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How Trauma Is Linked to Shame and Disgust

A History of Trauma

I've been in the process of healing for many years trying to understand why I do the things I do and why I behave a certain way. I did not have an upbringing of simply getting a slap or a spank here and there; or reprimanded because I came home passed my curfew; or had a parent that was a harsh disciplinary.  I was chronically sexually, emotionally, and mentally abused since I was a small child. After growing up with chronic incest and chronic abuse from family members, I was also sexually assaulted  twice, had several experiences of sexual harassment, was physically assaulted by my father and siblings as a teen, and then went into one relationship of domestic violence.

Professionals Just Catching Up

Trauma was my life. So, when I began the healing process, I looked at spirituality to guide me, but far too often the terms "let go" and "forgive" were constantly repeated as though it was an easy task. Sure, letting go can be pretty straight forward for the average person with an average upbringing, but when it comes to chronic trauma that's progressed to Complex-PTSD, the healing process is a "whole new friggin ballgame!" Today, research is showing this and more and more professionals are discussing this which is great, but it's also 'about time!'  In any event, I learned by trial and error so that I could try to live a sane life.

Shame and Disgust

With that sort of an upbringing of chronic trauma came a whole lot of chronic shame and shut down, and a whole lot of disgust. When a person is habitually or chronically shamed, they take in that badness. Disgust is the biopsychological way that people begin to get out that shame that doesn't belong within a person as Peter A. Levine described. But, the thing is, if you don't know how to eliminate the disgust by 'getting it out of your body,' then the shame remains.

Getting Unstuck

How do you get out or unstuck from the shame? 

You must go into the shame (it's best with the support of a knowledgeable professional) and 'shift' the shame. Going into the shame is basically feeling it and knowing how it exists inside of you. Pay attention to your posture, your expression, and your mannerisms. Then with someone (or yourself) prompting you, ask yourself why it's there. Just be with it, but don't get swallowed up by it. This means that you must stay consciously aware of your state and not resign to the shame. Then ask yourself what it would be like to be rid of the shame. Really think of an alternative - how would you be; how would you behave?  As Levine explains, it is about finding new bodily experiences that contradict those of shame and helplessness and freezing/contraction/shut down.

Learning How to Be Present

Movement and dance are great avenues to move the energy or change the state you are in, but it is not simply the movement. You "must" be aware of the inner movement to reconnect with the authentic self. Most trauma survivors can't connect with themselves and others, and that's why it's so difficult to be present in the here and now. Therefore, their relationships suffer including the one with Self.

To heal yourself from the experiences of trauma that are stuck in your body, you need to go into your bodily sensations. Awareness is key! 

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In gratitude.


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