Trembling in Fear

Last winter, I felt that there was something deeper getting in the way of my pursuit of joy. I recognized the signs of trauma in myself, and began to understand what I needed to do in order to 'move through' this trauma:

=“To move through trauma we need quietness, safety, and protection similar to that offered the bird in the gentle warmth of the child’s hands. We need support from friends and relatives, as well as from nature. With this support and connection, we can begin to trust and honor the natural process that will bring us to completion and wholeness, and eventually peace.”

-- Source, Peter Levine, “Waking the Tiger”=

Levine suggests some specific methods to heal trauma, which involve reconnecting the mind with the body. He states that one of the signs of a successful reconnection is the experience of very strong emotions being unleashed, in concordance with visible signs of the body shaking or otherwise strongly responding to this release of emotional detritus.

In the past 8 months, I've healed a lot of trauma in myself through practical neurohacking techniques that I developed. One of these techniques involves quiet, introspective hikes through the forest:

=Find some time to be alone, in a beautiful or relaxing setting. My favorite way to do this is to go walking for an hour, on a quiet hiking trail in the woods.

Try to remove as many distractions as you can — don’t listen to music, don’t pay attention to your phone beeping, don’t sit on a park bench people-watching, You want to spend some time and be alone with your thoughts.

Other than finding some quiet time to be alone with your thoughts, this process isn’t very complicated. Let your mind wander wherever it would like to go. If you feel an emotion of some sort, seek that emotion out and try to let it express itself. (This might mean you start crying, or yelling at a tree, or discover a part of yourself that you really don’t like. I’ve been there! Done that! And you know what? I always felt a lot better, afterwords).

The power of this technique is that it allows you to reconnect and re-integrate emotions into your ‘self’.  When you bury an emotion, or push it off to the side to deal with it later, you begin walling off parts of yourself. This makes it very hard to be joyful and happy.

I've been careful to avoid the most powerful well of trauma inside of me, however. I know how powerful and painful my experiences with paint and other solvents have been -- it's been the cause of incredible amounts of pain and trauma.

While hiking in the woods this week, I decided it was time to reconnect with this trauma and allow it to 'speak' to me. I was overwhelmed by the power of the experience.

I can visualize this trauma. It's a tightly wound ball of rubber bands, black and red and every other color of the rainbow. But mainly black. It's a ball of trauma, with neural pathways interconnecting and tangling up in a knotted mass of pain ... powerful emotions, inconsolable fear, terrible memories, all would up together in a knotted ball of angst and trauma.

These balls of trauma form through powerful and painful experiences, they become tangled together in the brain with your emotions and memories. In my case they they did not originate with psychology and emotion, they originated with my body's inability to handle chemical toxins properly. However, once these powerful experiences implanted themselves in my memory they began tangling themselves up with my emotions, with other memories, and became something that needed to be 'fixed' before I could fully heal from the initial trauma.

I've unraveled a lot of these 'knotted balls of trauma' over the past 8 months, and I've always felt better for the experience (meaning, that I've felt better immediately afterwords!). Unleashing these emotions and genuinely feeling them has always helped me to reconnect with my emotions, and take another step towards being a complete and emotionally healthy person.

However, the power of this 'knotted ball of trauma' was an incredible experience. (I'm actually having trouble recapturing and writing about the memories of this experience, because it was so powerful that my brain has kicked in with some neurotransmitters to dull the memories).

I came the closest I've ever come to what Peter Levine describes as 'visible signs of the body shaking or otherwise strongly responding to this release of emotional detritus'. As I allowed this trauma to speak to me, unfiltered, I felt its power. I absolutely trembled before its might. As I paused to rest for a moment, I felt the full weight of this trauma hit me. My body shook in fear. My mind was very clear, and I very clearly saw that I was in the presence of trauma that was much more powerful than I am. I was terrified. I gave up trying to understand this part of myself, or relate to it. It was a level of trauma that I had never experienced before. I simply allowed it to express itself, as I sat there trembling and melting and crying and turning into a pile of Erik goo.

This was a humbling experience. This 'knotted ball of trauma' related to paint and other chemical solvents is more powerful than I am. This 'knotted ball of trauma' is part of me, it's inside of me. And to become a fully healed and complete person, I need to find some way to reconnect with this part of myself and allow the trauma to be fully expressed.

It's two days later now, and I still feel the lingering effects of this experience in my body. After spending a half hour allowing this trauma to express itself, it felt like I had walking out of the hospital after a major accident. I was shaken. I was drained. I was seeing the world through a veil, a hazy filter. I was in a state of shock. I was emotionally vulnerable and slightly broken.

Our emotions are very powerful, particularly when they get wrapped up inside 'knotted balls of trauma' and become a tangled mess inside of our heads. But they're also a part of us, and it's very hard to be happy and joyful and complete as a person if you leave too much unresolved trauma sitting around inside of your head.

I took another major step towards being 100% healed, and being more complete as a human being. But I'm terrified and shaken by the power of the trauma that's still inside of me. I felt its power, I trembled and quaked in fear. I am humbled and shaken by its power.

Therefore, I may have to approach this trauma a bit differently. I don't think that brute force will work here. I'm going to have to get a bit creative! :)


Levine, Peter A.; Frederick, Ann (1997-09-08). Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma. North Atlantic Books.

Originally written on 2013-12-25