Mark and Arian started counselling together to improve their relationship. As Mark dealt with his son, James, his past trauma surfaced and he spent some time learning to be more connected with his body, understanding the dynamics in his brain and building some acceptance around the discomfort of his activated ‘system’. Mark is about to do some difficult work on his trauma.
When the body freezes…
In the following session, Mark begins to tell the story of the car crash he experienced in greater detail. He notices the activation in his body and his counsellor carefully helps him go slowly enough to remain within a space that allows him to stay ‘online’. But as Mark talks about the moment of the actual impact, how his body got catapulted forward against the seat-belt, how the car’s front crumpled, his body freezes and locks down.
Work on Trauma: Finding the power of life that lives in all of us
The counsellor gently guides Mark to breathe deeply into his body and search for the impulse that will arise. Mark can feel the urge of moving his arms forward in a bracing position arising. He is guided to slowly lift his arms and push into the imaginary seat in front of him. His hole body is tense. As he pushes with the encouragement of the therapist beside him, energy begins to move and the power in his body becomes more active.
In fact, Mark notices how the strength he uses to push now feels exactly the same as the strength he used quite often when playing Rugby in his youth. His arms begin to move out to the side. He notices how the energy changes from frozen to movement, from trapped to empowered. Tears are streaming down his face as he feels the weight of fear that has been part of the past 20 years of his life, lift.
Our bodies know how to respond and regulate
Then, his body runs out of activation and begins to settle into an exhausted stillness. Mark is exhausted. He is still crying and notices the tears for the first time. They are now tears of release and sadness. In fact, an overwhelming sadness comes in. Mark sits there together with the counsellor and cries until the tears stop too.
Growth follows release
They spend the rest of the session gently exploring the experience. Mark notices the changes in the body and how the memory has shifted in his mind. This was the hardest thing Mark ever did emotionally. The counsellor warns him that working on trauma can be exhausting. She recommends to be gentle and take it easy for the rest of the day. It will take some time to recover strength and energy for his every-day life. Mark is just glad he can go home and spend some time alone. He thinks about James and smiles: Somehow it feels like the path to getting to know his son has just emerged in front of him.
If you want to move beyond the paralysing forces of trauma, get in touch and book a free 45-minute check-in-session with Mattie now to find out how trauma-informed counselling can help you.