by Karena Neukirchner
Karena Neukirchner is a transformational coach who specializes in helping clients quickly identify and heal subconscious blocks, old emotional wounds and self-sabotaging core beliefs that are holding them back from living the life that they know they want!
Dedicated to helping her clients heal the wounds that are at the very root of their struggles, her work is deeply transformative, compassionate and profound.
Today we’re going to be talking about how to heal trauma and I’m going to tell you the 3 biggest myths about trauma (that are preventing us from truly healing the trauma in our lives), and how to heal trauma at its roots (which actually exist in the subconscious mind).
I created this blog post in response to a question posed by Justin from the Polyvagal Podcast. Justin asked a bunch of his peers to make blog posts answering the question, “Is telling the trauma story necessary for treatment?”
My answer to this question is – no! Telling the trauma story is not necessary to heal from trauma in lots of cases – and you’ll find out why as we get deeper into this blog on trauma and the subconscious mind!
To start, let’s dive into the 3 biggest myths about trauma.
Myth #1 – Traumatic memory is organized in our minds the same way that other memories are.
This is not true – and I’m going to tell you why … as well as tell you why believing this myth ultimately makes it harder to heal from trauma.
If I were to ask you what you ate for breakfast today, what you did after breakfast, and how you felt about your breakfast in general, you would have no problem telling me a coherent story about your morning.
Your mind organized and stored those memories clearly and in an orderly fashion so that recalling it is probably effortless to you. You easily have a coherent, conscious and verbal story about your morning.
This is an example of explicit memory.
Our conscious, logical mind loves to understand and categorize things cleanly and neatly and so this explicit memory is very comfortable and easy for us to understand.
Because this is our experience most of the time, when we think of trauma, we tend to think of it as something that happened in the past. And we tend to expect our memories of trauma to also be orderly, conscious and coherent.
But the research around how trauma affects us unequivocally shows that this is not the case.
Quite often when people are experiencing traumatic events, large parts of their brains simply shut off. For example, brain scans show that often the thalamus (among many other specific areas of the brain responsible for our higher functioning) is turned off during traumatic events.
The thalamus helps us make coherent sense of our world based on the sensory information we are receiving at any given moment.
For example, my thalamus right now is taking in all of the bits of data coming in from my sensory organs and creating the coherent story that I am sitting in my home, recording a video about trauma.
When the thalamus is shut down during trauma, traumatized individuals are left with unintegrated images, sensations, thoughts, smells, and sounds in their implicit memory but they may or may not be able to put those all together to form a coherent autobiographical story of exactly what happened to them in their conscious memory.
All of the minute details of sensory data live somewhere in the subconscious mind, affecting their moods, behaviors, feelings and responses to life – without the conscious mind even knowing that’s happening.
Another part of the brain that is often shut down during trauma is the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex – which is a part of our brains that helps us understand the passage of time. Because this part of the brain helps us tell the past from the present, this at least in part explains why many people who have experienced trauma in the past can feel as though the trauma is still happening in the present – whether they are aware that that is how they are interpreting their world or not.
Beyond this, there is tons of scientific evidence that shows that trauma actually rewires our brains so that our perception of the world is more fear based and that we’re always on alert for danger.
So, for people who have experienced trauma, often times it doesn’t feel like it happened in the past – it is actually a very real part of their present moment reality. And, they may or may not have a totally coherent, conscious timeline of events.
This is incredibly important to understand in the healing of trauma, because when we think that trauma is experienced and remembered in the same way as the rest of our lives, then we misunderstand our own experience and expect ourselves to heal in ways that simply aren’t realistic.
Traumatic memory is stored in our subconscious, implicit memory and so we need to deal with our trauma by addressing it at it’s subconscious roots – or we won’t heal it at all.
More on how to do that later in the video, but for now, let’s move on to myth #2!
Myth #2 – Talking about our trauma will heal it!
Talking to a trusted, compassionate person about our trauma can have many benefits … Especially if our trauma had aspects of secrecy, shame or repression. But there are numerous ways in which just talking fails to help us heal the deepest layers of our trauma.
When we are talking, we are coming from our conscious, verbal, thinking mind. I’ve already explained to you that much of our traumatic experience lives in our subconscious minds – in our implicit, limbic memory. So, you may have already noticed part of the limitation of talking.
But it goes even further than that.
Just like the thalamus, the region in our brains that is responsible for language (Broca’s area) is often also shut off during traumatic events. So, though words can be important, they are limited in their capacity to even access our trauma … much less heal it.
Using language takes us one step away from our actual experience of trauma – which is the implicit, subconscious, experiential level. And to be able to heal trauma, we need to heal where it is stored in our systems.
So just talking, while it can be valuable, does not help you unlock the stored trauma deep in your system.
Myth #3 – There’s something broken about you because of your trauma responses
This is a myth! You are not broken!
Trauma can affect our lives in many, many ways. It can cause us to panic, experience anxiety, to avoid our feelings, to avoid the world, it can amp up our emotional reactivity, or dampen and numb our feelings entirely, it can lead to shame, self-criticism, low self-esteem, codependency, compulsive behaviors, hypervigilance, fear of intimacy … and so much more.
And, our trauma responses often seem irrational, illogical or out of our control.
Based on everything that I’ve already told you, you can probably see why. These responses originate deep in our subconscious minds and are beyond the scope of our rational, logical, conscious minds.
And, that can make so many people who have experienced trauma feel broken or wrong or alone.
I totally understand this feeling. Most of my life I didn’t even acknowledge that I’d experienced trauma, I just felt ashamed of my anxiety and my awkwardness. I ended up with really bad postpartum depression at one point in my life and didn’t even seek treatment for it for months because I just thought that it was happening to me because I was a bad person. That’s how I saw myself.
But, I was wrong. I’m not a bad person.
And neither are you.
When I was deep in my postpartum depression, I had a person say to me, “I think you’ve been traumatized.”
I wasn’t totally sure what she meant, but it changed my life. I embarked on a decade of studying trauma, going to therapy and doing yoga and meditation to help myself reframe my self image and my experience of the world.
I am extremely grateful for that decade of exploring and healing – and those things helped me so much. I’m endlessly grateful for all of it. But, honestly, at the end of the day, my reflexive trauma response of deep social anxiety only decreased a little bit in all of that time.
Then, I discovered a new type of emotional processing system called Regenerating Images in Memory, or RIM® that actually took me straight to the subconscious roots of my trauma and my social anxiety decreased by about 50% in just three months. I was totally astonished …
Now I have used the RIM® method to help myself dive more deeply into my trauma healing than ever before and I use it in my business with all of my clients.
The interesting thing about RIM® is that during a RIM® session, you are guided into your subconscious reality by focusing on images and feelings that spontaneously arise in your body.
In this way, you tap into the experiential world of the subconscious – and you can take that implicit memory and bring it into your conscious awareness.
This is really empowering and after doing it with many clients, I’ve been able to see first hand that there is deep wisdom and coherence in the trauma responses they’ve been experiencing. When their trauma responses are approached in this way, it’s clear that those responses make total sense in light of that person’s life experiences and were that person’s way of trying to avoid getting hurt and ensure their own safety and well-being.
So, your trauma responses do not mean you are broken … your trauma responses are actually deeply wise, adaptive behaviors given your life circumstances.
So, have some compassion for yourself today and everyday.
If you want more information on Regenerating Images in Memory, click here.
I hope that this helped you understand your own trauma responses better!
Please leave a comment below and tell me: what surprised you most about the 3 myths about how to heal trauma?