Session Focus: Heal 2.0
Our journey will continue on a deeper path of self healing. Let’s focus on stress management. There is a traditional tendency to think we should minimize stress. While this can be helpful, it is not always possible. Instead, what if we refocused the way that we perceive stress. Rather than being a factor that causes us harm, could we see stress as a motivating factor that pushes us towards action? In doing so, we are rewiring the hormonal pathways in our body to not look at stress with a fear response, and in doing so, the body will decrease its stress-response cortisol production over time.
TED Talks | Kelly McGonical - How To Make Stress Your Friend:
Often, stressors can be so severe or chronic that they turn into traumas. At times, we don’t identify with ourselves as having gone through trauma. We may minimize and say others have dealt with much worse. We may blame shift and say it was our fault or we should’ve known better. Psychologically, we know that it’s not the severity of the trauma but rather how we respond that defines our outcome. The first step in trauma counseling is to accept that the things that happen in our lives do shape us, and this isn’t always disempowering. Trauma helps to teach us, either about ourselves or the world around us. If we are able to explore the strengths the trauma has created, then perhaps we can balance our negative thoughts with a sense of resilience and growth. Sometimes, we’re not happy with the way trauma has shaped us. Without blame or judgement, let’s start to objectively assess any perceived weaknesses. Sometimes, we develop anger, resentment, and feel the world is a terrible place. This is our opportunity to reframe these negative outlooks. Here are some journal prompts to help your self-exploration.
• Write about a negative cognition you hold that you know is not true, and reflect on why it isn’t.
• Write about your safe space (e.g. how you created it, what it means to you, what it represents).
• Write about your take on forgiveness. Who do you know you should forgive? How has it been going not practicing forgiveness? What do you need to forgive yourself for?
• Write a letter to your younger self, and reflect on your traumas and how you want to counsel your younger self. What would you say to comfort that person? What advice would you give? Offer your past self the acceptance and love that s/he needs.
• Write about the event in the third person, as though it happened to someone else. Change the location and, if possible, the gender of this someone else. After you’ve described the event and its effects on the person, read your story aloud. How does reading and hearing about the event as though it happened to someone else change your perspective?
• If you’ve suffered as a result of someone else’s actions, write about the event from his or her perspective. What was his background and what was going on in his life at the time? What does forgiving another person mean, and what would it take for you to forgive him or her?
• What does happiness mean to you? Is it possible for happiness to co-exist with a history of trauma?
• Write about a trauma response you are working on and the cost vs. benefit of it on your life.
• Adversity leads to growth. What have you learned by going through this trauma that now affects the way you make decisions? Write about positive decisions you’ve made or believe you will make as a result of what you went through.
HEAL EXERCISE: Double Dissociative Technique
During a low dose experience, try to be an observer of your trauma. There is a double dissociative technique of imagining yourself sitting in a theater watching yourself watching the trauma on a movie screen. Begin to fast forward the images on the screen, then play it in reverse. Now, make it black and white. Or change the colors to something silly. Add some silly costumes to the people in the scenes. The goal here is to scramble away the heavy emotional response away from our memory of the trauma. Focus on empathy to replace anger, use gratitude to replace sadness, and find inner peace to replace stored conflict. If your mindset is peaceful going in to the experience, the medicine will help you dissociate away from the heavy baseline emotions and help to create a new baseline of feeling, thinking, and behaving.
Caution: be careful to not venture into traumas that cause severe distress without professional psychotherapy. If your anchored trauma is too sensitive, consider the above exercise with a trigger you’ve experienced in relation to your trauma.