What Does Trauma Healing Look Like?

  • Post author:
  • Post category:Blog

“Trauma is a fact of life. It does not, however, have to be a life sentence. Not only can trauma be healed, but with appropriate guidance and support, it can be transformative.” Peter Levine, Waking the Tiger

Many clients tell me that to be healed, the whole thing would just go away. Trauma is a fact of life. You may wish that some terrible thing that happened to you could be erased from your memory. I think most of us have or understand that wish. Or maybe you envision a time when you could think about a difficult past and somehow not feel upset or otherwise negatively influenced by it anymore. You’d finally let it go and that would be a relief.

You may feel as many people tell me, that trauma is stuck in your body and you need to learn how to let it out. Because trauma involves threat response in the present moment to something that happened in the past, we can have these surges of adrenaline, strong emotion, or impulses to move, that are intense and feel “stuck” in the body. The opposite experience is just as common — that because of our present-moment threat response to past events, we can feel very disconnected from our body, along with a lack of energy and dulled emotion. 

In my practice, I don’t talk about healing from trauma, because I think the word can bring up too many of these “just get rid of it” ideas. Instead I prefer to talk about trauma-renegotiation. In more recent years, it’s become a common way to describe Somatic Experiencing. I like the term renegotiation because it doesn’t suggest getting back to how we were before the difficulty. We don’t get rid of our history — we can’t really. Our history is ours, and it has been a part of shaping us into the person we have grown to be. Our history includes the patterns of body sensation and movement, thought and emotion that are unique to us in this present moment. 

As we explore in sessions with a lens pointed largely toward movement and sensation, we can begin to re-work our relationship to past difficult events through our present moment experience. We can grow to a place where they don’t have the same power over us all the time. One of my teachers, Joshua Sylvae put it very well in this explanation for what that renegotiation can look like.

“What usually stands out for me as a mark of trauma healed, is the person being able to say something like the following: ‘Wow, as I think about that, I remember just how intense that was at the time. That was really hard. I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy. But now that I’m on the other side of it, I can really see that there were ways I got stronger. I definitely don’t want to go through that again, but you know, it is something that happened to me.’”

Joshua Sylvae, interviewed on Healing Trauma, Podcast, March 2022