Letting Your Body Know It Survived

If “fight-flight” didn’t save you from danger,
part of you may no longer feel safe.

A vehicle ahead of you suddenly slams on its brakes. You see the brake lights and start to move your foot to the brake, but before you can depress the pedal, the impact slams into your car and body.

Later in the hospital, your Doctor assures you that your injuries are not severe, but months later you still have a stiff neck, are easily fatigued, and have anxiety when driving.

In our modern world, car accidents are one of the most common causes of trauma. After such an accident, EMT’s and hospital personnel can do wonders to save lives, but are often not trained to emotionally connect to the patient to help them avoid the lingering scars of trauma. Some of the natural (and healthy) physical reactions to shock, including crying, trembling, and shaking are sometimes misinterpreted by medical personnel as acute signs of distress and are stopped with drugs. Add to this our cultural tendency to try to put a good face on it and move beyond thoughts of the accident as quickly as possible. Indeed, without good resourcing in the body, there can be so much anxiety associated with the memories that it can be upsetting to dwell on them at all. Add to this the fast pace of the emergency environment and our desire not to upset our loved ones with our own emotions. Our natural healing response is often thwarted. While your higher brain may have heard the Doctor say “you’ll soon be fine”, your lower, instinctual brain and physiology has not yet gotten the “all-clear” signal.

Restoring safety after accidents, loss, or trauma takes time, tenderness, and conscious attention

It needs the time and safety to fully feel and respond from the innate healing response, similar to that of the animals described elsewhere on my website. You may need to sob, tremble, or twitch; feel rage at the other driver, reasonably or not; feel how frightening it was; and grieve what was lost. Your foot and leg may need to complete your instinctive defensive response, the interrupted braking action which, given an extra second, could have avoided the collision.

With appropriate support and resourcing, this slowing down to fully experience the body and its reaction to what happened will rapidly move survivors of car accidents and other trauma into discharging the anxiety permanently, which, in turn, can be a huge aid to physical healing.

Trauma can be released and resolved at any time by a genuine experience of safety

The great news is…it is never too late to recover from trauma. Regardless when or what happened, you can build resources today from pleasant images, empowering memories, safe places, and the felt sensations which these thoughts and images bring to your body. A skilled therapist will know how to facilitate this for you. Once these resources are solidly experienced, there is safety at last, and the body automatically brings forth what it is ready to process, in the perfect order to heal.

Remember—all the animals know how to do this, and many thousands of people have successfully remembered. You can too!

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Paul Chubbuck is a practicing psychotherapist in Fort Collins, CO, using Somatic Experiencingâ„¢ to help people release unresolved trauma. He may be reached at 970-493-2958 or through his website at www.releasingthepast.com.

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