Monday, May 29, 2017
Exploring Healing for Life Traumas
Many of us if we are honest as we look back at our past, have hardships and traumas in our early life history. At a conference I was attending in South Texas a therapist friend of mine, Dr. Marsha Nelson, from Edinberg, Texas encouraged my family to read the book, Childhood Disrupted authored by Donna Jackson Nakazawa (if you want more information on the author click on the hyperlink to her webpage). We spent several weeks with our daughter each evening reading through the book aloud to us until the end (by the way this is a digression but reading aloud a book together as a family is a great way to encourage reading and to build discussions about a book).
Nakazawa’s book delves into neuroscience studies on how early traumas in our lives can negatively affect not only our mental and emotional aspects of our lives. She reveals how these traumas can imprint into the brain with aftereffects of physical problems such as heart disease, fibromyalgia, cancer, autoimmune diseases and other physical maladies. The first half of the book are true case studies of abuse and traumas that have happened in the lives of individuals. The trauma events differed from physical, sexual abuse or being involved in tragic accidents in the various cases presented. Early on obvious depression and anxiety based problems occurred in their lives but an interesting point was the amount of physical maladies that began to form in the various people whose stories were listed.
The book is research rich as the author goes beyond the particular cases to medical research studies that reveal thousands of cases of various physical problems seem to have a connection to early childhood trauma. As my daughter read through the book it allowed each of us to think through the problems we have each faced in our past. I thought over my life where my father died right after my second birthday. His sudden absence placed me into a 2 year period of shock where I expressed no emotion nor did I speak until after I was 4 years old. Understanding what the author was saying allowed me to make more sense of many of my problems I had as I grew up in my small town. It also made sense as to negative tendencies that still give me trouble in the present.
We were glad when we reached to part 2 of the book that looked at solutions. Many of the cases presented were very difficult. Even as a therapist, I was deeply saddened at hearing some of the major trauma that the people in the book were faced with as young children from physical and sexual abuse. Sometimes hearing other people’s stories helps to put life in perspective as we often think of how bad we had it in life. When we hear another’s stories we often realize maybe we did not have it so bad.
I will list some of the tips and ideas to help with the healing process that are listed in the later chapters. The first one that is important to me is “writing to heal”. Keeping a diary or a journal is a way to write out some of the pain and emotion from the past. Some authors and bloggers I have read share they started their writing journey as a healing process. There are exercises where people can write their traumas out in a letter maybe to send to the abuser or some gain relief by burning the letter afterwards. Writing can be a healing enterprise. As I mentioned research is important in this book and she shares researcher’s thoughts on writing as healing.
Nakazawa also discusses drawing as art therapy. Art is an effective way to grow in touch with your creativity and to express your emotions. My therapist friend I mentioned at the beginning, Dr. Marsha Nelson does amazing work with her Creative Expression workshops. Dr. Nelson was trained by Dr. Lucia Capacchione and her books are some of the best in using art as healing. A few of her books I would recommend are: The Creative Journal, The Power of Your Other Hand, and Visioning: Ten Steps to Designing the Life of Your Dreams.
Some of her other recommendations are mindfulness meditation which I often recommend to clients and as a family we have been helped by mindfulness body scan meditations. Other ideas are loving-kindness, forgiveness, yoga and healthy relationships.
As a Licensed Professional Counselor I also appreciate her chapter on seeking professional therapeutic help. It is good to try ideas for self-growth that were mentioned but if the trauma issues are difficult with the burden of emotional and psychological pain it is important to seek professional help. I was grateful that she emphasizes this important issue. There is a stigma still about seeking emotional help so it is great to see an author show how the therapeutic relationship with a caring and objective therapist can help through the difficulties individuals face in overcoming personal pain and traumas of the past.
If you are struggling with a painful past I highly recommend this book as part of the healing process. I also recommend this book just as it was recommended to me, for therapists to learn a variety of ways to help people in the healing process as they deal with the pains of the past.
Reflection: Think through your life journey have there been painful traumatic experiences in your life? What helped you through that time? If you are still struggling with problems from the past look beyond pride and fear and seek out a professional therapist in your area who can come along side you to overcome the pain.