We often think of trauma in terms of the big things that have impacted us. However, trauma can come from the smaller every day effects of life when things were too much for our systems to deal with. While trauma has become a buzzword, in fact it is a way of talking about the fact that sometimes our bodies and our nervous systems have held on to ‘stuff’ from the past and that affects how we live our lives in the now.
Experiences such as irritability, sudden outbursts, anxiety, depression and flatness all point to a nervous system that is out of balance. And that is something we can work with and do something about. When I work in couples counselling, I help clients to recognise these instincts and to take on practices that bring about change at a fundamental level. There are many simple tools and practices that work in this way.
In knowing that the nervous system can be supported by simple tools and practices, it becomes possible to see how therapy needs to be to create an environment where unwinding of these states and tendencies can occur and proper healing can take place. For that to happen, we need these elements:
Safety is the sense that the body can relax and be in relationship with another person. It is a place from which learning can take place and where healing can occur. In this work we look to find a feeling of safety or ‘safe enough’ so that we can proceed. Safety in couples counselling is paramount.
Resourcing is the practice of inviting our mind/body to connect with sensations of safety or goodness, however small they may be. The process of attending to a felt sense of “okayness,” begins the process of teaching our nervous system that it can experience stress, and then come back to a state of calm. If we can dip in and out of stress and come back to calm we are developing flexibility in our systems.
Your behaviour is not who you are. Behaviours that come from the fight, flight and freeze response of the nervous system are attempts for the body to protect itself. So when see red in an instant and want to fight, this is a nervous system response to ward off danger. When you switch off and all you want to do is get out of the situation, this is your flight response to get you away from danger. When you shut down, can’t answer, stand up for yourself or go numb, this is the freeze response which is keeping you from feeling pain. When we begin to understand these reactions as ways our systems are trying to protect us, we can remove blame, shaming and making someone wrong. Instead, we can begin to work with those instincts and develop tools to address them. Because of the way the brain and nervous system works, we can bring about permanent change. If a client can free themselves from blaming another or feeling that they are broken and they can begin to see that these states can change under their own efforts, then the path to self responsibility and empowerment is laid. People in relationship who are self responsible and empowered make great partners!
The Right Pace. Working at a pace that is right for the clients and their system means that real change can take place. I aim to work in a way that the client or clients are not overwhelmed but are stretched just enough for new pathways to be formed and healing to take place. In this way, I work together with my clients so that they become empowered to experience this process and be able to take into their everyday lives. Past hurts can become integrated properly. With practice, these sudden instincts to fight, flight and freeze become replaced with strategies that we choose as adults to support us when we need it. Then we are no longer slaves to our reactions but have mastery and choice in our lives.
These four elements are the foundation of my work and can make the foundation of your lives together for a resilient and robust relationship.
Imagine being in connection where you create safety, are able to resource together, live free of blame, shame and making wrong and where you are aware of the pace you need. Good, right?
With this in mind, please contact me if you feel I may be able to help you. I look forward to hearing from you, Grace