Trauma Informed Shamanic Healing.
This article is a version of the feature written by me, appearing in Kindred Spirit Magazine May 2021.
What is trauma?
Trauma is formed in our minds and bodies through events or experiences that have been physically or mentally harmful. Some practitioners use the categories of big 'T' and small 't' trauma to illustrate that not all trauma is equal in it's effects. However it is important to note that it does not have to be an obviously more dramatic situation that causes worse cases of trauma, some dramatically painful or shocking situations will not stay stored as trauma in our bodies and mind if it is processed well at the time. Some have said we are living through a traumatic period in world history. Children are locked away in front of computer screens; many people have not seen their loved ones for over a year and fear of death and illness is rife. But it is important to note that the trauma of the time will only be carried in those who are not able to process it at the time.
What are some ways a traumatic event could be well processed so it’s not later experienced as ‘trauma’? If it is fully felt at the time, fully expressed and grieved for in the moment we have a better chance of not storing it as trauma.
How do I make sure I’m trauma informed?
To be trauma informed in my practise I involve the client in the process: actively informing them of the practise and asking them to add to or change things that would work better for them. Crafting the boundaries of the session between us, because everyone has different needs. It's important to create a space where everything is a suggestion – nothing that we do in session has to happen. The client retains autonomy at all times and can choose to do things in a different way. The client can say ‘no’ and I celebrate that.
Grounding is important to keep us feeling and steady in our emotions so the work is well integrated. Bodies are often not safe places for people with trauma so we ground into the earth, nature, the seasons, anything that is steady and reliable.
To allow the nervous system to relax I always welcome the practise of Non Judgment. This is a practise (ie. not something one can just ‘do’) but with time we can get to the place where judgment is not relevant and does not float into our minds while listening. Letting the client know that I am listening with no judgment creates a safer space for them to be.
When we tell someone with trauma that ‘this is a safe space’ the first thing they will do is look for all the ways that it is not a safe space. They won’t trust you telling them that. We need to work in a more holistic way to gain trust. A safer space is simply a space where we hope the client feels safer than they do normally. All of the other statements and discussions in this article help create the safer space, so say it if you want to but actually crafting a safer space is the thing you need to do.
The feelings that we don’t allow ourselves to feel or express are the ones that are needing healing – they are creating our shadow. So by stating clearly that all feelings are welcome (together with the non judgment) we begin to craft that safer space for healing to begin. Noting that a full spectrum of feelings is a beautiful thing, and that feelings do not define you, they are something that are moving through. None of the spectrum of feelings are banned, they are all valid and allowed in the safer space.
Triggers are part of those feelings that we welcome. We work on being with them, practise being with them. If you can’t be with them right now and are disassociating (can’t remember what just happened, blanked out, frozen or can’t feel anything) then we bring you back into the room and into the grounded place you started to help you feel trust in the earth holding you up even if your body is not a safe place to ground into we can trust in the earth, the air, the seasons.
Helping integrate the work and communicating aftercare mean that we are bringing the work we've done in session into life. Much healing work will do this automatically: you will step out of the session into a new way of being and doing. But other sessions may show us that your patterns need you to actively engage with the work we've done to help create new neural pathways in your brain to bring the work into being. So we see what the guides and helpers ask of you, this may be anything such as finding a tree you love and sitting with it 3 times over the coming month, it may be a meditation, it may be allowing yourself time each day to cry. I make sure you get an email a day after your session offering for you to be in touch to talk through anything you need. There is also a soft, comfy, calm space in the workshop I use that I encourage everyone who is with me in person to use after the session. Leaving half an hour or more so you can have a cup of tea, rest, and begin to slowly come back into the world is important.
My shamanic work is essentially working with trauma – helping us heal it in whatever way our guides and helpers show us is most beneficial for you. That may be:
- Not re-experiencing it in any way shape or form, so I am given it as an image or colour or feeling and I work with it for you.
- Helping you experience feelings from it while you are in the safer space of the session to help you work with it in every day life.
- Re experiencing something of it (often this is a past life trauma) and hearing the story so you understand something. Just hearing the story in these cases is usually the healing needed.
However the session progresses know that you always have sovereignty, I will celebrate your NO (literally, I do a little dance), and that I am only ever asking your guides and spirits for your greatest good, joy and healing.
Your decisions trump anything I suggest. Because you are the magic.