, and felt emotionally unstable.
It wasn’t until I was 20 years old that the universe woke me up. I suffered a rugby injury to the point where I couldn’t sleep laying down and dealt with massive pain into my shoulder and chest. It was through this “trauma” that my life was altered forever. To this day I am incredibly grateful for this experience on the rugby pitch, for if I never had such an injury, perhaps I never would have walked into a chiropractor’s office in the first place.
But this type of paradigm shift and way of thinking about the world doesn’t happen overnight. This way of perceiving a trauma and transforming it into a triumph doesn’t occur in just one experience.
It takes time, repetition, and consistency…as does anything worthwhile in life, right?
So…How can we begin to overcome trauma and transform it into triumph?
Before I dive deeper into these strategies, I must give credit where credit is due. There is no way I’d be able to perceive being molested in childhood as a gift if it wasn’t for my mentors, guides, and coaches. I highly encourage you to check out the work of Bessel Van Der Kolk, John Demartini, Peter Levine, Donny Epstein, and Sherry Walling.
With that, let’s dive in!
1. Acknowledge your sh*t
The first step in transforming anything in life is fully acknowledging and accepting the current or past state of things. We cannot change something we haven’t fully acknowledged. If you’re familiar with Brene Brown’s work on radical acceptance, then you know the power of fully surrendering to any experience.
Remember, you are not alone on this journey. Life happens and it’s not always butterflies and rainbows like your social media feed wants you to believe.
2. Just Breathe
Transformation and change also requires building a level of safety and stability within the bodymind and nerve system. So many people make “change,” but few make any substantial, sustainable progress. Breathwork is the number one, most efficient internal strategy when it comes to deactivating the stress cascade and reintegrating into your body. And it’s FREE!
Here are some free breathwork resources I’ve created for our community that you can implement right away at home.
3. Come back home to your body
While talk therapy can be serving to process trauma, the majority of our memories are stored in the body. This is because in moments of trauma, our brain does what’s called a Prefrontal Cortex Check Out. Your intelligent brain begins to shunt energy and resources away from the higher brain structures to areas of the brain that help respond to trauma and stress (the amygdala, brain stem, hypothalamus to name a few).
Oftentimes people remember the overall feeling versus the details of their traumatic experience. Others report disassociating and not having a sense of space, time, and/or their body at all. This energetic shift of blood flow and oxygen within the brain is exactly why. It’s a similar phenomenon as someone having a stroke.
When it comes to processing trauma effectively, we must learn that our body is a safe place to come back home to even if in the past it didn’t feel this way. We must learn to partner with our body rather than rebel. This is the type of work we do with practice members in our office on a daily basis.
I highly encourage you to find a bodymind practitioner that is trained in trauma healing, breathwork, somatic, and neurophysiology. Trauma is a complex phenomenon so it requires a practitioner who is trained in holding the space for healing in many ways.
If you desire to learn more about how to master anxiety and understand stress physiology, check out this free resource I’ve made just for you.
4. Ask yourself - what’s the lesson here? The Trauma to Triumph Method…
This may be a stretch for some, but when you’re ready to go deeper, try on this strategy to help neutralize the charge your bodymind may be holding onto subconsciously. I’ve found this approach also aids in helping you feel less triggered about things that pop up in life. Whether you’re an entrepreneur or busy mom, feeling less triggered more of the time sounds pretty nice, right?
Grab a pen, journal, and let’s get to it!
What are all the benefits this experience has given you? From the moment it happened until now. What gifts and lessons have come from this experience/trauma? The goal is to write down at least 50 benefits from a perceived challenging experience.
For example, being molested at a young age has taught me boundaries not only in my personal life but my business. I run a very organized, systematic business so that no one can metaphorically “molest” this entity I have created. I’ve hired people to keep an eye on my money, my people, all of it. Some may call this controlling. I see it as smart business so I can keep serving people without worrying about all the things happening in the background.
The second part of this requires a little more “Tuned Thinking” as my breakthrough coach Sam describes.
2. Going back to that moment of challenge/trauma, who or what was there equally supporting you? Write down the first name, entity, support group, and/or organization that intuitively comes to mind. Don’t think too much about it.
We must remember the universe is always balanced even if we don’t see the bigger picture in moments of perceived chaos. In every challenge of your life, there is equal and opposite support available to you. The key is first becoming aware of its existence.
For example, in the moment I was in a state of molestation, my support came from both my mother and spirit. Even though she wasn’t physically there, she was in my mind supporting me no matter what.
If you’re curious to dive deeper into this work, I highly encourage you to reach out to my Breakthrough Coach, Sam Roth, to learn more.
Yours in triumph and reclaiming your life,