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Cultivating Coherence to heal from PTSD

Dr. Daniel Siegel discusses the significance of "coherence" as a key component to healing from a traumatic childhood. Coherence refers to having a life story that makes sense, even if the events themselves were painful or difficult. This does not mean that you have to feel okay about what happened to you. Rather, it involves making sense of your past experiences and integrating them into a cohesive narrative. When healing from Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD), it is essential to turn toward your trauma history and process parts of your painful past, bit by bit. This process of integrating traumatic memories involves acknowledging what happened to you, which is the first step of the healing journey.

If the process feels overwhelming, it is important to pace yourself by addressing one memory or even part of a memory at a time. Breaking down the healing process into small, accessible chunks can help prevent becoming overwhelmed. This allows you to cultivate coherence, where you can acknowledge the past while remaining centered in the present.

Establishing Safety and Stability

Before delving into the trauma work, it is crucial to establish a sense of safety and stability. This includes both physical and emotional safety, as trauma often leaves the nervous system dysregulated and relationships triggering. Learning skills to help your body feel and recognize safety is an essential first step.

Over time, you can begin to increasingly feel steady and support yourself. Developing a deep felt sense of calm stability is key, as a significant period of your life may have lacked a consistent sense of security.

Remembrance and Mourning

The next phase of healing from C-PTSD involves the resolution and reconsolidation of old memories. This stage, often called remembrance and mourning, is essential for recovery, as avoidance can keep the trauma symptoms from resolving. A skilled trauma therapist can guide you through this process in a comfortable way.

Mourning the trauma and all that was lost due to it is a crucial part of this stage. It is the process of fully grieving the past that allows you to come fully into the present.

Reconnection and Integration

As you establish safety, stability, and process your trauma memories, you can then focus on reconnection and integration. This involves redefining and rediscovering who you are without the cloud of trauma. Learning to turn towards others for closeness and pleasure, despite the complications, is an important step.

Giving back to others and finding a sense of purpose can also be part of this forward-looking stage of healing. The goal is to move beyond dwelling on the past and towards a life that feels whole and meaningful.

The Power of Telling Your Story

According to Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, a renowned clinical psychiatrist known for his work on post-traumatic stress, healing from trauma involves putting unspeakable events into words. This process of verbalizing the trauma is an essential step in the healing journey.

Facilitating Coherence: The passage suggests several practices to facilitate coherence:

  • Mindful Reflection: Reflecting on your life, including traumatic losses, with awareness and mindfulness.

  • Awareness of Life Experiences: Understanding how your unique life experiences have shaped your identity.

  • Development of Inclusive Narrative: Creating a life story that organizes your self-understanding, integrates new information, and supports ongoing personal growth.

  • Exploring Childhood History: The practice encourages exploring childhood history to identify triggers from traumatic events and to recognize positive resilience factors. It asks questions about relationships with family and caregivers, as well as experiences of abuse or neglect.

  • Managing Discomfort: Acknowledging that exploring traumatic memories may evoke uncomfortable feelings, the practice advises pacing yourself and using resources like grounding techniques or a safe place. It also suggests discussing responses with a therapist for additional support.

Overall, the approach outlined emphasizes the therapeutic power of storytelling and coherence in processing trauma. By constructing a narrative that integrates both the painful experiences and one's personal growth, individuals can foster healing and resilience in their lives. This process is supported by mindfulness, self-awareness, and seeking appropriate professional guidance when needed.

Thanks for reading

with love and Gratitude


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