In order to heal our experience with trauma, we must be willing to get in touch with what we are thinking. For humans, thought is not a conscious process some of the time that we can readily listen in on. We often aren't aware of our thoughts at all. Thoughts, just seem to come and go. They are like leaves floating in a stream, coming into our awareness only for a moment, then moving on past us in the trickling stream that is human awareness and consciousness.
We don't realize, unless we're taught such things, that our thoughts create stories. These stories become our inner reference and guide. With each thought our mind constructs, acting to add bits to the story across our lives, our thoughts dictate every single move as humans we make.
We're for the most part unaware that it is first our thoughts that ultimately generate emotions, both positive and negative. We've not been educated well in Western Culture in how to listen-in on the inner-conversation our thoughts create.
I've learned as part of my own need to recover from trauma's emotional harm, that it's first a thought, that triggers any emotion. Whether we can listen-in on said thought or otherwise, our thinking processes are guiding ultimately everything we say and do.
It's thought that guides our communication, our actions, as well as triggering our physiology that ignites our inner-sense (the felt-sense) of our emotions.
When first confronting the negative emotions that come with PTSD, we aren't aware, most of us, that the thought-story we have constantly running in our mind (our brain) is creating within our feelings of despair and/or our feelings of anxiety. It's defiantly thought that generates the night-mares we often try to sleep with once PTSD takes over our mind, body, and spirit.
Intrusive memories become the enemy we confront throughout our attempts to heal from PTSD. We don't realize that our trauma story has become our guide. Once we're traumatized, which does, in fact, cause injury to the brain initially, every time an intrusive memory of trauma fires up inside, we're reinjured, unfortunately, by the memories (the thoughts) themselves.
This is why it can take so long to recover. With PTSD active, our symptoms themselves continue to cause injury to the brain. Over time, with this happening, and with trauma memory triggers coming at us out-of-the-blue in our environment, our brains actually change in both structure and in function.
Once we reach out for help, entering into therapy that is trauma-educated and trauma-informed, with 'Cognitive Behavioural Therapy' being still the most studied and validated treatment for trauma and PTSD: It's here we might first learn how incredibly powerful our thoughts can be.
Our thoughts, whether we're consciously aware of them or not, are the grand-contributor in developing PTSD. The basis of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy suggests that it is by getting in touch, consciously, with our thinking, we can perhaps change any thoughts that are responsible for triggering our symptoms.
With awareness and with practice, based on my own experience and the experience of others, I know in dealing with PTSD we can become fully aware of the conversation running inside our mind. When symptomatic, this is not an easy thing for us to do. Thus, it's important to learn some things we can put into daily practice what will assist us.
With some tools in our recovery tool-box, we can work then towards learning to calm not only our minds: With right practices introduced to us and practiced, we can learn to calm, as well, our body, granting some rest, thereby too, for our trauma-damaged, human-spirit.
With the symptom of memory intrusion, our minds seem to dictate our story to us and we resign ourselves into believing we have lost our ability to control our thoughts. With some education and guidance we can learn something that can tackle this problem that's part of dealing with PTSD: meditation.
It's by learning personally some meditative practices that I've learned how valuable these practice can we in helping develop a restored sense of regained emotional control. Recovery is about gaining some power again over our emotional reactions, fight-or-flight, which trigger often unexpectedly.
With meditation, and some right practices of contemplation, we can learn how to rewrite our inner story too, if we like. We can learn to put that story of trauma into a form, following traumatizing experiences, that we can accept, live with, and with a shift like this symptoms get easier for us to manage.
Recovery, for me, is still about learning to live with all the carnage I'd taken in as a paramedic in BC. Like others who might read this piece, the goal of recovery is about finding ways that we can experience by applying some tools, no longer being ruled by emotional issues and trauma stories. Stories that for many of us have long ago been stories of the past.
I know. PTSD doesn't make it easy to keep the stories where they belong. In the past, filed away in the brain as long-term memories. It's the nature of the PTSD beast to keep these memories active, in short-term memory, until we agree with them to do the work necessary to get them into long-term memory where they belong.
As we learn to edit the inner story, after first learning how to spend time in silence, listening-in on what we're thinking, we can experience some welcome relief. Once we begin to put meditative practices into ourselves deeply enough, meditation can then become habitual in our lives. We first must learn to walk, before we're ready to try running.
Ultimately the goal of practicing meditation is to have these new practices become second-nature.
Remember, always: human beings are story-tellers by nature. We've created stories since the beginning of time. We've been writing, internally, our life story since the day of our birth.
We use story-telling to express to ourselves and others the intricate weaving of experiences we've encountered along life's journey. We use story-telling to make sense of our experiences; to make sense of ourselves and of reality.
In order to learn how to calm the mind, learning also by doing so how to self-regulate our emotions, we must first learn to control not WHAT we think. We need to learn how to take charge of our inner story-telling experience-by learning first how to listen-in to the minds inner-story-telling.
This inner-banter first appears as a monologue of sorts that is running all the time on it's own. Eventually, if my own experience isn't restricted to myself, we can actually learn to dialogue with our thoughts-talking to oneself is something we've pathologized that never should have been, according to one physician who years ago passed this on for me to consider.
We can learn to do so, listening-in on our thoughts. As we grow with practice, we'll find ourselves succeeding in allowing the thoughts we get in touch with to simply come and go. We learn how to listen-in on our thoughts (observe them) without attaching any meaning to the thought. We learn then too, how to stop using them on impulse to dive into taking any action that might not be best for us to carry out.
Creating awareness is the first thing we must get to. By sitting in silence, by introducing meditation as a first step by simply learning to spend a few minutes per day focusing on only our breath: From there we can move into learning more structured meditative practices, such as mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques can teach us how to master this skill of 'thought-observation'.
Should we grow from these initial practice into wishing to allow other meditative practices into our lives, we can begin a journey into our inner world-which is where the human mind and human spirit, together comfortably reside.
It's here, as well, that the reality of the energy we might call 'God' resides as well.
Thoughts, particularly our memories of trauma, will challenge any attempts we make to be silent. The goal of these practices are not actually to achieve total silence of thought. Choosing to at least start, with practice, we will become aware of the words we are sharing with ourselves.
We that, over time, we can begin to hear. Once we can hear ourselves think, we learn to trust again our own, once PTSD damaged and stolen-away inner voice.
Once we can learn to be aware of our thinking consciously, we can observe (listen to) the story we are telling ourselves too, over time. With observance-of-thought growing within as a skill, we can then pay closer attention to the story. The most wonderful and healing part of learning through this process, is when we ultimately discover that we can control the words we write upon our mind in the first place.
Sometimes today, my inner-story telling is more like I'm having with myself inside, is becoming more often a rather constructive and helpful debate at times.
Trauma is the story of what happened to us. The intrusive memory symptom won't allow us ever to forget what happened. That story doesn't make us who we are. It's a mere part of our life-experience, not the whole. Our inner story of trauma, with the symptoms that challenge us, become our inner dialogue; intrusive, unwanted recollections of the events that brought to us, so much pain-for some of us, that pain's been with us for our life-time.
To begin a practice of meditation takes only five minutes. Sit in a comfortable position and close your eyes. Using the practice of Breath Work and Grounding, shared in a second post here on the blog: first take charge of your breathing and ground yourself.
Don't expect silence. Listen, instead, for the sound of your own voice. Simply focus on your breath-the thoughts will come. Be gentle with this voice. Don't judge the words (thoughts). Don't argue with them. Don't try to change them. We're learning through this how to observe them. Remember, achieving silence-of-thought, isn't ever in meditation the goal.
Listen, quietly, as you continue to practice grounding and breathing.
Wait for a silent break. Then, take charge of your thoughts with a single phrase: "I Am!"
This is a mantra. "I Am!" Repeat these words, silently to yourself. Continue for five minutes. If the mantra turns into other thoughts? Simply return to only focusing for a time on your breath. From there continue the process across the five minute practice session.
This is meditation 101. This is a fresh start. This grants a place to begin. When I started, I did this four times per day.
Five minutes today; maybe ten minutes tomorrow, or next week. Keep working with the practice and allow the experience to gently and slowly grow inside. In time, you can use this practice to change your thoughts. But, for now, it's about taking a break, focusing on the breath, and learning how to listen-in on our thoughts without judgement (adding meaning to them) as you learn that you can over time.
To change your inner-storytelling: I find it best to allow such shifts to come on their own inside. As our thoughts change, our symptoms will reduce, in my experience. It will be a challenge, forming a meditative practice. Doing so, will make a huge difference, but understand that's going to take awhile.
At the very least, I'm comfortable sharing that this has been the outcome of learning such things for me.
Below is a collection of mantra's (personal devotions-affirmations) from the Buddha himself, courtesy of Gerald Penilla and The Manifest Station.
Be Well! That's my 'mantra' (prayer) to you.
I'll try here to put this into a short-form: In order to heal our experience of psychological trauma, we must be willing to get in touch with what we are thinking. Please consider meditative practices with as open-a-mind as you can allow. Another thing that happened for me when I started with these practices, is I gained a sense that I WAS helping myself. I found taking the step towards meditation lift me up because I'd done something to take charge.
Again,for most humans, thought is not a conscious process. We often aren't aware of our thoughts. Thoughts are running all the time, but until we agree to learn how, they're sometimes hard to hear. One will come and go, followed by the next. They are like leaves floating in a stream, coming into our awareness, only for a moment, then moving on past us in the trickling stream of our awareness.
Making friends with these thoughts of ours?
For trauma-recovery, making friends with our thinking is simply part of the recovery-deal.
For More That Expands On This Writing: Follow This Link To The Next Blog Post: 'Breath-Work and Grounding'.
For An Introductory Eight-Week Course To Learn About Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction: Follow This Link (Discuss this with your physician and/or your trauma helpers before you begin).
Updated Today: August 17th, 2018
From Silva Life Systems
Certified: Community & Workplace Trauma Educator Traumatology Institute.
Associate Member American Academy Of Experts In Traumatic Stress.