How to Find Healing by Connecting to Your Pre-Trauma Self

How to Find Healing by Connecting to Your Pre-Trauma Self

Getty/Antonio Guillem

Though life is different after trauma, it can also get better. Explore how one author found deep healing by connecting to herself pre-trauma, and learn how you can do the same.

In a Instagram post, I reflected on how my first experience with the Grateful Dead community enabled me to truly connect with the essence of my family. As the music played, I returned to my preteen state—I was able to reconnect with the time in my life when my hippie parents sought to create a better world. Finally, I could re-experience the love I felt from my family before my parents' alcoholism ran over their idealism and they died from their addictions in the late 1970s.

After learning about my estranged younger sister's sudden death through a Google search, I found myself reflecting on Thich Nhat Hanh's wise sayings on impermanence. His words reminded me that, should someone die before we can reconcile, their energy lives on. Hence, I can still connect with them. While these teachings comforted me, it took this concert for me to be able to fully dance with my family and feel a true sense of inner peace.

I wondered if this approach to healing from trauma was a viable therapeutic tool or just a DIY method I devised myself. So I asked a few trauma-trained therapists to offer their insights on connecting to one's pre-trauma self as a means of healing one's trauma wounds.

How to Connect to Your Pre-Trauma Self

In her work, Christy Jordan, a licensed mental health therapist specializing in trauma and addiction, helps clients connect with their pre-trauma self. She asks her clients to explore what they enjoyed before the trauma that they have lost sight of or have not done in years because of trauma-related symptoms. If they cannot remember any joyful experiences, she suggests exploring the positive experiences of those in their family from previous generations.

“[Connect] with joyful experiences that brought joy previously to bring back the [connection] of enjoyment into the present,” she notes. “Re-identifying core values and developing healthy attachments can also help a client connect with their pre-trauma self.”

According to Devon Spencer, a licensed marriage and family therapist, when trauma becomes a part of the body's narrative, the goal isn't to get back to a place where one was before the trauma happened. Rather, the work is to renegotiate the trauma in one's nervous system by creating a corrective experience. This allows the body to experience trauma internally in a way that's less distressing and more manageable.

Armed with this bodily awareness, her clients' understanding of their present relationships grows and expands. As Spencer observes, “Once a client has a different relationship to the original trauma, it opens them up to have to start choosing different kinds of relationships in the present. This work builds skills to observe and modulate impulses to re-engage with old relational patterns, theoretically freeing clients up to move away from familiar, unhealthy relationships going forward.”

While Spencer believes it's unlikely that clients will hurt themselves trying to use these interventions, she notes that their efficacy depends on working with a trained practitioner, as the interventions are both interpersonal and require a skilled professional.

Jordan adds that a trauma-informed professional can help identify any dissociation through evaluation or testing. They can also help one develop healthy coping skills, self-development skills, and self-actualization skills, and explore additional therapeutic breakthroughs. Through her interactive workbook, Single Sabbatical, one can learn how to develop their identity, explore self-discovery, and achieve personal growth. The workbook includes many assessments that aide in reconnecting with oneself and assist in returning to pre-trauma by identifying core values, attachment styles, and adverse childhood experiences.

Recommended Therapeutic Tools for Connecting to Your Pre-Trauma Self

Jordan recommends the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) to identify current triggers, prevent future triggers, and have a resource readily available to de-heighten physical symptoms that may be a result of trauma or a dysregulated nervous system. This technique involves tapping on different parts of the body to help balance energy and reduce physical and emotional pain.

Rapid Resolution Therapy® is another somatic therapy that can help resolve unprocessed trauma without having to relive generational or personal trauma. This particular therapy utilizes communication with the participant in a way that speaks to the deeper level of the mind, both conscious and subconscious, which allows for change to occur within the whole mind and not just the intellectual part.

In Spencer's estimation, Dynamic Attachment Repatterning experience (DARe) is the best modality for addressing attachment trauma and other traumas occurring within a relationship. With this modality developed by Dr. Diane Poole Heller, clients can learn to develop stronger and more secure attachment styles. She adds that Somatic Experiencing (SE) is the gold standard for all other kinds of trauma and stress disorders. This modality was developed by Peter Levine, PhD, and is the result of the multidisciplinary study of stress physiology, psychology, ethology, biology, neuroscience, indigenous healing practices, and medical biophysics.

As I had the benefit of EMDR before having my Grateful Dead experience, I found I could ride the flood of emotions that came up during the weekend without getting triggered. I also knew that I needed to continue this healing via those self-care modalities that work for me: meditative practices like cycling, forest bathing, fly-fishing, and skinny dipping, all which connect my mind, body, and spirit.

Learn how EMDR can support your healing process.

How to Find Healing by Connecting to Your Pre Trauma Self

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