The ripple effect of trauma recovery.
One person, with a regulated, synchronized nervous system, in the room, creates a “ripple” of calm. One person who has integrated trauma has a co-synchronizing effect on others, in the relational field, where a coherent space is created where healing emerges. Healing within each individual in the coherent space, as well as within the space between them. This is where trauma recovery happens. One can not recover from trauma alone.
Trauma causes isolation. Healing from trauma happens in relationships. When one person heals, we all heal. Each person who is healed becomes the medicine for the healing of others. “We are the medicine”, Dr. Christina Bethell, PhD,MBA, MPH, Professor, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, in her oral testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing in 2019, addressing childhood trauma, and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE’s).
Many years before I was catapulted into the Military Culture, finding myself collaborating with the Veterans Administration Health Care (VA) and United States Air Force, caring for our country’s Veterans at end of life, entering the the world of PTSD, and of War, Trauma, and Treatment, I experienced walking into the homes of people who were dying and receiving hospice care. When my on-call beeper would go off in the middle of the night, many times I wondered about why I was doing what I was doing. Many cold, snowy nights when I was being summoned out of my nice warm bed, while my family continued to sleep, fixing coffee, responding to the call, a warm travel mug of coffee in my hand, heading out to warm the car, traveling down a long country lane, I wondered about my sanity. There would be nothing, really, that I could do to change the situation.
Nervous System Sensing
This was a time prior to the past decade of astonishing and rapid growth in neuroscience and neuroimaging resulting in fascinating new information on how trauma is experienced in the body. I only knew that upon my arrival I could feel that my presence changed the energy in the room. I sensed a slight shift of energy in my nervous system.
Science now supports the evidenced based practices of presencing and relationality in the contemplative practices of trauma sensitive yoga, meditation, and transparent communication, as processes promoting trauma recovery. The practice of presencing and relationality is a skill that is developed with practice, time, and space for sensing, presencing, attunement. Noticing with awareness, our own nervous system activation of trauma triggers, reactions with contractions and agitation.
The practice of presencing and relationality in trauma recovery coaching brings the unconscious to consciousness, and brings to surface trauma eruptions which may have been frozen, for a long time, with a feeling of numbness and being stuck.
Leaving in the darkness of early morning hours was not new to me. I am a swimmer, swimming three times a week at the local YMCA before beginning my work day. I have always been a swimmer and do not remember not knowing how to swim. I have learned only in the past decade how swimming was impacting my mind, body, and emotions way beyond being my chosen form of exercise.
Presencing and Relationality
With the explosion of new information on trauma and how trauma is experienced in the body, due to the significant advances in neuroscience, and neuroimaging, swimming has been found to have the same relaxation effect on the body and mind as a yoga practice, releasing calm, feel good endorphins and dopamine, building breath endurance, with a highly developed dominant parasympathetic nervous system, while reducing the brain’s response to stress and anxiety. In swimming, the muscles are constantly stretching and relaxing in a rhythmic manner, and this movement is accompanied by deep rhythmic breathing, all of which help to put swimmers in a quasi-meditative state. Michael Phelps, one of the greatest competitive swimmers of our time says “I feel most at home in the water. I disappear. That is where I belong.”
My regulated, synchronized nervous system brought a spaciousness and coherence into the homes of the dying and their grieving families who were experiencing feelings of helplessness. Even though it is true I did not change the situation, the energy in the room shifted, with my grounded coherent presence.
With a fully present, attuned nervous system, I connected to those who were “dysregulated”, who then became more regulated and connected to others who were “dysregulated”. A ripple. A calm ripple effect could be felt “where there was no pebble tossed nor wind to blow”, Jerry Garcia.
Awareness is the first step.
Trauma Recovery Coaching will help develop this skill, as an individual or group becomes aware of their personal trauma, and the collective trauma of the group and culture. This skill of attunement and presencing will be extremely valuable in the transformation, and reorder, of healthcare emerging out of chaos.
The need for coaching is becoming evident, offering moment to moment being with what is, and where I belong, living in the present moment. As nurses, and other healthcare workers bring more transparency to the present moment, integrating their personal trauma, acknowledging what has been holding them back and unable to find their voice, teams and organizations, and patients and families will be healed. Miracles happen.
“Welcome Home” is a greeting Veterans extend to other Veterans as they heal from symptoms of PTSD. Welcome home, back home to self. As Phelps states, “being at home, being where I belong”. One person experiencing healing, and with an increased awareness of being agitated, confused, contracted, and knowing the safety of Home, coming back to an in-sync regulated nervous system, has a powerful Ripple effect.
“Ripple – in still water, when there is no pebble tossed nor wind to blow” – The Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter