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Healing from Trauma in Early Life

Wednesday, June 30, 2010 posted by admin

Sunrise corte madera 225x300 Healing from Trauma in Early LifeSome form of trauma in early life is a very common human experience.  The imprint of such experiences can powerfully influence the subsequent trajectory of a lifetime.  Much of my work as a psychiatrist involves helping people to heal such wounds.  Doing so enables an individual to escape from the gravitational field of the traumatic event.  I will use an incident from my own life as a basis for discussing wounding and healing.

I was a blue baby.  I was born with the umbilical cord tightly wrapped around my neck.  I required resuscitation with supplemental oxygen, immediately upon delivery.  I recovered completely, without any apparent deficits.

This event, as it was narrated for me repeatedly by my mother, had three principal effects on me:

1.    I believed that I had been meant to die.
2.    I believed that I needed to be rescued.
3.    My capacity for communication was inhibited (perhaps due to the image of the constriction around my throat).

My healing, correspondingly, has had three major components:

1.    Embracing life.
2.    Developing self reliance.
3.    Finding my voice, through speaking and writing.

I offer my experience to you for your own reflection:

What events have constricted your life?  In what ways?  What steps can you take to liberate yourself from this constricting influence?

In the I Ching, an ancient Chinese book of wisdom, it is written:

“A man is oppressed by bonds that can easily be broken.  The distress is drawing to an end.  But he is still irresolute; he is still influenced by the previous condition and fears that he may have cause for regret if he makes a move.  But as soon as he grasps the situation, changes this mental attitude, and makes a firm decision, he masters the oppression.”

The I Ching, Wilhelm/Baynes edition, pp. 184-185.

From this passage, we can distill four steps to healing from trauma:

1.    Grasping the situation
This step involves both identifying the key traumatic events in your life, and clarifying their effects on you.  I found psychotherapy to be of immense value to me towards this end.

2.    Changing your mental attitude
I had to change my mental attitude from one of a dependent victim to a belief in my own innate capacity to thrive.  What mental attitudes to you need to change?

3.    Making a firm decision
I made a firm decision to say “yes” to life, at every opportunity.  What decisions do you need to make?

4.    Taking positive action
I have taken a vow to do my best to relieve suffering and to inspire others to achieve their highest potential.  I am taking all actions within my reach that are in alignment with this aspiration.

Aligning yourself and your every action with your highest purpose is the most potent force for healing.

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