Healing from Trauma

This article was supposed to be about an awesome replacement for eggs (aquafaba- aka chickpea water…maybe we’ll get to that next week). However, as I sat down to write, it just didn’t feel quite right.

We’re living in a less than ideal world, it becomes more apparent each day. This is why a food like an egg, a nearly perfect food as far as nature is concerned, is now something that needs replacing. Something that was once incredibly healthy has become problematic because of the environment that created it. The matter and energy that goes into producing your typical egg is toxic, therefore it creates a toxic egg. In my work with food, this comes up again and again. As I was attempting to put together this blog, it became apparent to me what an incredible analogy this is.

Just like our environment creates toxic food, it also creates toxic emotional states. Trauma, chronic stress, unmet needs, and social isolation all combine to create the perfect storm that leads to addiction, mental health issues, and the destruction of human lives.

I don’t bring this up just because of what happened last week, though that certainly makes it all the more relevant. I bring this up because it’s also something I see almost daily with my clients. People are carrying an exorbitant amount of trauma with them. I can almost feel the weight of it when someone walks into my office.

Here’s the thing, the trauma itself isn’t the actual problem. Realistically, we probably aren’t even close to dealing with the level of trauma our ancestors did (I mean, have you seen Game of Thrones?!). What we’re missing however is the language, tools, and social support system that prevents traumatic events from taking a toxic hold. We aren’t taught how to emotionally detox from anything, let alone a deep trauma. This toxic buildup is no less detrimental to our health than a clogged liver. When it comes to cleansing, teaching people how to emotionally cleanse has become a huge part of my work.

So what do we do about it? Well, there are quite a few things. I’ve talked before on some basic tips for dealing with trauma which you can read about here. This week I want to delve a little deeper. I want to share some of the most innovative work that’s shedding light on creative ways to deal with trauma and how to apply it to everyday life.

Play it away

Jane McGonigal, a game designer and TED speaker, talks a lot about the use of games to promote healing. Using her game design skills to create a game that involved social interaction and rewards she was able to help heal from post concussion syndrome that left her suicidal. A study at Oxford found that playing Tetris within a few hours of a traumatic event was able to reduce effects of the trauma by over 50%. It turns out that trauma and the problem solving involved in a game like Tetris, occupy the same part of the brain but can’t do so at the same time. Tetris basically overrides the trauma and disallows those memories from being hard-wired into your brain.

How to apply it

We need to learn how to play more as adults. This is something that’s been coming up a lot lately. Everyone talks about stress management and meditating but the element of play has been lost within our modern adult society. I’m not saying you need to invite your friends over for an afternoon of dress up- don’t worry. All I’m saying is find time to have fun at something that integrates creativity, problem solving, and bonus points if it’s social. Join an adult kickball league, have a game night with friends, pick up tennis, or check out an improv class. After a particularly stressful day, spend 15-20 minutes playing a game like Tetris or Candy Crush. Our society tends to condition us out of it as we get older but play should considered an important part of your self care routine.

Increase Deep Connection

One of the most successful treatments of PTSD being studied currently is the the use of MDMA to treat medication resistant PTSD. MDMA, also known as ecstasy, increases the release of serotonin in the brain and is known as the “empathy drug”. It’s currently in phase 3 FDA trials to be legalized and is effective on over 50% of cases that were previously deemed untreatable. A drug like MDMA enables the subject to feel an overwhelming sense of connectedness and compassion. So much so that it only takes 2-3 sessions to completely eliminate symptoms of PTSD.

How to apply it

Good news is, you don’t have to go out and take MDMA (and I’m in no way recommending that!) to feel compassion and connection. Remember, these are extreme PTSD cases that are conducted by highly trained professionals. What we can take from these studies is that a feeling of compassion and connection is the key to unlocking the trauma process. Experiencing those feelings is likely the cure, not the drug itself. What’s the best way to increase feelings of compassion and connectedness? It’s to give and serve others with a purpose. The easiest way to get out of your own head and forget about your problems is to focus on what you can do for someone else. Find a way to volunteer, get involved, or give back to your community in some form. Think about the value you possess and how you can use that to offer value to someone else in need. Putting it into action increases connection, compassion, sense of purpose and naturally leads you towards practicing gratitude-all necessary steps towards healing your own trauma.

These approaches aren’t just for those who’ve experienced something horrific. We’re all carrying traumas around that we don’t know how to unload. If you’re interested in living a healthy life, managing trauma in a healthy way is the first thing we need to learn how to do. It’s so vital that we do these things and help others to do them as well. There is a LOT of trauma to be healed and in order to fix our world, we’re the ones that need to do the work.