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Trauma has been a powerful buzz word in society over the past several years, and rightfully so.
We are increasingly becoming a more trauma-informed society, and have come to understand that the “Suck it up, Buttercup” approach is simply no longer sustainable for healing.
There is still wisdom in this approach in that talking is not always a viable option to process trauma. Sometimes, carrying on builds more resilience than simply coping.
I am, however, concerned about the lack of attention the mental health community pays to the body’s need to discharge the trauma and its respective hormones from its body in order to heal from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
After experiencing an intense hormonal detox, I began to research what the body needs to do in order to fully recover from a traumatic event. You can say all of the positive affirmations you want and go to therapy to talk it out with your therapist, but unless your body has fully discharged itself of the massive hormonal influx it received from that event, the slightest aroma can trigger a tsunami of intrusive thoughts.
The stress hormones released during a traumatic event or series of traumatic events are called norepinephrine and cortisol. These hormones are responsible for working in conjunction with epinephrine (a.k.a. adrenaline) and prepare you to be on high alert, to fight or run, and to enhance your memories. The research is limited, but it clearly states that our stress hormones enhance our negative memories. Rightfully so—if we did not have this, we would always touch the stove when it’s hot. However, this becomes pathological when these hormones are stored in our bodies for so long that we continually build an iron fortress of negative memories constantly fueled by norepinephrine and cortisol.
Have you ever met the person who “just can’t let it go”?
There is a biological and neurological reason behind that. Their system is overdosing on these hormones to the same degree a heroin addict has overdosed on a bad batch.
When their brain goes through a withdrawal, that person will subconsciously look for opportunities to get that “hit,” so to speak, because the brain has learned to depend on these hormones for stimulation. This individual wants nothing more than to let it go, but if their brain has become that addicted—and it does happen—no amount of introspection will allow them to let those memories go until their bodies release the overabundance of these hormones. If they suddenly pick fights with you, that is because their brains have experienced a drop in these hormones, and when this happens, the brain thinks, “Oh no! This is not my norm! I need a hit!” An intrusive memory appears, and next thing you know, that person is out of the blue unleashing on you for something that happened 10 years ago.
Our society is not designed to allow us the time we need to fully process and discharge traumatic events completely from our systems. It was not until I went through my own detox that I was able to understand my own negative behaviors and patterns. I do not excuse my actions, but with a greater understanding, I have been able to rectify and prevent detrimental situations.
I have noticed that since my body has released the excess hormones, when memories of the past resurface, they are not as intense and it is easier to “let them go.” My body no longer holds the trauma. Memories remain, but they lack the fuel they once had to derail my relationships and life. I can see a bad memory now, and let it drift past me.
Thankfully, there are therapies out there like somatic therapy that can help individuals go through this detoxification with facilitated guidance. My hope is that with this education you will be able to gain a better insight into your own behaviors and of those around you a little bit more, and extend compassion instead of judgement.
You can let things go, but in order to fully let it all go, seek out a professional who can guide you through this process safely and effectively.