How to get to the root cause and heal sustainably
Author: Ronald Engert
Issue: No. 97
There are many trauma therapies. Each method has its own approach. They focus on the mind, the body, the emotions or the spiritual. A therapy that combines all levels promises the most lasting success. However, the main focus should be on the feelings, as they are the primary place where the trauma manifests itself. The two effective approaches presented here are about showing oneself honestly and discharging these traumatic feelings.
The clinical picture
Trauma is a complex burden that is difficult to treat. It is not a normal, everyday injury, but a serious and extraordinary injury. It can be physical, in which case it is referred to as a physical trauma. But it can also happen on an emotional level, for example when we are chronically neglected by our parents as a child, abandoned, physically abused or sexually, emotionally or spiritually abused.
As a child, we have little chance of dealing with this wounding or protecting ourselves from it. We are helplessly at the mercy of our parents. We cannot simply walk away or fight back.
As a child, we don’t understand the difference between loving and good treatment and unloving and bad treatment. Children do not judge, but are in a state of innocence and trust. This is how we are born as children. We love our parents unconditionally and accept what they do as a given. We cannot differentiate and have no judgment.
However, the violations of our body and our feelings still take place. As a child, we don’t notice it so much because we have so much life energy that we can somehow compensate for these injuries and this abuse. However, it is not a real processing or solution to the problem, but rather a numbing or dissociation, i.e. the child splits off from itself. This self-dissociation is the origin of most of the subsequent emotional and spiritual problems that a person can have.
When we no longer feel in touch with ourselves, when we are beside ourselves, when we cannot feel anything or when we numb ourselves with addictions or emotional protection mechanisms, for example, the origin of this lies in this trauma experience, which we could not cope with in any other way than through this self-numbing or dissociation. Addictions are therefore coping strategies to deal with the pain, fear and shame that have arisen from the trauma.
The memory of the events is often shifted into the unconscious. Many sufferers report that they cannot remember long stretches of their early childhood at all or only dimly. This is due to a repression mechanism that is designed to protect us from these painful memories. Even if we cannot consciously perceive the trauma and the original pain, this experience is still stored in our cells and in our psychological identity.
The trauma leads to a permanent stress situation.
The experience of threat, terror and panic makes us highly sensitive to similar situations and keeps us in a constant state of alert.
On a physical level, this is expressed by a permanent flood of hormones in the form of adrenaline and cortisol. We have a constant level of these stress hormones, which means that when new, threatening, dangerous, stressful situations arise, we have no reserves and no buffer to deal with these situations well. We are immediately stressed and overloaded. Life becomes a constant state of exhaustion. We have little energy and are often psychologically impaired, for example by anxiety, relationship problems, inferiority complexes, insecurity, depression, narcissism or co-dependency.
The usual therapies
As universally widespread as trauma is, the therapeutic approaches and proposed solutions are just as varied. The most common classic approaches are talking therapies. Here, an attempt is made on a cognitive level to give those affected a better understanding of their problems so that they understand, by virtue of their insight and reason, that the trauma is long gone and that it is not necessary to continue to have these psychological impairments. The feelings are probably also addressed here, but more on a cognitive level. Thinking is assumed to have priority over feeling, and the idea is that you can change your feelings through thinking. This is a big mistake. More on this later.
Another approach that is gaining in popularity is that of the body. Modern body therapies assume that the trauma is stored in the body and can be resolved through certain movements or breathing. Tension should be released through yoga postures or other physical exercises. This is then supposed to work back on the feelings or the trauma itself, which then dissolves. The cause of the trauma is often not addressed here. Many therapists assume that these feelings can be overwritten.
About the author
Ronald Engert, born 1961. 1982-88 studied German, Romance languages and literature and philosophy, 1994-96 Indology and religious studies at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University Frankfurt/M., 1994 co-founder of the magazine Tattva Viveka, since 1996 publisher and editor-in-chief. 2015-23 Studied Cultural Studies at the Humboldt University of Berlin. 2023 Master’s degree on the subject of “Mysticism of Language”. Author of “Good that I exist. Tagebuch einer Genesung” (2012) and “Der absolute Ort. Philosophy of the Subject” (2 volumes, 2014 and 2015).
This article was originally published on the German website: Trauma und Heilung