The danger of unresolved trauma
Resilience is defined not by resistance, but rather by the ability to flow through all of life’s inevitable stressors - everything from mis-calculating the height of a sidewalk curb to staying up all night with your crying baby to getting rear-ended by a texting teenager to losing your job.
When we can’t figure out how to flow, how to roll with the crazy rollercoaster of life, we freeze. We splint. It’s a built-in resource, an intelligent instinctual reaction we unconsciously use. It’s meant to buy us time to figure out how to respond. When we freeze in place, we can deal with the ‘known’ rather than the ‘unknown’ of flowing in response to whatever is thrown our way.
This bracing happens on both a physical and energetic level (largely through fascia, but that is a conversation for another day). It can be in response to an emotional or energetic overwhelm, or in response to a physical overwhelm, or both.
But what happens when we hold that splint, that bracing, for a prolonged time?
You see, the resolution of this cascade is to return to fluidity. Life itself is defined by motion. Fluid motion. Aging could be thought of as the progressive loss of motion. Think of an old oak tree, strong and rigid. And next to it a young sapling, supple and flowy. Which is more likely to survive a massive storm?
The sapling. The tree that bends is less likely to break.
This is because a system is better able to absorb and disperse shock when more parts are involved. If I take a hit and I try to resist without moving, I’m more likely to get injured than if I move like a sapling, allowing that force to disperse (over the web-like fascial network defining my body as an interconnected single functional unit). Similarly, if I want to generate massive power - such as to throw a javelin or baseball, or jump really high - it’s easiest on my joints (and more effective) if I involve as much of my body as possible, rather than isolating my throwing arm or just my feet.
All of this applies equally to the life force energy which animates us all individually and collectively (I like to think of it as if we are each a cup of water out of the ocean).
So when I freeze / splint / brace, I become more vulnerable to injury. I isolate. And the more I hold these places of tension, these bound up places of unresolved trauma, the less I am able to connect with all the parts of myself, and the less I am able to connect with others.
And now, each new triggering thing feels bigger and more challenging.
I am less prepared to handle progressively smaller triggers, until I find myself reacting to the slightest sounds, lights, smells. I have progressively less tolerance for other people’s sharp edges. And progressively less tolerance for my own perceived shortcomings.
The danger with unresolved trauma is that we become stuck in this perpetual fight-or-flight / alarm / survival mode.
And each new trigger means I lay down yet another layer (or three) of splinting. Because it becomes harder and harder to process new input the more rigid we become.
The beautiful thing is that as long as we are alive - regardless of how many tons of rubble we feel buried underneath, we can at any time CHOOSE to soften. We can CHOOSE to heal. We can CHOOSE to unwind those layers, and uncover our true fluid resilient nature. I’m not saying this is easy. In fact, it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done (and continue to do).
Navigating the places that bind me means opening the door to a closet that I’ve shoved things into and quickly squeezed the door shut. And we’ve all been there cleaning out that closet, right? It often means making a big mess everywhere before you sort it all out.
I often say that trauma is universal - it varies only by degree. And the ones who thrive are not the ones with the least trauma, but the ones with the best tools and resources to return to fluid.
If your closet is super full (and maybe you have about 1000 of those closets), it can feel like a totally overwhelming thing to consider removing those walls. The good news is that you don’t need to blast everything open at once. It can be done in tiny bits - and often really helps to have a ‘healing sherpa’ to help you feel safe unwinding, and give you a hand removing those super stuck walls.
Something else I like to remember is that I am now stronger, more resilient, and wiser than I was in the moments where I froze all those physical + energetic layers...which means I am now better equipped to process, to allow those experiences the grace of simply *being*, and to move forward into an expanded space of more freedom.
My favorite ways to unpack, soften, and re-establish fluidity include...
Dancing: my #1 fav, especially Luigi style jazz dance, Gaga movement language, and Zouk partner dancing...but really, simply allowing my body to decide how it wants to move, finding ease in the feeling of waves echoing through my body with integrated movement
Nature Contact: being in nature reminds me of my connection to this inter-related system of which I am an inextricable part. My personal faves are the ocean, sunshine, trees, and sometimes fire.
Chiropractic: within a resonance-based framework (where the doctor works with my body rather than forcing it), this can be a powerful way of unlocking brain-body communication and activating healing potential from the inside-out
Magnetic Healing: hands-on energy healing arts like reiki, acupuncture (though I prefer magnets to needles), and other similar therapeutics can help restore fluid flow in life force energy
Fascial Bodywork: a powerful intersection of structural + energetic being, fascial work has helped me heal in such a profound way...however, it’s absolutely crucial that this approach be in a resonance-based framework, as most techniques are trying to force change on the body. This really works best when integrated with chiropractic and magnetic healing so the provider can select interaction with whichever physical and/or energetic level is accessible in my body on a given day.
What are your favorite ways to restore and nourish fluidity?
Satya Sardonicus, DC, CACCP
Champion of Human Potential
Founder | Chrysalis Studio PDX