Our modern day-to-day living has become a day-to-day struggle to protect ourselves. The survival instinct energies once used to protect us from a life threatening physical danger are now adapted to defend ourselves psychologically. Our major struggles are more with our inner experiences of our:
Traumas - unaddressed and unresolved
Shame- intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and unworthy of love and belonging.
Frequent and highly activated survival instincts can be hard to understand when they overwhelm our bodies and flood our brains. Such experiences often feel like “trauma responses” and when unaddressed lead to a whole array of disorders, a variety of somatic symptoms, interpersonal insecurities, destructive behavior patterns, substance abuse, etc.
As humans, we have a deep innate tendency to avoid discomfort, to avoid pain, close off, to protect. When we are in this avoidant state, we lock and compartmentalize the heavy, unaddressed, unwanted issues inside us. As a result we get stuck in the complex, messy, residual old energies of it. In that layered stuckness, inevitably and gradually we lose our ability to feel alive, free, excited, joyful, wholehearted, motivated, inspired, progressive. We lose the ability to bridge relationally, trust interpersonally, to be creative, to see our true self and our true potential.
By avoiding the pain of discomfort we self-inflict the pain of disconnection. Disconnect from Self and from others.
We think doing psychotherapy is tremendous work. And it is. But not doing therapy is painful work - the long, heavy work of carrying this task of avoidance for the rest of our life while using all our energy and resources for “trying” to protect parts of ourselves we no longer want to be identified with. Experiences that we actually no longer want to remember and relive. Why then do we protect them?
Why not expose them and let go of them?
Psychotherapy is where we can begin the work of opening, exposing, releasing the parts and energies that no longer serve us. Psychotherapy offers opportunities to understand how and why our brains constantly make connections that are outside our awareness. Why “the past is in the present” and why it can’t be resolved by making a decision to “simply let go of it and no longer think about it”.
It can’t be done that way because it was not inflicted upon us that way.
We all were hurt relationally, by a human, in one form or another. Such experiences, especially if encountered early in life and/or repeatedly, become encoded in our memory network and are the basis of how we perceive the world as adults. These experiences stay “present” regardless of how much time has elapsed because trauma and shame have the power to destroy and the power to transform and resurrect.
If unaddressed and avoided, these experiences are vulnerable to being reenacted, getting triggered, activated, and as such are the foundation of current symptoms. Until we understand the residual emotional energies blocked in our body, the unconscious connections of our memory system will continue affecting our reaction in the present. Unprocessed memories will not only intensify our sensations and emotional responses, they will prevent us from feeling. We won't be able to create and connect new neurological wires which can in itself lead to other disorders later in life.
When we decide to open ourselves to a possibility that there is another way to experience our body we in fact are inviting ourselves into a different world. A world where an adult in us has more agency, is in a compassionate relationship to Self, to others, to Life.
Slavica Kojadinovic, LCSW