Healing trauma: Feeling Worse Before We Feel Better

Healing trauma: feeling worse before we feel better


When going through the journey of healing trauma, you may feel worse before you feel better. Often, when we’ve experienced trauma, we do something called dissociation. This is a broad spectrum, just like ADHD or autism. Dissociation is a mental process where someone disconnects from their feelings, surroundings, body, memories, or sense of identity. It’s a protection mechanism that our bodies grace us with during a traumatic experience. 


Have you ever tried to recall a traumatic childhood memory but couldn’t remember details, it seemed foggy, or you know it happened but don’t remember it happening? This is dissociation. Your body didn’t want you to feel that extreme pain, so it blocked the moment(s) you experienced. In more extreme dissociation, the experience literally never made it into the conscious mind to register. Our bodies are amazing that way. 


When we begin healing our trauma in therapy, we tend to feel worse in the beginning. This is because, for the first time in years or perhaps ever, we’re allowing ourselves to feel what we experienced. If we dissociated, it’s because the trauma was too great for us to handle at that time, and as we are digging deep into therapy, we are unearthing what we never wanted to feel in the first place. Digging into old wounds is seriously hard, and I am the first to admit it feels really shitty as you do it. As I continue on my own healing journey, I’ve been experiencing days that are pretty intense and leaving me so exhausted that I need to nap on the couch and do the bare minimum. As you heal, you will need to rest more than usual. I’ve even dreaded going to therapy the following week for fear of feeling those awful experiences again. But avoidance isn’t where healing takes place.


I keep going to therapy and digging deep into the past. I, we, need to feel to heal. Talk therapy is great, but it wasn’t enough for me to heal because trauma isn’t in the brain; it’s in our bodies. I then began NET (NeuroEmotional Technique), a type of therapy for complex trauma (CPTSD) and others. That has been instrumental in helping me along my healing path over the last few years. Still, as old traumas were re-triggered, I needed more to move the needle towards greater healing. So, I recently began EMDR, another therapy for trauma survivors. 


Both NET and EMDR use techniques that help release trauma that’s stored in the physical body. This is called Somatic healing, and I’m sure we’ll hear more about it within the next year or so. We’re learning through more recent studies that feelings don’t initiate in the brain but in our bodies, and our brains assign meaning to them, creating a formed experience known as emotions. This is the reason behind disease spawning from stored, unresolved trauma. It’s literally locked within our body and triggers diseases like autoimmunity.


Talk therapy combined with mindfulness, eating to support gut health (where our second brain lives), and somatic therapies like NET or EMDR or others are taking a holistic approach. The multi-pronged approach helps you move the trauma out of your body.  


Feel to heal. It’s not easy and can be scary, but I promise it’s worth it. Don’t you deserve a life that allows you to feel the beauty it has to offer and be present to all that is here for you? That answer is emphatically yes. We all deserve healing, to move forward in a joyful life, and to show generations after us how to care for ourselves. 

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