In this blog, Mark makes a powerful connection between his struggles with his son, James, and his own past. As painful memories flood his system, he learns the first steps of healing from his own trauma.
Anger is the trigger
Mark and Arian started relationship counselling to improve their communication skills and find ways out of ongoing conflict. During this time, the struggle with their teenage son, James, becomes a trigger for Mark to seek help with his anger.
In counselling, Mark is gently led through an exercise that helps him discover the underlying cause of his struggle. Mark quite easily gets in touch with the feelings he experienced a few days ago. The attempt to engage James in a reasonable conversation about what really matters in life went very wrong…again. Anger and frustration are the first to show up. Further searching, however, reveal a fear for his son, that surprises him completely. Mark discovers that he wants his son to conform with what he knows to be ‘good’ behaviour in order to stay in control. Mark is scared of losing control as James pushes for more liberty.
The loss of control brings up painful trauma memories
The counsellor asks how familiar this feeling is and Mark finally makes a powerful connection to the car accident he was involved in when he was 17. At the time, his cousin crashed the car, causing the death of a friend. The power of this memory causes tears to well up. After the incident, on that fateful day, no-one focused on him. Mark was the one who survived with little injury. He had not caused the accident. He was not dead.
Once the story comes out, Mark is able to connect to the insane fear he experienced the moment his friend lost control of the car. He can feel his body shutting down; the slowing down of the moments as they passed by in slow-motion. He knew, the crash was inevitable. He becomes aware of how his body prepared for the impact without him putting a clear thought to it.
Although the event happened almost two decades ago, Mark experiences the ‘shutting-down’ of his body as if he was going through the accident episode again.
Trauma work is challenging and at the same time the most rewarding work anyone can do!
At this point Mark and his counsellor embark on the first step toward releasing a trauma that has lived in his body for many years. This is difficult and slow work. Mark is gently guided to move in and out of the experiences his body goes into. Discovering that he has the capacity to come back into the present moment is one of the skills that help him to slowly regain a deeper internal sense of control.
Mark learns how thinking about the event triggers his body to respond with fear. He begins to notice the fear in his body. This is the first time, Mark actually sits with his felt experience without drawing away from it. In that process he begins to notice the changes in his body and, most importantly, how the fear rises and then ebbs. Intermittently the counsellor invites Mark to comes back into the room with his awareness and notice how his body responds. During this first session, Mark moves in and out of the agitation in his body three times. At the end he notices how the fear is so much less intense that he almost has to ‘look for it’ in his body. This is the beginning of helping Mark to neutralize the power of trauma memory in his body. Healing from his trauma has begun.
The understanding of the dynamics of trauma in our system increases the choices we have
During the following weeks, Mark will learn a lot more about what happens in the brain in a traumatic event. The things he discovers help him gain a much deeper understanding about his own seemingly irrational reactions – especially to James. He leaves this session exhausted but immensely relieved: He has no doubt that this is the beginning of a journey that will finally help him to fundamentally change the relationship to James.
Are you struggling with past trauma that interferes in your present life?
If you want to find out how trauma informed counselling can help you free yourself from the pain of the past, book a free 45-minute check-in session.