Tuesday, 12 December 2023

Linda-maree Conyard

Choice is something we all take for granted and subconsciously expect we will always have as part of our daily lives. We are always making choices. Just take a minute and see how many choices you made this morning. Lots of those will be habitual choices such as what you have for breakfast, what you are wearing for today and what time you have to get out the door and head to work.

Choice is an important guiding force for freedom and self-agency in our lives and often feels unattainable amidst the chaotic aftermath of trauma. Trauma Bytes this week brings into light how we can lose touch with conscious choice after trauma and unresolved trauma.

In our Transformative Alchemy classes, we talk a lot about self-agency, which means our feeling of control over ourselves, our actions and our life. We also work on self-determination, self-knowledge, self-respect and self-care. Why would we focus so much on getting to know the self and building a stable and compassionate relationship with the self?... because this is where satisfaction and freedom are derived from.

Drawing from the wisdom of mindfulness practices, the invitation is there for you to unveil your own pathway towards reclaiming your agency and making conscious, empowered choices, even if there are lingering shadows of unresolved trauma. In this edition of Trauma Bytes, we'll explore:

  • ​Absence of Choice During Trauma;
  • Nurturing Choice After Trauma; and
  • Mindfulness Practices for Reclaiming Your Agency around Choice.

Trauma thrusts us into survival mode, where conscious decision-making and choice fall into the realm of disconnection and seems out of reach.

1. Absence of Choice During Trauma

When trauma strikes, it upends our sense of self-determination and self-agency. The intensity and overwhelming nature of traumatic events force us into survival mode, where making conscious choices seems nearly impossible. In such moments, our primary focus automatically shifts to immediate survival, with decisions driven by instinct rather than considered deliberation. The trauma itself overrides our ability to exercise choice, leaving us feeling powerless and at the mercy of circumstances beyond our control.

This is a very natural process and one that we need. The problem is when the trauma has been completed, and we are not able to process the experience, we are then left with living our life through unresolved trauma. For example, the traumatic situation is complete, and we are safe, but we are still not able to consciously make choices. We may deflect to what others are choosing to fit in and feel safe. We may experience the churning in the mind over the decision that needs to be made and are just unable to decide. We may ask people for their opinions on what to do. The outcome for each of these examples is nearly always the same—turmoil in the mind, charge in the body, and no connection with what you need.

2. Nurturing Choice After Trauma

Post-trauma, the residues of the experience continue to affect us, influencing our thoughts, emotions, and behaviours. Although the direct threat might have passed, what's unresolved of the trauma lingers, impacting our ability to trust ourselves and make empowered choices. We find ourselves entangled with the past, living with unresolved pain, and grappling with decisions influenced by unresolved experiences.

The very first thing that will support you in reclaiming your agency around choice is to recognise what is happening to you. Notice what happens in your body and mind when you are confronted with having to make a choice.

Nurturing choice after trauma involves acknowledging the challenges and slowly rebuilding the capacity to make choices aligned with your values. It's a journey of self-compassion and honouring what remains unresolved within.

It's crucial to recognise that while trauma may have affected your past, it doesn't have to dictate your future. Like anything you may want to heal or change, it takes commitment from you to yourself.

3. Mindfulness Practices for Reclaiming Your Agency around Choice

One super important aspect to include as you work with claiming back your agency around choice is to celebrate every time that you consciously make a choice.

Practices such as body scans, journaling, and grounding exercises help reconnect with the present moment, cultivating a greater sense of self-awareness and aiding in acknowledging the unresolved impacts of trauma. They can create a safe space for introspection and self-compassion, enabling a gradual shift towards reclaiming agency and making conscious choices.'Once you see something, you can't not see it.

Transformative Alchemy's Choice Reclamation Practice

This practice assumes that you are now in a safe space and the trauma is over, and you may be experiencing living with unresolved trauma. If you are not in a safe space, this practice is not suitable or supportive. Please do what you can to find safety for yourself with whatever resources you have available to you.

  • Ground Yourself: Find a quiet space. Take your full attention to your feet touching the ground. Notice the strength and stability of the ground that supports you. Now move your attention to your sitting bones on the chair and feel the weight of your body in the chair. Feel the back of the chair supporting your back. Notice your breath; no need to change it. Just notice the rhythm of your own breath. Pay attention to the coolness of the air as it enters your nose. Then notice the warmth of the breath as it leaves through your nose. Notice where your breath goes to; is it shallow, or does it go to your belly? There is no need to change anything you are simply noticing your breath. Spend a few moments in this present awareness.
  • Reflect on Choice: Recall a time when trauma robbed you of choice. Avoid going into the trauma itself and stay with knowing you had no choice. You know how this felt in your body then, and you are now safe. Affirm for yourself that it was necessary at the time to have your survival mechanisms take over automatically. It was exactly what you needed at the time of the trauma. This trauma may have gone on for a long time, or it may have been a single traumatic instance. Just know that however you survived your trauma is exactly the right way. Sometimes, we can make ourselves wrong when all we are doing is surviving an overwhelming situation. Stay with this acknowledgement for as long as you need.
  • Compassionate Acceptance: Time to drop the fight within. Without acceptance, we will be left with an inner battle. Can you recognise an inner battle? See how much acceptance of what has already been; you can allow for yourself. This doesn't mean that what happened to you was right or didn't cause you harm. It is purely acknowledging the truth of the trauma and that it happened and you have survived it. Release what doesn't belong to you and leave it with whoever is responsible for it. Show yourself deep compassion; this awareness was out of reach before. See if you are able to feel gratitude for this newfound insight.
  • Embrace Present Moment: Bring your attention back to your breath. Become aware of this present moment. Now this present moment and stay experiencing one moment after the other. Embrace the present as it is without any need for change. If your mind comes in and takes you away from this moment, gently thank the mind and return to the present moment. Stay with this for a little while.
  • Reflection, Embodiment and Gratitude: Take a moment to write any insights, or if you don't feel like writing them, you can take a moment to really embody the insights. To embody the insights, deeply feel how and where your body was impacted by the experience. When you have taken the time you need, gently stretch your body and come back to your space. Feel deep gratitude for this time you have gifted yourself.

By engaging in these practices, you can discern between reactions stemming from past trauma and authentic choices. This mindful exploration cultivates a greater sense of self-awareness and agency in life after trauma.

If you would like me to record this for you, please write back saying 'I'd love the meditation recorded'

May this week's Trauma Bytes guide you on the transformative path towards reclaiming choice and finding freedom and inner peace in the present moment.

I love hearing from you and receiving your updates, so please keep them coming.

May you be well, may you be happy, and may you have inner peace.

Linda ♡

If you try out any offered practices, I’d love to hear how you found them and what you now understand that you didn’t before. I love, love, love hearing from you guys.

If you are ready to make lasting changes to your life and would like some support, then come and join our Transformative Alchemy Membership, where we delve deeper into topics like those I write about in Trauma Bytes and provide you with the tools and community support needed to maintain positive transformations in your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. It's an opportunity to create sustainable, thriving, and holistic well-being that stands the test of time. More information is below.

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