Trauma is found in nearly all aspects of health, and I’m not simply talking about the trauma you might experience if you have a car accident, or drop something on your toe. I’m talking that which we’re often scared to talk about in polite society- the kind of trauma that’s found in neglectful or abusive family background, physical, sexual or emotional abuse, catastrophic events or even in military service. Even events which are just a part of life can cause significant trauma to us- the passing of friends or relatives, breakups, divorce etc. This kind of trauma widely shows up in female reproductive disorders, gut issues, and mental health problems, as well as in addictive and self-limiting/destructive behaviours.
As a Naturopath and Nutritionist with a “perfect” diet and lifestyle, when I suffered Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) and my natural therapies only improved the condition to an extent, I became aware of how much unresolved trauma impacted my own health. As I proactively addressed this, my condition improved drastically. I now take an extremely trauma-informed approach to treatment, and am confident I can direct my patients in the right directions when trauma is a part of their particular health puzzle.
With a special interest in mental health disorders and their association with trauma, I am a huge Gabor Maté fan. If you haven’t already, I would highly recommend watching his film The Wisdom of Trauma, on which this blog title is of course loosely based. For those who aren’t familiar with his work I decided to share some incredible Gabor wisdom in the form of quotes. There is a lot of compassion both for ourselves and for others to be found in his work, and without compassion what is there? Enjoy 💕
“How I began doing therapy, was as a family doctor I began to notice that people’s medical illnesses: chronic fatigue, cancer, colitis, whatever it was, multiple sclerosis, it all related to psychological dynamics and their whole lives. So you could not separate the mind from the body.. But the point is – and this is of course also true of mental illnesses: depression, anxiety, ADHD, you couldn’t just – In medical school, you learn only to focus on diseases. You make pathological diagnoses, diagnosing pathology, and then ways of fixing the problem mechanically, either through surgical intervention or some other mechanical intervention such as drugs and so on. Well soon I began to realise just through sheer experience that you could not understand anybody’s cancer, anybody’s illness, anybody’s depression, anybody’s anxiety, simply on biological terms. The biology itself reflected life experience, including the emotional experience. It also meant that it also wasn’t enough just to hand out pills, or refer people for surgery. Those are necessary and helpful and sometimes miraculously life-saving, but not sufficient.”
“Same with depression, depression is an inherited disease. No it isn’t. What does it mean to depress something? It means to push it down. What do we do with depression? We push down our feelings and emotions so we become flat. Well why do we do that? Because when we were children we had emotions we weren’t allowed to express, because our parents couldn’t handle it. Not that they meant to hurt us they just couldn’t handle it. So we adjusted, we learned that in order to maintain our attachment we had to give up our authenticity and push down our emotions so they wouldn’t threaten the relationship. We pushed them down we depressed them, and then we’ve got this disease called depression.”
“Not all addictions are rooted in abuse or trauma, but I do believe they can all be traced to painful experience. A hurt is at the centre of all addictive behaviours. It is present in the gambler, the Internet addict, the compulsive shopper and the workaholic. The wound may not be as deep and the ache not as excruciating, and it may even be entirely hidden—but it’s there. As we’ll see, the effects of early stress or adverse experiences directly shape both the psychology and the neurobiology of addiction in the brain.”
“The greatest damage done by neglect, trauma or emotional loss is not the immediate pain they inflict but the long-term distortions they induce in the way a developing child will continue to interpret the world and her situation in it. All too often these ill-conditioned implicit beliefs become self-fulfilling prophecies in our lives. We create meanings from our unconscious interpretation of early events, and then we forge our present experiences from the meaning we’ve created. Unwittingly, we write the story of our future from narratives based on the past…Mindful awareness can bring into consciousness those hidden, past-based perspectives so that they no longer frame our worldview.’Choice begins the moment you disidentify from the mind and its conditioned patterns, the moment you become present…Until you reach that point, you are unconscious.’ …In present awareness we are liberated from the past.”
“Being cut off from our own natural self-compassion is one of the greatest impairments we can suffer. Along with our ability to feel our own pain go our best hopes for healing, dignity and love. What seems nonadapative and self-harming in the present was, at some point in our lives, an adaptation to help us endure what we then had to go through. If people are addicted to self-soothing behaviours, it’s only because in their formative years they did not receive the soothing they needed. Such understanding helps delete toxic self-judgment on the past and supports responsibility for the now. Hence the need for compassionate self-inquiry.”
In future blogs I will go through some of the ways I recommend in dealing with trauma. If you’re interested in getting some free natural health information regarding mental health, head over to my Free Resources download section. 💕