Slower is faster when it comes to healing from trauma and most of us are healing from trauma believe it or not. Trauma is much more common than people think it is. However, when we’re in pain, we don’t want to go slow, we want to get better as fast as we can. There’s often a sense of desperation and urgency in our efforts to find help, which can take us out of ourself.
Of course, being traumatised often leaves us bereft of any internal resources too because living/going inside can be very frightening, as that’s where the scary memories, emotions and sensations live. We often have trust issues too, with ourselves and others. Even so, we always have our guidance system available to us, no matter how weak it may seem. You do know what or who is good for you, you need only heed and trust it. I know from experience that it’s the times I didn’t trust that little voice that got me into trouble, not the other way round.
Trauma contracts and constricts our minds and bodies and that contraction needs to unwind slowly*. Our life force is severely diminished by trauma and the sheer power of feeling it again in one go can be too much. If we don’t go slowly, overwhelm is nearly guaranteed.
In an interview with Peter Levine, who is talking about going slow (he calls it titration), Ruth Buczynski asks him whether going slow is “like a homeopathic approach to trauma? A homeopathic dose level of approaching body experiences?” and he replies “Yes! Yes, that’s it! Yes, that is a really good analogy – and it may be more than just an analogy. You know, we have a number of homeopaths, particularly in the European and South American trainings – and, you know, they get it, they really get it; you know, the idea of the smallest amount of stimulus that get the body engaged in its own self-defense mechanisms”.
The minute you start to see signs of overwhelm, stop. Go for a walk, rest, laugh, listen to music or have a bath. This is not unhealthy distraction, this is being kind to yourself because you know you’re reaching your limits (that is, you’re outside your window of tolerance). Pushing through in desperation is not going to help you. This isn’t a race between you and someone else to see who is “fixed” first.
The fact is, retraumatisation is extremely common and can often feel/be worse than anything that has gone before, because you feel like you’re in this never-ending loop of pain that you can’t escape from. And that feels very powerless and helpless.
*Going slowly is not an excuse for a practitioner to drag out sessions to make more money. Trust your instinct on this one and find someone who you trust.