“Trauma is not the bad things that happened to you but what happens inside of you as a result of what happened to you” – Dr Gabor Maté, specialist in childhood development and trauma.
Also from Gabor Maté: “Trauma is the disconnection from your body. Healing is the reconnection to your body”.
Healing and releasing trauma is a fundamental part of overcoming chronic fatigue. So many people don’t think this applies to them but I’m going to share in this post why it may very well apply to you. Even though I only focus on releasing and trauma in two modules of my coaching programme trauma forms a foundation for the whole of my Fatigue to Flow Coaching and the Holding Personality.
I’m going to unpack three points from Gabor’s powerful words to make it clearer where trauma fits into chronic fatigue and burnout.
1) “Trauma is not the bad things that happened to you…”
Everyone thinks that trauma is just about terrible, overtly traumatic incidences. Actually, most of us are touched by trauma (the underpinning of trauma is a feeling of being unsafe). Any time our authentic expression of our emotions or needs resulted in the threat of criticism, rejection, ridicule, abandonment or emotional disconnection, it was traumatic.
Children are very easily overwhelmed by their emotions and they rely on the brain of their caregivers to regulate their own brains (this involves mirror neurons and is also an energetic process). Emotions have physical sensation. To a child (and even for many adults) it can feel like they are falling apart/losing control/dying.
When children attempt to reach out to be regulated when in this state and it results in “go to your room until you can calm down” or “do you want me to give you something to cry about” or even “you’re ok – here have a cookie” this is a disconnection and they are left alone with their big emotions. Often a child expresses anger because they are anxious and that anger is then met with anger and punishment. Again, the child not only experiences disconnection but also feels they are shamed for having and expressing emotions and needs. Double trauma.
This attachment trauma is common for many of us (even if we were deeply loved and our practical needs were met).
DOUBLE TRAUMA: Now add on more overtly traumatic or stressful moments – parent’s divorce, death of a loved one, changing schools or homes, witnessing parents shouting or physically fighting, or other abuse. In these circumstances usually both a child and the caregivers are having big feelings coming up but that means the caregiver is often even less able to tolerate the emotional needs of the child so the child is left unsupported with the trauma of the event and experiencing the trauma of not having her/his emotional needs acknowledged and met.
EXERCISING COMPASSION: our parents all did the best they could with what they had and based on their own experiences as children. Secondly, if you are a parent you are also doing the best you can with what you know. We all have moments when we just cannot tolerate our children’s emotions, needs and authentic expressions. If this happens regularly because you’re too tired I GET IT. However, if you receive support to meet the inner child within you that is being triggered by your children it’ll really help you to hold space for your children and yourself.
BEYOND PERSONAL TRAUMA: Trauma is not just something that happens in your own lifetime. In the field of epigenetics it has been shown that trauma responses and adaptations can be carried down from one generation to the next as the genes carry adaptations to protect the next generation from the trauma of the previous generation. In addition, collective trauma is a very real phenomenon so that the experience of oppression or racism, for example, can be experienced and carried in all of us who resonate with this on some level.
2) “….but what happens as a result of those bad things”
It is the shutting down of the authentic self and the adaptations that are made to then not upset our caregivers, to not risk rejection or emotional disconnection from them and to try and avoid feeling so alone, that cause trouble. These adaptations become our story and identity and we believe that is who we are. The ways we please others; rescue others; fix things; attempt to control, plan and organise life beyond a point that is healthy; make ourselves small; dim our lights; don’t talk too loud; dress too sexy; create any waves – these are exhausting to uphold. They cause a disconnection from our vitality and creative, feminine/sexual essence that we feel is not allowed (this is present in all beings regardless of gender or gender identification).
The underlying fear and trauma is still there creating armouring and tension that impacts physical and energetic functioning and flow, and contributing to a constant low-grade hypervigilance – “will I be enough?”, “will this be acceptable?”, “will I upset people?” – and regular nervous system dysregulation that is created in childhood and maintains the sense that we are not altogether safe.
In the long-run the body crashes e.g. chronic health issues, chronic fatigue, chronic depression and anxiety manifest as this disconnection from our authentic selves continues in the hope to avoid any further trauma (feeling unsafe, unloved, unworthy).
3) “…Healing is the reconnection to your body.”
When Gabor Maté talks about healing he is referring not just to emotional healing but healing from physical illness too. Trauma underlies it all. Trauma and the adaptations become so much a part of our identity that we don’t even question it, until maybe someone like me asks you to look at your chronic health issues from a different perspective. A conventional doctor won’t do that in a world where a quick fix is what money is spent on.
If you have been battling to get off the chronic fatigue/burnout rollercoaster and you’ve spent loads of money on supplements and doctors and health food it may be time to stop trying to fix a so-called ‘broken’ body and allow your body to lead the way back to health just like it knows how to do when you come back home to it – connect, listen, accept and love. Because what you are then doing is you are loving your authentic self/that beautiful, glowing, passionate, trusting child who you unconsciously shut down so long ago in the quest to feel safe and to survive a world where your emotional and authentic expression was not tolerated.
RELEASE TO RECONNECT: Reconnection and releasing go hand in hand. I know it’s scary. That’s why I focus on the connection modules first in my Fatigue to Flow coaching programme. But when you come back to you and release all those adaptations and that trauma you make space to receive exactly what you need to heal and allow your body to do exactly what it knows how to do best when its needs are met.
Trauma may have led to your chronic fatigue and your chronic fatigue may feel traumatic now but you can choose at any point to let your chronic fatigue be the rallying call to overcome the ways you shut yourself down so you can access that beautiful, boundless you that is calling to be seen.
To learn more set up a complimentary call and we can see how this may apply to you.