Thursday, May 23, 2013

Transforming Early Life Trauma

Very serious topics call for Peony Kitten in Tutu

When I was fortunate to go away and do an intensive about working through the body to heal trauma, the thing that struck me the most about all the information and the videos of experiments and the reading and research and the experiential exercises was the superiority of the arts in terms of efficacy.

I mean, as a dancer, I knew that moving in this body to music was THE thing that had finally helped me lead a joyful and fulfilling life after decades of depression and anxiety, but I thought this had a lot to do with the fact that I was finally doing the thing I was born to do.

That was true. I was meant to dance and not dancing was a large part of my inability to recover.

It turns out, though, that dance (and all the arts) is exactly what we all need, regardless of our ability level or if the arts are our life's work.

As a teacher, I see it every day: a "non-dancer" finds their courage and their brilliance and their worth again, strengthens their physical and emotional body, and overcomes one layer of trauma after another.

All without talking.

But here's where I think this stuff is Extra Big Magics: pre-verbal age trauma.

Some of the worst stuff that happens to us as humans happens when we are pre-verbal and when we have no way to construct linear, narrative articulated stories of what has happened. It all just happens on that primal level of body and feelings.

This becomes the DOS of our inner programing. It's the hidden software on which all other software is then built. It's the software that is inextricably intertwined with and embedded within our hardware.

HOW do you get rid of that?

I'm going to say something that's not very popular: You DON'T.

You know how sometimes a tumor isn't removed because removing it would simultaneously create health (i.e., the tumor is gone) and death of the patient (because you have to take something essential to get the tumor)?

That's how I think some of this pre-verbal stuff works. It's part of you. Period.

That is not meant to sound negative or fatalistic.

I think what is negative and fatalistic is telling people they "should" be able to "get over" absolutely everything with lots of happy thoughts and positive reinforcement.

Then when they don't get over it or when the same stuff keeps coming up over and over, they get to add shame and guilt and all kinds of other feelings of ick to their layer cake of self-hate.

The tricky part of pre-verbal history, too, is that crap feelings and unexplainable behaviors and severe dips in mood will happen and people won't know where they came from because there is no memory to pin it on and no way to articulate that which never was articulated.


Here's where the hopeful sunshine rainbows part comes in.

The arts.

When we dance or we paint or we play or write music, we circumvent that language-reliant part of us and head directly to the feelings and to our core.

Things that were once inexpressible when we were limited to the tool of language are now being expressed with paint or movement or sound.

We can, through the experience of art, feel the depths of the feelings all without talking about that which cannot be talked about.  We can know truth without having or needing to name it.

Like the initial pre-verbal traumas, the healing happens on the primal level.

This thing that used to overtake you and for which you could offer yourself no explanation? Now you have music or painting or dance to go to and through these more ephemeral means, you can express yourself fully and finally -- as you could NOT when you were so small.

And that is more than enough: the arts transform trauma and save lives.