Or: Why am I currently changing my perspective
Some topics accompany us over a lifetime. They almost seem to “stick” to us. That’s how I feel about shame. But what can I do to get rid of it?
A recurring experience in my life was that I had questions (lots of questions!) and no one had answers for me. The same happened to me when it comes to shame.
Fortunately, I am blessed with a neverending thirst for knowledge and a deep desire not only for healing, but also for understanding. Unanswered questions make me uneasy. So, in fact these questions catapulted me on my journey. I found many partial answers along the way. But the moment when everything falls into place hasn’t happened as of yet.
In my head, I have had this theoretical framework for my very own healing method for a rather long time. I started with what I can do best: think and dissect. In many common forms of therapy, especially in behavioral therapy, understanding and cognition are very important. Nothing wrong with that, except that it didn’t solve my problem. Understanding is great – but how does that help me (besides giving me a frame of reference)?
In the therapy world, to put it simply, there are two ways of working through difficulties. Top down and bottom up. While top down means we start in the head (i.e. thinking and telling) and ideally work our way down, the bottom up method starts at the bottom, in the body. Our foundation.
My history with bodywork goes back many years. At the time I was in a phase of professional search and reorientation, and I came across two therapy methods that fascinated me: Gestalt and body therapy.
I instinctively knew both of them would help me, but I chose Gestalt at the time and completed the training. I postponed the body therapy “until later”, probably in the vague knowledge that I wasn’t ready for it yet. Well – seems I’m ready now. And what do I say? It turns things upside down.
It is an impressive experience when – in the loving presence of a competent witness – you suddenly experience physically just how much trauma is stuck in your body. And you begin to learn how to regulate yourself – perhaps for the first time in your life.
Theoretically, it had been clear to me that shame and trauma are inextricably linked. But I now understand why it has taken me so long to embrace the work as a therapist. I lacked the safe foundation, the embodiment of my knowledge – and I still do, at least to a degree. But that’s exactly what I need if I want to fully accompany the processes that I’ve permeated for a long time.
The direct way
One thing I can say with conviction: if you are looking for the direct route towards shame and trauma healing, consider starting “Bottom up”. (You might want to look at Somatic Experiencing for this).
There is one downside to it though: trauma therapy is rarely covered by insurance companies.
Sometimes you need the detour
Another factor is that we are not always stable enough and don’t have the resources to take the shortest route. I needed my detours! I first had to experience that I can feel safe in a group which then gradually allowed me to feel myself again.
Still – my body seemed ready (and waiting for me to catch up) all along. Several years ago, an osteopath exclaimed in amazement: “Your body really wants to heal! I only used minimal impulses and it reacted immediately.”
Years later, when I had finally become stable enough, tremors naturally occured during a crisis, gradually spreading through my body. And they have not left me since (as a stress relief). My body had taken over again.
That was more than seven years ago. I have been able to solve a lot of things on my own, and I’m truly proud of that. And yet – and these are the moments when trauma is being activated – I reached the limits of what I could contain on my own. And here, part of my trauma structure showed up as well, because I thought I had to do it all by myself.
Last week I met my trauma therapist in person for the first time – for a four-hour session. I have never experienced such deep and difficult, but nourishing processes. And it did something to me when she said to me: “Your experience was truly horrible! And I respect that you had the courage to keep going and that you are still here.”
The magic word now seems to be – Slowdown. Because this is the only way we can process such profound experiences without being overwhelmed again. Not so nice is that more traumas were immediately broughtt to the surface (as if they were just waiting to be seen!), and now it takes a lot of care to integrate things.
We Need Each Other
Yes. I fully believe in self healing. Simply because for many years I needed to heal myself because nothing else could be found. I also believe in personal responsibility. But I have once more reached a limit. Beyond that limit, I need others to support me. To this day, I find this difficult to admit. But I manage to ask for help now. And it is granted to me.
Change Of Perspective
Why does this change my perspective? Well – now that I have almost “hit” (reached the) bottom, I can marvel at the path I’ve covered. I have often wondered why I choose this strange path to make my own process transparent. Many years ago I asked one of my Gestalt trainers why I actually had to go through all these layers while at the same time I had already experienced all knowledge on a higher level (my “higher self”). Her answer was as simple as it was accurate: “So that someday you can help others go through it themselves.”
And so I feel like the mole that has – almost – dug all his way into the ground. Once I have walked those last few meters, I will have done the whole path. We live forward and understand backward.