Tuesday, 29 August 2023

Linda-maree Conyard

Having a sense of safety can be nearly impossible in a world that sometimes feels like a turbulent ocean. This week's Trauma Bytes explores the profound concept of safety and how understanding it through a trauma-informed lens can transform your healing.

Distinction: This exploration focuses on unresolved trauma and is not relevant if you are still trapped in the trauma. Do what you must to keep yourself safe if you are in an unsafe environment. One thing you could work on if you are living in an unsafe environment is to learn how to regulate yourself (calm your nervous system) in the moments when you are not actively surviving. Here are three offerings to test out in any moment when the threat is not imminent or present:

  • Notice your breathing. Are you breathing or holding your breath? Can you take a breath? Can you make it deeper the next time you breathe in?
  • Stand up and feel your feet on the ground. Take all of your attention to the place where the soles of your feet meet the ground. Ensure that all of your attention is on the meeting place of your feet and the ground.
  • Take yourself outside in the sun and/or under the moonlight. Take just a few moments to truly feel the sun or moonlight being absorbed into your body through your skin.

Find the moments when you can take a Nano break from surviving. They do exist, you just have to recognize them and then take action to use them to support yourself.

Challenging the trauma response that comes when you are actually safe, but your body is responding like you are not.

Safety is more than physical security; it's a cornerstone of emotional well-being. In this edition of Trauma Bytes, we'll explore:

  • ​The Safety Paradox;
  • Safety and Maslow's Hierarchy; and
  • Tools for Rewiring.

1. The Safety Paradox: Uncover why trauma responses can emerge even in safe environments.

Safety, on the surface, might appear straightforward – a secure environment free from danger. However, for those carrying unresolved trauma, true safety isn't only about external conditions; it's about how the mind interprets those conditions. Trauma responses can distort perceptions, leading the mind to perceive danger where there is none.

Unresolved trauma often manifests as trauma responses in safe spaces. A phenomenon that can be confusing, puzzling, and frustrating. You may even feel like you are going a bit crazy. That is because somewhere within your subconscious, you know your reaction doesn't belong in the present moment. Your unhealed past has been triggered.

Peter Levine, in his book Waking the Tiger, talks about re-enactment. We subconsciously draw to us what is calling to be healed. If you look back over your life, you may see that you keep facing the same situations. It’s like you can’t run far enough away from yourself. You always catch up!

These repeating patterns, as difficult as they may be, are always an opportunity for us to change the direction of our view and turn inward to learn what it is needed for this to be resolved.

2. Safety and Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs: Discover how safety fits into the layers of human needs and impacts your potential.

Abraham Mazlow, an American Psychologist, published his idea of a hierarchy of needs in 1943 in a paper called “A Theory of Human Motivation”.

Safety is a fundamental human need and takes its place in the foundation of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. It encompasses physical security but also psychological and emotional well-being. If our basic needs are not met, then it is impossible for us to reach our full potential during the experience of this life.

Understanding the safety paradox through Maslow's lens highlights its impact on our potential. Safety is a basic human need and emerges as a prerequisite for higher levels of self-actualization, esteem, and love/belonging.

Trauma responses rooted in unresolved past experiences can hinder this upward journey, keeping us trapped on the lower rungs of this pyramid, which are our survival states.

The idea is that once all the needs are met at the lower levels of the pyramid, the potential exists for us to move upward toward the goal of self-actualization. Can you locate where you are currently sitting on this pyramid?

3. Tools for Rewiring: Learn practical techniques to create a sense of safety within yourself, regardless of external circumstances.

There are three critical skills that need to be developed to be able to resolve the unresolved and free yourself to move toward your full potential.

  • ​Understanding;
  • Awareness; and
  • Connection.

Understanding
Understanding that the symptoms you are experiencing are the result of unresolved trauma. These symptoms are more than likely things you would go to your doctor for.

Understanding the safety paradox is key to untangling this intricate web of survival mechanisms. Trauma responses, fight, flight and freeze are rooted in the brain's defense systems, hard-wired to protect us from threats. Its sole purpose is to ensure our survival. However, when you have an unhealed past, these responses can be triggered by situations that share even a slight resemblance to the original trauma that remains unresolved, creating a false alarm in seemingly safe surroundings

Awareness
To break free from the cycle of unresolved trauma hijacking your full potential and give you the opportunity to ascend the hierarchy of needs, it's essential to cultivate self-awareness.
Without awareness, it is not possible to heal or make any change. Once you see something, you can’t not see it. An example: when you decide to buy that blue car, you start to see blue cars everywhere. Before that decision, you didn’t notice blue cars. Awareness is critical for healing.

Recognize your triggers and gently acknowledge their presence without judgement (no judgement is particularly important for healing). Make the link and place those reactions where they belong in your past and allow them to assimilate as part of your lived experiences. In doing so, you empower yourself to differentiate between past and present, giving yourself the chance to live more fully in every moment and move towards self-actualization.

Connection
After decades of my own personal work and working with many clients, it has become very clear to me that there is one answer to suffering of any kind. It is the first of what I see as the three major disconnects that limit us individually, in relationships, in our family, in our society, in our country and globally. These disconnects are:

  • ​The disconnection within the self;
  • The disconnection between self and others; and
  • The disconnection between self and our environment.

If we master the connection within ourselves, the reconnection of the other two will happen as a result of the work we do on the first one.

“Trauma happens in disconnection. Healing happens in connection.”  –Linda Conyard

Transformative Alchemy: Inhabit the Body, Liberate the Mind was created to support you in practising awareness and delving deeper into understanding how your unhealed past and trauma responses stop hijacking your life, where you can learn to challenge the validity of the responses, and nurture a sense of safety, and move towards self-actualization.

If our lives are a way for us to Self-Actualize, consider how much time you may spend in the lower rungs of this process. Consider what your life may look like if you were to move into the higher rungs of this pyramid.

As you navigate the delicate terrain of safety, trauma, and human needs, remember that healing is not a linear path and requires a connection between mind, body and spirit. By understanding safety's role in Maslow's pyramid and unresolved trauma responses, you gain the awareness to become the creator (*whale) of your life instead of being an unsuspecting victim (*jellyfish) of your life.

May this week's Trauma Bytes be your lantern in the night, guiding you toward the shores of authentic safety – within and around you.

*If you haven’t heard my whale and jellyfish analogy, it is what I use as a way of differentiating between being responsible for your life or letting life's challenges rule you. The whale follows its inner knowing regardless of what the ocean does. While the jellyfish is at the mercy of the ocean without any will of its own. We all need to find our inner whale!

Enjoy practising working with safety.

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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