Trauma and Healing

Trauma is the result of a not fully processed emotional burden. It is helpful to understand, why something like this exists and remains in our body. With understanding the process that created it, it is easier to trust to the treatments, which effectively dissolve the trauma again.


In the case of an extreme load situation, our system can switch off, i.e. the body instinctively reacts with immobilization. Just as the flight or fight reflex is automatically used to cope with a threat that threatens survival, a so called freeze sets in, when the victim perceives that there is no more possibility of flight or fighting. The point in time when this happens depends entirely on the individuals capacities, that are available at the moment of immobilization. The assessment can therefore be different in others or even within the same person at a different point in time. The immobilization cannot be consciously controlled either. The only prerequisite for its triggering is the comprehensive conviction of powerlessness (I can’t).

An instinctive protection Reflex and our human interference

Exactly the same reflex works in an antelope caught by a tiger in the wild. All of a sudden all attempts to escape or fight are stopping. The moment before contact with its attacker and pursuer, the antelope falls to the ground. A condition that indigenous people describe as a “surrender of the spirit of the prey to the predator”. The antelope is neither injured nor dead. However, its consciousness has changed. It has entered another level. Physiologists refer to this condition as “immobility” or “freezing response”. The freezing response follows the today more popular flight or fight reflex (see picture below) and like them, it is a survival protective mechanism. If the antelope is not eaten directly by the tiger, it will wake up at a later time. The antelope would stretch, shake out, and flee – if she can. Also, entering into the freeze protects against the pain and agony that killing brings with it. A second advantage of not little importance.

This mechanism in humans is not only found as a reaction to a sudden, extreme experience of shock (accident or sexual assault), but is often the result of terrible conditioning with continuous or constantly recurring stress (e.g humiliation). But however it is initiated, the mechanism itself is not the real problem here. The traumatization is the problem. It develops, when we did not completely surrender to this instinctive freezing response, or when we have not naturally and completely come out of this state. Only then does the traumatization arise. Entering and exiting this process fully is crucial to avoiding any late effects. While the antelope completely surrenders to this mechanism, humans often have strong mental resistances associated with fear of death or immobility. The natural transition is disturbed.

Even if the stressful experience is long forgotten cognitively (forgetting can also be another security mechanism), aspects of emotionally healthy behavioral experience remains fixed with the unresolved blockage. This fixation is the most important and most frequent cause for a construction of behavior, referred to as “maladapted”. In the vast majority of cases of mental disorders, trauma is the predictor, mediator or moderator.

Freeze Trauma
Flight-Fight and Freeze Response: The Mechanics

What can effectively heal Trauma?

First of all, no drug available in any pharmacy can resolve trauma. Even with the vast majority of the methods used in psychotherapy, this goal cannot be achieved (effectively), because they start with the obvious and adapted behavioral programs, but do not resolve the underlying traumatic dispositions. Blockages and processes remain unresolved in the body. So in the real sense the client does not heal. Newly applied behavioral programs are and will remain foreign programs, even if they are less harmful.

Effective, healing methods of treatment go back with the patient to the situation of stress – not necessarily cognitively, but at least emotionally and physically. This is often not that easy. Therapy methods like that work within an altered state of consciousness are of great help. Breathwork or the MDMA-assisted-psychotherapy are good examples. Here the changed self-perception can overcome protective mechanisms, that have been built up over many years, and release blocked processes and emotions again. The dissolution and healing of even very old traumas happens automatically. The prerequisite is a trusting environment and experienced therapy support. The Trauma Release Excercises (TRE) are also effective. These are special physical exercises and sequences of movements, that reactivate the deactivation process and which should actually have occurred naturally after the freeze. The Somatic Experiencing (SE) also goes back to the place of the original stress by calling up the connected body sensations. The therapist helps the client to resume the handicapped movement sequences and finally to fully execute or complete them. An other method, which finally gets more and more popular, is the Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). This treatment is actually able to dissolve some traumatic connections in the brain via simple eye movement sequences.

Last but not least meditation again remains to be mentioned as a practice with most effective means. Even the steps are sometimes not visible from today to tomorrow, meditation is a key technique in self-healing. It unfolds its incredible potential through the slow but constant release of blocked or automated reaction chains and their visualization in your own silence.

People ask me how I have managed to go through what I have and not end up broken. The answer is that I let myself be broken. I let myself be broken open instead of letting those broken pieces of me become calcified.

Teal Swan